Why am I supporting Measure D, the Citizens’ Plan for the Responsible Management of Major Tourism and Entertainment Resources? Simple: The public will finally get to vote on a vision for our city’s future that provides a public benefit for all San Diegans.
For too long, politicians have been working behind closed doors with the tourism and entertainment industry while the public has been shut out. In the last decade alone, politicians have authorized over $2 billion for special hotel-industry projects while denying the public its right to vote and falling behind on long-overdue infrastructure upgrades.
Measure D changes that and puts public resources and local taxpayers first through several closely related reforms of the tourism and entertainment industry. It would eliminate the $30 million per year in payments that politicians decided to give to large hotels as an advertising subsidy without a public vote. In its place would be a new program providing transparency and accountability over how the city’s marketing monies are spent.
Measure D would also establish a competitive tax rate on hotel rooms. Currently the room tax is just 10.5 percent — among the lowest of major tourism cities — but under Measure D it would be set at 15.5 percent on rooms at large hotels; competing cities charge the same or more (Los Angeles, 15.5 percent, San Francisco, 16.25 percent, Anaheim, 17 percent). Instead of going into hotelier profits, the additional 5 percent collected on room rents would be available for general government services like street and sidewalk repair, public safety, parks, libraries, homeless services and affordable housing.
Additionally, Measure D would impose limits and other taxpayer and environmental protections if politicians decide to pursue big-ticket tourism and entertainment projects in the future. For example, it protects public access to San Diego’s waterfront by prohibiting the city from spending a billion dollars to expand the existing convention center and further wall off San Diego Bay without a public vote. Instead, Measure D gives limited financial incentives to hoteliers, the primary beneficiaries of convention facilities, to spend their own money expanding the convention center.
Measure D also protects taxpayers by prohibiting the city from spending any money to build or operate any professional sports facility, either downtown or in Mission Valley. That means the Chargers would have to pay their own way for a new stadium/arena.
Measure D protects the San Diego River and local colleges and universities by authorizing the city to sell whatever portion of the Qualcomm Stadium site the Chargers don’t use — whether only a portion because they stay, or all of it because they leave — for transit-oriented park, open-space and higher-education purposes.
If you recall, Councilman Scott Sherman proposed something akin to “Manhattan West” in Mission Valley: 6,000 gridlock-generating, high-rise condos and 3 million square feet of office space. The city doesn’t need land speculation by politicians. It needs to protect water quality, create more recreational opportunities for residents and provide opportunities for high-paying jobs in high-tech and R & D fields like those found only on university campuses.
While surveys show that these reforms find overwhelming support among voters, there will surely be a few vocal opponents who do not want the public to succeed. The opposition’s position on the massive subsidies ended by Measure D might surprise you. Is it possible the special interests trying to defeat Measure D will enjoy even bigger taxpayer subsidies if they can negotiate with politicians in secret, without a public vote?
Voters know what’s good and bad for the city. As explained in Measure D: “City officials have done too little to ensure that tourists and the businesses benefiting from tourism pay their fair share of the costs to develop, maintain and enhance existing and new tourism- and entertainment-related facilities and infrastructure in an economically sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. It has been reported that Qualcomm Stadium may require $75 million or more in deferred maintenance and the San Diego Convention Center may require $30 million to $40 million in deferred maintenance. There has also been a lack of transparency, accountability and efficiency in the city’s planning, financing, managing, and sales and marketing process for such facilities and infrastructure, which has contributed to many of the city’s problems such as funding shortfalls and failed measures to expand the Convention Center.”
Measure D aims to fix those problems by giving voters the chance to create a sustainable long-term vision for the city and put the public’s priorities over those of special interests.
Measure D puts the public and local taxpayers first. That’s why I’m voting yes on Measure D and hope you will too.
For more information on Measure D: https://citizensplan.org