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People often ask me what we’re working on or what the “inside scoop is” and I never really have a good one handy. But the other day someone asked me and I was like, “Well I’m really interested in how the mayor is pushing the City Council to move the vote on the increase to the city’s transient occupancy tax to March 2020 instead of November 2020 and the sticky situation that puts the Council in after the passage of Measure L in 2016.”
I don’t think he was that interested in my news.
But let me make the case for why Monday’s San Diego City Council decision on this is so interesting.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer has failed every single time he has asked the City Council to help him get a measure to increase hotel-room taxes on the ballot. He wanted a special election, he didn’t get it. He wanted the Council to put it on the 2018 ballot, he notoriously didn’t get it.
Could he possible stumble again Monday?
The mayor and supporters of the measure — which now includes labor — want the measure on the March 2020 ballot because the November 2020 ballot is likely to be packed with other tax increases, which could hurt all of them. They also are holding out hope that the measure could only need a simple majority of voter support because of a loophole that a state Supreme Court ruling opened.
The mayor could probably get all his Republican allies on the City Council to support him. They’ve gone out of their way, literally, in the past to support him in those failed efforts.
But that still leaves him short two votes. Then we heard last week from City Councilman Chris Ward, who not only doesn’t support the move to March 2020 but is considering supporting a much different measure that could compete directly with this one. Ward and others, including a group of progressive organizations brought together by Alliance San Diego, are invoking Measure L, which mandated initiatives should be on November ballots, when the most voters show up.
But Measure L didn’t prohibit the Council from moving initiatives whenever it wants.
That means all eyes have turned to Council President Georgette Gomez. What would she do? On the one hand, she probably found Alliance San Diego’s argument compelling. If Measure L doesn’t matter in this circumstance, how can you argue it should ever matter?
On the other hand, she’s clearly been negotiating with the mayor. She seems to have gotten some housing groups on board. The mayor has helped her a lot. She’s the chair of the Metropolitan Transit System in large part because of his vote. And it’s from that perch that she wants to put up a ballot measure to support transit in November 2020, one of the measures people worry would be hurt by too many taxes on one ballot.
So what would she do?
Friday, she told us: She’s joining the mayor. In an op-ed, Gomez announced she was on board to put a measure on the March 2020 ballot to raise hotel taxes to expand the Convention Center.
Counterpoint: Alliance San Diego’s executive director offered a dissenting view arguing that it should remain on the November ballot. “The harm and ultimate cost is not money, it’s voter inclusion and voter participation – especially young voters whose turnout is five times higher in a November general election than in a primary,” wrote Andrea Guerrero.
Gomez herself subscribed to that same thinking in 2017, when Faulconer pushed for a special election for essentially the same measure, and she and the other four Council Democrats rejected the request.
Bigger picture: This is Gomez’s first big decision – at least public-facing one – as Council president. It was clearly a tough call. Now the question is, will two of her Democratic colleagues come with her?
We’ll see Monday.
Mission Valley Negotiations Are Getting Interesting
You may remember a few weeks ago when San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry blasted the mayor for wanting a consultant to help with negotiations between the city and SDSU over the sale of Mission Valley land. She said the major deal points were already done and so was an appraisal, so what’s the big deal?
She seems to have seen just how big of a deal it is. When SDSU and city staff updated the Council on negotiations this week, she had some great questions and seemed to be quite critical of the idea that the one appraisal we have of the property – commissioned by the mayor to aid the SoccerCity effort – should not actually be the guiding document after all.
She drilled in specifically on the question of who would bear the brunt of costs of tearing down the old stadium. The actual exchanges between Bry and SDSU and Councilman Scott Sherman and city staff were very interesting.
Barbara Bry: The demolition of the existing stadium, who do you think is responsible for paying for that demolition?
SDSU VP Tom McCarron: That was addressed in the initial appraisal back in 2017 by Dave Davis. I believe that this was listed as a deduction to the sale price in that particular appraisal.
Bry: So in your mind, is that a reasonable deduction?
McCarron: Not to negotiate right here but I certainly do, as far as San Diego State’s perspective.
Bry: That appraisal was done by SoccerCity who had their own self interest. So, anyway, just um, I don’t have an opinion at this point but it could be something that’s open to negotiation.
Sherman also had some interesting questions.
Sherman: When it comes to the park, we have heard many times about building and constructing and maintaining the park at no cost to the city’s general fund SDSU even presented in the environment committee and reiterated the same thing. Can we get a commitment that it will be no cost to the general fund and any enterprise funds or any other funds that might pay for that?
McCarron: The commitment was absolutely that there was no general fund money on this. Anything beyond that I believe would be part of the negotiation that would happen between the city and San Diego State.
Sherman: So there is a possibility that you guys could build it and maintain it but it might come out of some our pocket too because at the end of the day, the park itself will be sitting on city land that you’re not purchasing, right?
McCarron: That’s correct.
Sherman: Can we do that in an agreement to make sure that they build a park on our land and maintain it. Or is that subject to negotiation?
Cybele Thompson, city director of real estate assets: It is definitely a point of negotiation and would be referenced in the purchase and sale agreement. So even though the park itself is on city-owned property, and would continue to be city-owned, the nature of the negotiations would be who was building and maintaining that river park.
Sherman: Numerous times it was stated by SDSU themselves and the friends of SDSU that they would build and maintain the park.
Fact check: There are indeed several instances where Friends of SDSU said this. In 2017, Gina Jacobs, now assistant vice president at the university, told us: “SDSU and its eventual private-sector partners will pay for the construction and maintenance the park.”
One other takeaway: SDSU officials and city staff think they can have a purchase and sale agreement by this summer and finalized by the beginning of 2020, which is when SDSU thinks it can have its environmental impact report approved as well.
That’s … fast.
Desmond, a Union Guy Blasting Unions
Supervisor Jim Desmond seems to be making a move to be a leader of conservatives in San Diego. He’s become the main detractor to the big shifts the county has made since Supervisor Nathan Fletcher came aboard the same time he did. He’s also the chief antagonist to SANDAG’s new executive director, Hasan Ikrhata. Friday he sent out a statement bemoaning the Airport Authority’s decision last week to begin negotiations on requiring contractors do a project labor agreement with local unions for the upcoming reconstruction of Terminal 1.
He is on the Airport Authority, and voted against it.
“If you are not a member of this select group, you will not apply your trade on the biggest construction project in the airport’s history. Unless you join the group, the door is shut on you,” he wrote.
With project labor agreements, unions agree to guarantee there will be enough workers and to never stop work on the job and, in exchange, all workers must pass through the union halls with associated fees and benefits for them. They don’t necessarily have to be union members but it certainly benefits unions.
“The labor union bosses desperately want these work rules because it allows them to build up union bank accounts,” he said.
What makes this a bit awkward is that Desmond is himself a union member. He’s a pilot with Delta Air Lines, a member of a union that would most certainly not allow large numbers of nonunion pilots to get gigs.
He addressed the irony at the Airport Authority meeting.
“I’m in a union. I’m not anti-union. But — and I’ve seen some of the benefits of being in the union. I’ve reaped some of those over my career. But I draw the line at discrimination,” he said.
We’ve got Desmond scheduled for the podcast at the end of the month.
A Moment With the GOP
This week, new California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Patterson came to town.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. When we came out of the November election it was a dark time for Republicans and nowhere was it felt more than in Orange County and San Diego County,” she said. She seemed to be mostly rallying people for donations and volunteerism.
Local Chairman Tony Krvaric, though, had something to celebrate with the crowd. A federal court struck down California’s ban on high-capacity firearm magazines.
“How many people went shopping for standard capacity magazines?” Krvaric said. “For just a brief moment, Californians could experience the same freedom they have in the other parts of the country.”
Then he asked how many gun owners were in the audience. (A lot.)
“Whooooooah. OK, I think we’re safe. This is a safe space. Like a real safe space,” he said.
Megan Wood contributed to this report. If you have any ideas or feedback for the Politics Report, email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.