SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Kevin Faulconer Friday restored $5 million in funding for a potential November special election into the city of San Diego's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The $3.6 billion spending plan was approved Monday night by the City Council after it redirected the election money into other areas.
The council has five business days to consider overriding the mayor's action, which would require six votes, but four of the nine members support holding the election.
The mayor took his action just a few days before the City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to actually call a special election for this fall, and whether to place on the ballot his proposal to raise hotel taxes to expand the San Diego Convention Center, fund homeless programs and pay for road repairs.
"Several City Council members, who have publicly supported the convention center expansion, fixing our streets and helping the homeless, are being squeezed by their political backers to kill these ballot measures," Faulconer said.
"I urge them to vote their conscience, use this restored funding to call a special election and let the public have the final say," the mayor said. "Make no mistake about it, this is one of the most consequential votes this City Council will ever take."
The expansion plan has been on the drawing board for years now, held up by mostly resolved legal challenges. Tourism industry leaders contend that the biggest trade shows have been bypassing San Diego because they need more space. At the same time, competing cities have been trying to lure the biggest local show, Comic-Con International, out of town.
The mayor's plan would also create funding streams designed to deal with the city's growing homelessness problem and road repairs. Those two areas would receive an estimated $10 million in the first year the tax hike is in effect, according to the mayor's office.
The tax hike necessitates a public vote, and at the budget hearing earlier this week, a majority of the City Council said they preferred the convention center ballot measure, along with one to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley into "Soccer City," be placed on the next general election ballot -- November of next year. So while there may not be enough votes to override the mayor's restoration of election funding, there also might not be enough votes to actually schedule the vote for this fall.
Faulconer took the $5 million from the stadium's operations fund. He said that account has enough money for the next two years of debt service payments from previous stadium projects.
The mayor also added $1 million toward resolving the chronic staffing shortage in the uniformed ranks of the San Diego Police Department. In doing so, he lowered the discretionary funding and office budgets of Councilwoman Barbara Bry, and Councilman Chris Ward, who opposed the mayor on the special election issue.
"The City Council and I are united in supporting our police officers, who maximize their resources every day to keep our neighborhoods safe," Faulconer said. "The council members who made the motion to amend my budget proposal said they wanted more resources for police, so I have reallocated funding from their office budgets for that very purpose."
Councilmember Scott Sherman sent FOX 5 this statement:
“The people deserve the right to vote when it counts – in November. I am thankful for the Mayors leadership in restoring funds for the special election.”
Council President Myrtle Cole tweeted, "Very disappointed in Mayor's budget veto. Working with my fellow Councilmembers to override and/or restore cuts to their offices." She also tweeted, "When they go low, I will go high and in solidarity to work with my fellow Councilmembers to restore and mitigate cuts to their budgets."
Councilmember Chris Cate released this statement:
“I supported this budget because it reflects many of the priorities District 6 families believe are most important to them. The budget funds our public safety officers, and prioritizes funding for our City's infrastructure. Furthermore, it is time the City address its police retention and recruitment crisis, which is why I will be advocating for an increase to the police officer salaries next year.”
“It is unfortunate the adoption of a $3 billion dollar budget was overshadowed by the rhetoric surrounding a proposal that has yet to receive a full public vetting before the City Council. I believe it would have been prudent to set aside the funding for a special election today, and deliberate about the merits of a November special election at a future date. That is why I support the Mayor’s decision to use his veto power, and restore special election funding, so we may have a full discussion in the coming weeks.”
The mayor noted that he had already reduced his office budget by 4.2 percent for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.