Local hotel owners are voting right now on whether to raise the taxes that their guests must pay. These are the pesky add-ons that make great deals at the Best Western in Poughkeepsie or the Marriott in Pittsburgh turn out not quite as awesome as they sound.   

Hotel owners get different numbers of ballots based on a few factors. Some will have more influence over the vote. Who gets the most votes? The city still won’t tell us — or you.

It’s a tax hike that will raise more than $1 billion. The public ought to know who’s deciding whether to levy it.

Our reporter Liam Dillon has been pressing City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to provide the details. Goldsmith says he’s still figuring out what to do. Dillon’s story has more details, and you can watch our San Diego Explained video to understand how the tax will be levied and where the money will go.

Dillon also compiled a reader’s guide about the Convention Center expansion.  

DeMaio: It’s Now OK to Keep Arts Funding Percentages

A percentage of the money collected from the city’s existing 10.5 percent hotel-room tax is sent to arts organizations.

At a forum Monday at The Old Globe, all four mayoral candidates said they want the city to keep giving the same amount or more.

Councilman Carl DeMaio, in fact, says he plans to double the funding during his two terms as mayor. (Yes, two terms. He’s thinking ahead.)

But in his much-touted Roadmap to Recovery financial plan, he proposes cutting the grants by 25 percent.

What gives? Our Kelly Bennett, who reports on arts and ideas and has a major focus on financial issues, asked him to explain.

DeMaio says the cut to arts funding outlined in his financial plan is no longer needed. Follow his reasoning here.

Bilbray’s Big and Bogus Claim

“It took an act of Congress just to hold a sailboat race in San Diego,” said Rep. Brian Bilbray the other day, making a point about the importance of bipartisanship and his role in supposed legislation. It’s a bogus claim, San Diego Fact Check finds, so egregious that it gets a “huckster propaganda” verdict.

A ‘Fiscal Bomb’

In opinion, Chris Brewster, the city’s former chief lifeguard, says the pension reform initiative is a “fiscal bomb,” while Dan Palmatier likes 401(k)s for public officials but not stock options.

Possible Hate Crime and Murder in El Cajon Worries Nation

The New York Times has moving photos and a troubling summation of the beating death of an Iraqi woman in El Cajon.

“Whatever the police eventually determine, the crime has shattered the sense of security for Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, exposing cultural tensions and distrust that have often simmered just below the surface since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001,” the Times writes.

The Detroit Free-Press reports that the FBI is on the case.

Romney’s Car Elevator Rises in the News

Mitt Romney’s La Jolla home is in the news again, and it’s not because its blueprint was drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. Politico discovered that a renovation project will include a car elevator for a split-level, four-car garage. The story says Romney has paid a lobbyist $21,500 to push San Diego city officials to approve the project.

El Cajon’s Theater to Go and More Arts News

The weekly Arts Report, an aggregation bonanza for culture lovers, has links to news about El Cajon’s performing arts theater (which might become a luxury hotel), the demise of the Neurosciences Institute auditorium as a free place for arts groups to gather, and a less-than-positive review of opera star Renee Fleming.

Quick News Hits

Home prices slumped in January, our real estate guru Rich Toscano reports.  

• San Diego’s Security Business Bank is being acquired by AmericanWest Bank.

• Federal officials won’t allow the San Onofre nuclear plant to power up “until operator Southern California Edison fully understands the ‘unusual wear’ observed inside the plant’s recently-replaced steam generators,” the NC Times reports. If the plant doesn’t get up and running by summer, there’s a chance that we could face rolling blackouts.  

• Someone didn’t earn their green eggs and ham this week. Audrey Giesel, the widow of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Giesel (and a mighty sweet lady), woke up Monday morning to discover that the statue of the Lorax at her La Jolla home had been stolen, NBC 7 San Diego reports.

The 2-foot tall statue is one of two in the world. The home’s manager “believes the thieves dragged the 300-pound statue down the home’s hill, over a fence and possibly into a car.” He says he’ll accept the return of the statue and won’t press charges. But if the thief or thieves don’t cough it up, he says, they’ll be charged.

• The collection of creatures formerly known as the Wild Animal Park is holding a public vote to name an 18-year-old condor chick, the U-T reports. (I refuse to call the place by its new name, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Oh darn it!)

The choices are Maxa’lam, Saticoy and Moyomin. They’re words from the Chumash language and not, as I initially assumed, the medications that my parents take each morning.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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