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Mayor Bob Filner wants to show he’s willing to compromise with hoteliers on a new tourism marketing deal after weeks of impasse.

He hopes a revised deal that demands less of the tourism industry will jumpstart the stalled conversation regarding a 2 percent charge on hotel stays that helps fund tourism marketing.

Filner refuses to sign an operating agreement that would allow the deal to go forward. The Tourism Marketing District now hopes a judge will force the mayor to sign the agreement, an arrangement that leaves Filner mostly powerless. He acknowledged Monday he’d need City Council approval to appeal a decision. (For more details on this battle, check out this video explainer.)

Filner initially approached hoteliers with a big ask: He wanted more money for the city, livable wages for downtown hotel workers and a short-term deal. Tourism officials called those suggestions nonstarters.

So last Tuesday, Filner sent hoteliers what he dubbed a counter-offer.

“I hope that they will consider it and either sign my version or continue to talk to me about it,” Filner said. “This is certainly a better alternative method than arguing in court.”

It’s also a way for Filner to claim victory if hoteliers sign off on any of his proposals.

But they weren’t impressed. In a statement, Tourism Marketing District Chairman Terry Brown said he thinks the proposal is illegal because a new contract requires City Council approval.

“We cannot accept this new contract and will look forward to the court’s resolution of this matter,” Brown said. “We are disappointed that we have to seek a court order to compel the mayor to do something we and the City Council believe he is legally obligated to do.”

So what is Filner proposing anyway? Here are the key takeaways.

• Filner claimed his proposal would allow for the immediate release of tourism marketing dollars because it would add more protections for the city and its leaders. Even if Filner were to sign the agreement, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has said tourism funds won’t immediately flow to hoteliers due to pending lawsuits.

• The original agreement lasted for five years. Filner’s proposal would have the city commit for a year with the possibility of up to a five-year deal. It would allow the arrangement to be extended on a month-to-month basis and for cancellation with 30 days’ notice after the first year.

• Filner wants $5 million for event planning, production and marketing costs for the 2015 celebration in Balboa Park but the Tourism Marketing District has already funneled thousands of dollars toward those plans. The mayor also requested the district spend $1 million for “international, multi-cultural marketing for ethnic tourism” though he didn’t elaborate on that proposal.

Funneling the money to other causes might have led to additional legal challenges.

• Filner’s new agreement would disqualify contractors and others who seek to assist with marketing efforts from paying salaries larger than $160,000. It also calls on tourism marketing leaders to encourage hoteliers to pay livable wages to their workers. That would include a posting such a recommendation on the group’s website.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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