The owners of hotels had until Monday to turn in their ballots on whether to raise the hotel room tax in the city of San Diego to pay for a major expansion of the Convention Center.

The city attorney has called this a tax and said it’s a legally questionable maneuver to raise it without a vote of the people.

But last week, in the first television debate, Councilman Carl DeMaio described the hotel-room tax hike a bit differently. He said the public doesn’t need to vote on it like previous expansions of the Convention Center because it’s not public money.

“This expansion will be done by private investment from the hoteliers,” he said.

For that, the Fact Check gave him our worst rating.

Not only is the hotel-room tax a consumer tax in addition to the city’s existing 10.5 percent hotel-room tax, but the other funding for the project comes from both the port of San Diego (public funds) and the city’s general fund (also public funds).

Here’s a recent San Diego Explained segment on how it’s all supposed to come together.

• The Union-Tribune had an update on the room-tax vote Monday. Hotel owners, many from out of town, look likely to approve it.

Live Mayoral Face Off on NBC

I helped moderate a live television debate of the mayor’s race with our partners NBC 7 San Diego last night. There were some interesting new nuggets.

For instance, Councilman Carl DeMaio responded to a question about the city’s steps toward making wastewater into potable drinking water. He said he would support it, if the science checked out. Currently a pilot study is underway. If it’s successful, the city may implement a vast plan to transfer heavily treated wastewater to reservoirs where it will be treated again along with traditional sources of water and head to our taps.

I hadn’t heard that from DeMaio before. Our Rob Davis has explored the science in depth before. Here’s a guide Davis put together to understanding the issue.

NBC broke the debate apart to make it easier if you want to catch up. Here are the candidates on infrastructure, here they are on their vision of the city (if budget wasn’t a problem), a potential zombie apocalypse, public safety, the Convention Center and pension reform.

SoCal Water War Becoming Historic

The New York Times has picked up on the water war between the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District.

The Times thinks it’s downright historic. The story opens with how polemics of the past have become legendary.

“Yet in the nearly 80 years since the Arizona National Guard was called out to defend state waters against dam-building Californians, there has been little to rival the feud now under way between San Diego’s water agency and the consortium of municipalities that provides water to 19 million customers in Southern California.”

Rob Davis recently explained the five takeaways of this feud. Also, if you really want to get into things, here’s his useful reminder about how we don’t know what to do if our main source of water, the Colorado River, really starts to fail us.

Walmart Wins Sherman Heights Case

So Walmart can continue with its construction of a new store in Sherman Heights. Labor and neighborhood activists tried to stop its destruction of building that once sheltered the local farmer’s market.

A judge refused to halt the project. We explained the major issues at stake yesterday. For more, here’s NBC 7 San Diego’s coverage and the U-T’s.

Del Mar Mesa to City: Butt Out

As you know, our reporters have been fanning out across the city to the districts choosing a new councilmember. They’ve been shaking out the biggest concerns and then taking them to the people hoping to get the council seat.

Keegan Kyle, our data, graphics and public safety maven, landed Monday in Del Mar Mesa, a quaint little community in District 1.

Residents there don’t seem to be big fans of the little efforts the city makes in their neighborhood. In fact, while most places are clamoring for the city to do more, Del Mar Mesa wants the city to do less.

Do you live in La Jolla, Carmel Valley or University City? What concerns do you think Kyle should check out? He’ll be there all week and you can contact him at

Blockbuster Biotech Buy

London-based AstraZeneca has purchased San Diego’s Ardea Biosciences for $1.2 billion, the U-T reports. Ardea is developing a drug to treat gout.

“The Ardea deal further reflects a growing trend in which large pharmaceutical companies buy companies that are in the late stage development of potentially useful and profitable treatments,” writes the U-T’s Gary Robbins.

Businessweek says AstraZeneca’s purchase “may be the first in a series of deals for the company as it tries to counter looming generic competition.”

Some Ardea shareholders apparently aren’t so happy (press release).

Saints Scandal Has San Diego Tie

Things keep getting more scandalous with the New Orleans Saints and the latest news includes a San Diego angle.

Federal prosecutors are looking into whether the general manager of the football team eavesdropped on opponents’ communications during games. He allegedly altered a listening device first installed by his predecessor, Randy Mueller. Mueller, now an executive with the San Diego Chargers, listened to his own coaches. But, ESPN reports, the Saints’ general manager turned it on his opponents.

It not only would be a serious violation of NFL rules, but could be illegal as well.

The Saints have been withering a major scandal involving bounties its coaches used to push their team to inflict injuries on opposing players.

Quick News Hits:

• A Detroit News columnist tells an upsetting story about the experience of two senior citizens at a Lindbergh Field security check point.

Debate Pension Reform with LD

Our own Liam Dillon (a.k.a. LD) will moderate a debate between the CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, Lani Lutar, and City Councilman Todd Gloria. The topic: Proposition B and pension reform at the city of San Diego.

Cocktails begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and the debate starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center, 3900 Vermont St.

If you’re on the fence about going, the mesmerizing picture of LD selected by SDGLN should put you over the edge.

Update: An earlier version of this omitted the day of the debate Dillon is moderating.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. You can contact me directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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