Another of San Diego Mayor-elect Bob Filner’s public-safety spending plans faces a stiff challenge. And this one could be killed before he even takes office.

During the campaign, Filner said he wanted to redirect $15 million a year from a surcharge on hotel guests, from tourism promotion to public safety.

He called for an immediate halt to the city’s plans to renew the surcharge and urged a change in terms to allow the money to be spent on police and fire.

So far neither has happened.

On Monday, a week before Filner’s inauguration, the City Council could give final approval to renewing the surcharge. If that occurs, diverting the money to public safety won’t just be Filner and the council’s decision anymore.

Instead, the city’s hoteliers, who control the revenue through what’s known as the Tourism Marketing District, will have to agree to future changes.

That’s not likely to happen.

“I can’t speak for the industry,” said Bill Evans, a Mission Bay hotelier who’s on the district’s board, “but I think it’d be dead on arrival.”

Evans said the surcharge already helps public safety by relieving the city budget of money that would otherwise go to marketing and generating more general hotel-room tax dollars.

Filner’s better bet is with the council on Monday. He would need councilmembers at the least to delay approval so that he can negotiate with the hotel industry. But that too would be a big stretch. The council has overwhelmingly passed other aspects of the district’s renewal over the last two years.

Filner’s plan to divert tourism promotion money to public safety has always faced a steep legal climb: The money can only be spent on projects that directly affect the tourism industry. Filner says the industry benefits from public safety because tourists use police and fire services.

But without council support on Monday, it’s unlikely he’ll even get a chance to test his idea. Filner’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

This proposal to spend more on public safety isn’t the only one that will be difficult for Filner to pull off. He wants to spend an additional $22 million on police and fire improvements, but that money is already earmarked for other infrastructure projects and a reserve account.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. 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 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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