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Another thing our city needs to do in the new year is stop giving away money.

For example, on Dec. 3, 2007, a city council majority voted to approve, in essence, an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for the next five years. It was not called a tax increase, even though a two-cent additional assessment was added on every dollar spent by tourists when they stay in most San Diego hotels/motels. Instead it was called the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), and the bulk of the money collected annually (approximately $25 to $30 million) will be controlled and spent by the all-male board of hotel owners who sold this deal to the city. 

The TMD may potentially save the city approximately $10 million annually for five years; however, according to a report by the Independent Budget Analyst, “current Municipal Code provisions regarding TOT allocations may restrict those savings…”

I opposed the TMD because I am convinced we can, and must, provide a TMD Plan that better serves our city and the public. Specifically, it is my recommendation that this month the mayor and city council have a public hearing to discuss reducing from four cents to two cents the amount the city is obligated to spend from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for purposes of promoting the city, and instead direct that the two cents be allocated solely for public safety. In addition, I propose amending the TMD plan to require that it fund through 2013 a $5 million annual payment to help offset the debt service lease payment and promotion/marketing program costs for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation.

I have asked the city attorney to determine if my proposed changes to the TOT allocations would require a vote of the public. If so, we need to prepare a ballot measure to place before the voters in June 2008. 

Finally, the new TMD board needs to come out of the Stone Age by adding a woman or two to their current board. I think they might enjoy living in the 21st century.

— DONNA FRYE

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