Filner willing to go to court over tourism funds

SAN DIEGO — Tourism officials said they’re ready to take San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to court, accusing him of putting thousands of San Diegans at risk of losing their jobs.

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.11.28 PMMembers of San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District need Filner to sign off on a plan, already passed by City Council, which would release them a $30 million fund generated by tourism taxes on hotels.

City Council members approved the money last year to help the TMD in its mission to market San Diego as a tourist destination around the country and around the world.

But Mayor Filner said he won’t sign on the deal, calling it “a rip off to taxpayers.”

The mayor spoke of the pending lawsuit against the TMD challenging the process by which the hotel tax came to be in the first place.

“It was voted by hoteliers,” said Filner. “I am willing to renegotiate. A lawsuit will only make things worst for everyone.”

“There are thousands of jobs on the line,” said San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, who voted with the majority that approved the $30 million in annual tax revenue be invested in the TMD and its marketing efforts.

“This is what we’ve been doing for years and to change course now would mean that we’re not marketing San Diego that means fewer visitors with less hotel tax revenue which means less money in our city’s general fund,” said Gloria.

Filner and other taxpayer advocates said they wish to reevaluate the agreement, which also renews the 5 year old contract with TMD for 39 years and 6 months.

“Why can’t we just renew their contract for 1 year, why does it have to be 40, and why can’t we ask the hotels to pay for their marketing that way the city can keep more of the tax revenue to hire police officers and firefighters,” said Filner.

Tourism officials stressed keeping the money in limbo is already putting thousands of jobs that depend on those funds in jeopardy.