Mayor Bob Filner is staking his latest battle with tourism officials on a flawed argument.

U-T San Diego reported Thursday that the San Diego Tourism Authority may close its doors Monday if Filner doesn’t sign a check that would allow the marketing group to cover its payroll.

In a Wednesday night interview with KUSI, Filner said he wants the Tourism Marketing District to commit to paying 5 percent of its income to the committee charged with planning the 2015 Centennial celebration in Balboa Park before he’ll release the funds.

“I’m saying if you want the payment for the last four months, give the 5 percent that we agreed, right off the top, to the Balboa Park Centennial Committee,” Filner said.

But the Tourism Marketing District, which funds the Tourism Authority and marketing for some events that draw visitors, never committed to that arrangement.

We explained this in an April post:

The latest version of the Tourism Marketing District contract states that the district should expect an application from Centennial Celebration organizers seeking 5 percent of disbursable funds for the period between January and June of this year. The document notes the payout shouldn’t exceed $750,000.

An application is far from a guarantee. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the same in an April memo.

The city’s contract with its Tourism Marketing District only encourages the Centennial committee to apply for funds. That doesn’t mean the district is required to fork over cash, Goldsmith wrote.

There’s a reason why that funding wasn’t promised: Proposition 26, a state law that complicated public officials’ ability to raise fees. It means officials have to demonstrate a specific benefit for the group or industry receiving extra money.

The Tourism Marketing District’s budget is supported by a 2 percent fee on hotel stays, so any group that hopes to get cash from the district must prove their event will bring in additional hotel visitors. As a result, organizations seeking this money need to document the number of visitors they expect to draw and detail ways their group will encourage those stays. The groups put together applications and the Tourism Marketing District decides who should get cash, and how much.

This set-up would also apply to the Centennial committee.

It’s not clear how much money the group has requested, and how soon they expect it. A spokesman for the Centennial celebration could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

The committee is set to present its application to the TMD board of directors on Friday morning.

But despite the lack of guaranteed funding in the agreement, Filner appears prepared to continue demanding it.

Here’s what the mayor told City News Service Thursday:

@bobfilnermayor tells me he’ll give 5% of funding request to #TMD, and when that goes to Balboa Park centennial folks, TMD will get rest.

— James R. Riffel (@JamesRRiffel) May 30, 2013

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

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...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.