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Reader Don Wood said on April 11 that the Convention Center expansion tax illustrates how “…the mayor and city council are trying to outsource the job of creating new city taxes to various special interest groups.” I agree.

He’s also right in suggesting the idea will spread if the hoteliers get their way. Other industries, with equally narrow and greedy interests, will look to fuel their own growth and profit through “fees” on taxpayers. Everyone will pay, only a few will benefit.

On the other hand, if the tax is legal (and I hope it isn’t) the hoteliers have delivered us with a way around our government. They have provided us with an escape route from the clutches of downtown business interests and their politicians.

As the saying goes all politics are local and this new structure makes it possible for citizens in every corner of our city to pay for the things they feel they are not getting from City Hall. Now we can create and vote-in our own taxes. Success could even lead to neighborhoods seceding from the city, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Scott Lewis has written about what he calls “the dissolving city.” His label represents the continuing distrust of government, issues arising out of the growing and diverse interests of our population and, in my view, the ever present rumble of the underlying municipal inefficiency and lack of authenticity inherent in the forging of post-war San Diego.

It was the reciprocity between the Republican Party and land developers that created modern San Diego. The deal has been straight forward for decades: “We’ll usurp and give you cheap profitable land if you, in turn, build the infrastructure that draws the taxpayers we need to expand our wealth and power.”

The deal has led to sprawling subdivisions with little sense of place. Their function mostly, it seems, to provide customers to corporate food chains, big box stores and car dealers. This may be an efficient way to create profit and political power but it is not one that creates wonderful places in which to live. How fitting is it then that the profit motive inherent in this new tax structure also gives communities a way to fund their own bliss.

Yes, the idea of any tax voted on by corporations and not people or their elected representatives is odious and a slap in the face to democracy. In this case the mayor and the hoteliers have furthered the perception that San Diego operates as an oligarchy. But the arrival of this structure also provides an avenue for the extension of democracy across the mesas and canyons of our city; one built on need and not greed.

Bob Stein lives in University City.


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