When U-T San Diego announced that its No. 1 priority under new leadership was to pursue a sports resort where the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal now sits, I listed the five big questions about it that came to mind.
The two biggest obstacles to their plan are how to pay for it and how to deal with the fact that the port and the political establishment are in no mood to move the current operations at the terminal.
The U-T addressed that first concern head on this weekend. It called for a countywide vote on a hotel-room tax hike to build a stadium and expand the Convention Center.
The mayor and hotel owners, remember, are trying to raise the tax without a vote of the people and send the money to the Convention Center expansion. A growing list of people now believes that raising the hotel-room tax without a vote of the people is either illegal or legally questionable. They now include:
• The hotel workers union.
• The Chargers.
• U-T San Diego.
• The city attorney.
The U-T’s reasoning parallels the city attorney’s: Getting this done without a vote of the people is going to take a lot of court wrangling, a lot of time and a lot of creativity. That’s because, in California, you have to have a vote to raise a tax. The mayor and the boosters trying to get an expansion to the Convention Center done are not just bending over backward to avoid this reality, they’re trying to juggle knives at the same time.
And those knives are becoming pretty good weapons for those who really want to pursue a different vision than the mayor’s and the hoteliers’ (namely the hotel workers, Chargers and U-T).
Unfortunately for the very conservative newspaper, while it’s a good step for it to recognize this as a true tax hike, it’s going to get awkward — most notably for the staunchly anti-tax Republican mayoral candidates. They all support the tax hike but are uncomfortable calling it that.
That’s because once you propose a tax hike, residents will wonder why we’d do it for this and not schools, police, streets, libraries, neighborhoods and (insert your desired city service improvement here). Would someone like Carl DeMaio support this tax hike if it actually had to go to voters for approval?
It kind of becomes real then.
The second obstacle facing the U-T is that it wants this tax hike specifically for its waterfront sports dream at 10th Avenue.
Remember, here’s what is currently at that location:
To move these existing cargo operations at 10th Avenue, the U-T will simply have to destroy the port’s leadership.
I made this point on my Facebook page and a good discussion erupted.
We’ll see how far the paper goes along this path. We’re about to watch a real-time experiment testing the power of the U-T in the new age.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of voiceofsandiego.org. Please contact me if you’d like at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):
Like VOSD on Facebook.