Ladies and gentlemen, we’re presenting the 2010 Whopper of the Year award to former City Council President Ben Hueso. The prize isn’t cash or trinkets — just notoriety.
Out of 15 false claims, Hueso’s inverted portrayal of local taxes stood above the rest.
Amid one of the year’s most heated civic debates, Hueso proclaimed: “Our taxes have gone down ladies and gentlemen. You are paying less taxes today than you were paying last year and the year before and the year before that.”
But as we explained a few days later, that wasn’t true. People were paying higher taxes. Hueso mistook how much money the city gets in tax revenue and how much consumers pay in taxes at the register. While the city’s revenue declined because consumer spending dropped, the actual sales tax rate increased.
Citing the false decline, Hueso pushed for increasing the city’s sales tax by a half cent for five years, which would have raised an estimated $100 million annually. Supporters touted the plan as a way to resolve the city’s ongoing financial problems.
The City Council approved the plan with a multitude of caveats, but the measure ultimately failed with voters in November. Hueso, meanwhile, won election to the state Assembly.
Among our whopper finalists, Hueso’s claim stood out because it had the greatest potential to impact local affairs. It aimed to advance his position on a major issue before the City Council and push voters toward approving a sales tax increase at the polls.
By comparison, former Centre City Development Corp. president Nancy Graham’s statement aimed to improve her own public image by ignoring ethics violations, and KUSI weathercaster John Coleman’s statement addressed a worldwide issue — global warming — that involves factors outside the control of San Diegans.
Hueso received the most votes in our initial Whopper of the Year reader poll, in part because the list of 15 included three false claims from him. Among the finalists, readers pushed for giving Coleman the award, arguing that his misinformation campaign against global warming research undermines how local residents may approach environmental policies. It was a tough decision, but we went with Hueso because of the unique influence it would have on decisions made here in San Diego.
Whether you agree or disagree with our decision, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.