San Diego, CALIF.- Political fireworks at the Latino American Political Association event over Measure D.
The debate over Measure D, also known as the Citizens' Plan for Tourism Reform, took an unexpected turn Tuesday night.
Speaking before an audience of voters, political colleagues and special guests, outspoken opponent of Measure D Scott Sherman, a member of the San Diego City Council, admitted the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) rate charged by other tourist destinations has no influence on his family's travel decisions.
In response to a question from the audience, Sherman said, "in all honesty, the TOT in the cities my wife and I visit isn't a factor in where we choose to go."
It was a significant admission in that Sherman had previously railed against Measure D for what he described as “the damage a 15.5% TOT rate would do to our local tourism economy."
As recently as 2012, the mayor and city council approved a 15.5% TOT rate for downtown hotels. However, an appellate court later invalidated the 15.5% rate because the politicians approved it without a public vote.
It was the first of several comments from Sherman that left many in the audience stunned.
The crowd included City Council colleague Lori Zapf, Chargers stadium advisor Fred Maas, Measure D advocate Cory Briggs and others. Witnesses say Sherman then reversed course from an op-ed he penned just a few weeks ago in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In the op-ed, Sherman claimed that if Measure D passes, Comic-Con could have no choice but to leave San Diego. Tuesday night, however, he admitted that Comic-Con itself issued a statement saying Measure D's passage will have no effect on the organization's decision to relocate.
Jeff Marston, also a proponent of Measure D who was present at the LAPA event, said, "the audience was pretty shocked. It was in total contrast to what he’s been saying most of this year.”
The heart of Measure D lies in what it could mean for the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley if the Chargers move: at least 50 acres of park land and open space, plus room for SDSU's expansion and other higher-ed uses for generations to come. Last year Sherman proposed building 6,000 condos and three million square feet of office space as a way to pay for a new stadium for the Chargers.
Tuesday night Sherman stated, "I proposed the 6,000 condos to let the public know what it would take to build a stadium with no taxpayer money.” His proposal was scrutinized as environmentally and economically infeasible.
"It was refreshing to finally hear the main opponent of Measure D in effect admit that much of what he has been saying against it has been wrong," said Pedro Quiroz, Jr., the chairman of San Diegans for Open Government and an early endorser of Measure D.
It was a uniquely honest political debate, something we don’t often see in San Diego. Sherman should be applauded for being honest enough to publicly clear the air on a key ballot measure that could shape the future of San Diego.