I called San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association President and CEO Lani Lutar today for some questions I had about the proposed expansion of San Diego’s Convention Center. And, among other things, Lutar told me she planned to vote against the task force recommendation to expand the convention center at that meeting.

Lutar is one of 17 members of The Mayor’s Citizens Task Force On The San Diego Convention Center Project, which has met for eight months and is planning to wrap up Aug. 31.

Lutar expressed frustration both at the process and what she said was a lack of critical financial data presented to the task force. Here’s what she had to say:

I thought the mayor wanted us to dig deep into this and I don’t think we’ve fulfilled that duty. It’s unfortunate because the process has put a cloud over the merits (of the expansion) and it didn’t need to be that way. If the information would have been presented in a more straightforward fashion, if we had a better understanding of the tradeoffs, it would have been more beneficial to the mayor, the council and the public.

Lutar wished the task force had taken a closer look at how the city would fund an expansion, how taxpayers would weigh in on potential tax or fee hikes and how the city’s general fund liabilities could increase due to the expansion. She cited the lack of an operating pro forma, a document that identifies investor return prior to a project’s undertaking, as an example of the task force’s inability to perform financial due diligence. The pro forma is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month as well.

Lutar left open Taxpayer Association support for the project should her financial concerns be addressed. She is the first member of the task force to speak out against the recommendation to expand the Convention Center. She added that she expected the recommendation to pass.

The expansion is projected to cost $750 million or $917 million depending on the inclusion of a hotel.

— LIAM DILLON

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