San Diego Mayor-elect Bob Filner doesn’t take office for another week, but one of his campaign promises has already taken a major hit.

The City Council voted 6-1 late Monday to approve a 40-year extension of an up to 2 percent tax on hotel-room bills. The tax is estimated to raise $30 million a year and to the money must be used to market the city as a tourist destination.

Filner had wanted to use half the money to increase police and fire services because, he argues, tourists use public safety. It was one of his key campaign pledges to boost money to the city’s day-to-day budget.

But Monday’s vote means the hotel industry now gets to decide how the money’s allocated and the city can’t change the spending rules without its approval. One prominent hotelier on the board that makes spending decisions called Filner’s idea “dead on arrival” in an interview with us last week.

And council members didn’t mention the mayor-to-be during their comments prior to the vote’s approval.

Instead, they focused the city’s return on the marketing investment and the hotel industry’s overwhelming support for the measure. More than 94 percent of the hotelier vote was in favor of extending the tax.

“This is going to be one of my last votes here on council, and it’s really rewarding to know that one of those votes will be one that will bring so much benefit to the citizens of San Diego,” said outgoing Council President Tony Young, who is stepping down to head the local Red Cross.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald voted against the plan because she said she wanted the general public to decide on the tax, rather than just the hotel industry. Legal challenges to the plan on those grounds have been promised previously. Councilman David Alvarez, who has opposed the measure in the past, was absent.

Filner’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

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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