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San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith argues that he wants to release the information we’re seeking about the hotel-room tax increase but the law says he can’t.

Goldsmith’s spokesman, Jonathan Heller, put it this way in an op-ed we published yesterday:

Here’s the punch line: This office would like to see the information disclosed in the interest of the public’s right to know. This is a vote on taxes we’re talking about, after all. But we cannot do that under the law without a court order. Following the law is sometimes inconvenient, but always necessary.

Here’s a punchier line.

The City Attorney’s Office wrote this “inconvenient” law that he says forbids him from releasing information on hoteliers’ voting power. In a comment on a previous story, Deputy City Attorney Brant Will said: “If we had realized that there would be so much interest in the vote allocation, we might have chosen to do something different but I can honestly say I didn’t expect the election itself to excite so much attention.”

So if the city attorney’s hands are tied, then he’s the one who tied them.

A key question now is, why did the city attorney allow this secret to exist if he doesn’t agree with it and if he thinks it could unravel the whole Convention Center expansion deal?

I put that question to Heller and I’ll update this story if he responds. (Update: Heller responded to us in an email and in the comment section of this story.)

For context, San Diego hoteliers now are voting on a $1 billion visitor tax increase to finance the Convention Center expansion. We want to know how many votes the city’s largest hotelier, Host Hotels & Resorts, has in the election. Goldsmith has denied our request because he says that we’re asking for private tax information about Host. The whole situation is yet another way that the city is privileging hotel owners over the public in the expansion debate.

Meantime, we’re going on a week since we offered Goldsmith a compromise to release the voting records without disclosing the information he claims is private. We’re still waiting for a response. Heller told me that Goldsmith was still working on an answer.


Our dispute with Goldsmith is hardly the only Convention Center drama going on.

I appeared on NBC 7 San Diego yesterday to talk about how the likely departure of the center’s longtime CEO fits into the larger expansion discussion.

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Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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