Powers' Podcast: Public Affairs Strategist Tony Manolatos Gets Candid on CCA's, Convention Center Expansion

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 18 January, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read

Public Affairs and Communications Strategist Tony Manolatos joined our podcast to talk about the very important issues facing the San Diego City Council and the measures that will likely go before voters in November later this year.

Manolatos is a veteran of the political and communication battles in San Diego. He was a vocal opponent of the Chargers Measure C, is an outspoken critic of CCA's or Community Choice Aggregation, that's the push to change the way energy is purchased for the region, and has served as the spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Manolatos also drew headlines when he came to the defense of his client, City Councilman Chris Cate, after it was discovered Cate had leaked a confidential city memo to Soccer City representatives pertaining to the city's internal analysis of the controversial plan for Mission Valley.

There is much at stake for the city and county of San Diego come next November, and we wanted to check in with one of the voices that will be shaping the dialogue for our community.

Click the Podcast below:


Contiguous expansion of the Convention Center has been sought after by the Hoteliers and Tourism Authority for years.

Organizers of this latest measure say it would raise new revenues to expand the downtown convention center, and pay for roads as well as homelessness services. Proponents say the measure, which would increase the tax paid by overnight visitors to San Diego, would pump more than $40 billion into the local economy and create nearly 7,000 permanent jobs.

There is some debate over whether the hoteliers will now accept a non-contiguous expansion. Previous efforts to do so were publicly attacked by the hoteliers and tourism authority, as principals claimed a non-contiguous expansion would force comic-con to leave San Diego and "destroy" the convention center and tourism industry.

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I asked Manolatos about this newest effort to expand the convention center, "The conventions want contiguous, on-site expansion, across the street (non-contiguous) isn't going to work for these larger conventions, however, there is a plan B, if contiguous isn't going to work, more expansion space is better than not."


In 2002, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 117, enabling the creation of CCA's. The Bill mandated that customers be automatically enrolled in their local CCA, with an option to opt out.

The law also makes the clarification that, in California, CCAs are by legal definition not utilities, and are legally defined in California law as electric service providers.

It also empowers local officials to be the stewards of the energy contracts. Members of the San Diego City Council would be buying our region's energy.

Manolatos is involved in the campaign to defeat CCA's. I asked Tony if he believed CCA's would drive costs down for consumers, "No I don't, I think government controlled energy for the most part is a scam. What these CCA's are doing is competing for this finite pool of existing green energy, so they're driving the price of that energy north."

Manolatos continued, "They're not creating any new green, renewable sources of energy and if you're not doing that then you're not creating any jobs, you're certainly not doing anything to benefit the environment, you're not reducing GHG emissions. So what's the point? Simply to break up a monopoly (SDGE), to me that's not going to have any real benefit for the end user, the consumer."


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There's a good chance the City of San Diego's November 2018 ballot will have more measures than any ballot previously. From the Convention Center, to Mission Valley and many more in-between, the challenge for campaign strategists to cut through the noise and reach voters will be no small feat.

I asked Manolatos about these significant challenges ahead, "I'm a little concerned that the ballot is just going to be a mess if you will, and how do you break through that if you're a campaign, fortunately it's not a presidential election year, so there will be some bandwidth, but how do you reach voters and let them know this is the measure you need to vote for and why, it's going to be challenging."

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