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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Tourism Authority laid off 40 percent of its employees Wednesday after being faced with financial cutbacks that officials blamed partially on Mayor Bob Filner.

The department gets its funding from the San Diego Tourism Marketing District which has been embroiled in a dispute with Filner.

“Bob Filner didn’t believe that the investment made sense and felt it was a destination that didn’t need to be promoted,” said Joe Terzi, CEO of the Tourism Authority.

layoffsThe agency, which at one time had a $21 million budget, now must work with $4 million.  As a result, 31 employees were laid off, including the entire staff of the San Diego Film Commission, which employs three people.  The Film Commission worked to0 attract movies like Top Gun and Anchorman 2 to San Diego.

“We have a strong public relations team leaving us today,” said Terzi.

That agency, he said, reaches out and gets international media coverage for the city.  Now, costly television and Internet campaigns will have to be  to cut.

“We have sales people in Washington D.C. and Chicago. All those people are leaving today.  They sell group meetings to people and talk about bringing their meeting or convention to San Diego,” said Terzi.

The Authority helps generate $8 billion for the local economy, Terzi claimed.  That number will decrease now, he said.  Less people visiting the city means less money in hotel taxes that go to pay for things like fire, police and street repair, he said.

layoffsSAN DIEGO — The San Diego Tourism Authority announced Thursday it plans to lay off 31 employees — or 40 percent of its workforce — effective Tuesday.

The job losses, originally reported by U-T San Diego and confirmed to City News Service by Tourism Authority spokesman Darren Pudgil, stem from substantially lower revenues this year. The funding downturn was triggered by a lawsuit that challenges how the city collects funds to market San Diego as a vacation destination.

Leaders of the Tourism Authority — which used to be known as the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau — repeatedly warned city officials that layoffs would occur if an agreement on the funding mechanism wasn’t worked out.

The remaining employees likely face pay cuts, according to the SDTA.

The lawsuit by open government advocate Cory Briggs challenges the legality of a 2 percent charge on hotel bills that comes on top of the city’s regular room tax. The money collected by the 2 percent levy goes to the city’s Tourism Marketing District, which funds the Tourism Authority.

Earlier this year, Mayor Bob Filner refused to release collected funds to the district until he received guarantees that the area’s largest hotels would protect the city’s general fund in case Briggs wins the court case.

A Briggs victory could force the 2 percent levy to be returned. But if that money is already spent on tourism promotion, it would have to come out of the city’s general fund — which pays for basic services like public safety and libraries.

The mayor brokered a deal in which tourism officials would receive a percentage of funding that corresponds to the amount collected from hotels who have agreed to indemnify the city. The newspaper reported that 34 out of 200 hotels have stepped up, or 16 percent.

SAN DIEGO – As the holiday weekend approaches, all signs indicate that it will be an economic win for San Diego, according to tourism officials.

San Diego Tourism Authority president and CEO Joe Terzi has been keeping track of the number of travelers making San Diego a destination for the Fourth of July weekend.

The 56,000 hotel rooms throughout the city were mostly booked, according to Terzi. The tax revenue generated from hotel bookings translates into hiring more police officers or 150 miles of paved roads.

“We saw about a 4.5 percent increase in transient occupancy tax, which is $157 million,” said Terzi.

All the hotels downtown and around the bay are expected to be 100 percent full for the holiday weekend.

Hotel Vyvant in Little Italy is completely booked and they expect to be for most of the summer.

“We’ve done better than we expected this past year,” said Kelly Ann Cavaretta, Hotel Vyyant manager, adding they even had money for upgrades and improvements.

Terzi expects the city to be busy throughout the summer as hotels will run about 86 percent full for the entire month of July.

Earlier in the year, the Tourism Authority saw a dip in funding during a controversy with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.  The mayor withheld the Tourism Marketing District’s funding until a revised agreement was completed.

“We are regaining in May, June and July,” said Terzi, since an agreement was reached.

Due to the loss of funds, the Tourism Authority limited their advertising to other cities – mainly just to the west coast.

“We are regaining in May, June and July,” said Terzi, since an agreement was reached.

At least for the upcoming weekend, the lack of funding doesn’t seem to be having a negative impact.

SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner agreed Friday to release city funds for the agency that promotes San Diego as a vacation destination, bringing a quick end to the latest dispute between the two sides.

According to the Tourism Marketing District, Filner pledged to provide nearly $6 million needed to operate the organization.

The previous day, the mayor refused to give money to the TMD because he said its board violated terms of an earlier deal in which 5 percent of its revenues would be passed on to organizers of a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial in 2015.

A centennial committee spokesman, however, said they hadn’t even made their formal presentation to the TMD board. That happened earlier today, and the TMD authorized nearly $500,000 for the celebration organizers.

The TMD is primarily funded by a 2 percent charge on hotel room rates. The district distributes the revenue to other groups that attract visitors to San Diego, including the San Diego Tourism Authority — formerly known as the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau or ConVis — the operators of the city’s two college football bowl games, and Sunday’s Rock’N’Roll Marathon.

Without the pass-through of money, the San Diego Tourism Authority announced this week that it would have to shut down on Monday, and lay off 85 employees.

Previously, Filner refused to provide the city’s portion of funding for the tourism district because he wanted, among other things, stronger protection for the city in case of adverse rulings in lawsuits filed against the agency, higher pay for hotel workers and money to be directed to public safety.

He eventually negotiated a deal that included better legal protection and an opportunity for the Balboa Park centennial group to apply for 5 percent of the agency’s funds.

He said the TMD only billed the city a week or so ago.

SAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner Thursday signed a much-debated operating agreement with San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District.

A dispute over details of the contract blew up in recent months as the mayor sought numerous changes, but the two sides reached a deal about 10 days ago.

The district uses a 2 percent charge on hotel room rates — which is separate from the hotel room tax — to promote San Diego as a vacation destination. It also supports organizations that put on events which attract visitors.

The mayor’s actions will release administrative funds to the agency, once hotels issue waivers needed to protect the city from current lawsuits challenging the funding mechanism.

“That was at the heart of all of the negotiations — protection for the city and its general fund should either of these suits be determined to be successful,” Filner said. “I think that’s what we got out of it.”

If the 2 percent levy was ruled to be an illegal tax, the money raised would have to be replaced — and if the funds already were spent on advertising, city officials worried that the reimbursements would have to come from the general fund.

Filner said if the lawsuits fail, the $30 million put up by hotels to protect the city would be redirected to TMD activities. The agency also will entertain requests for millions of dollars in funding by organizers of a year- long celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial in 2015.

The City Council renewed the TMD last November, but then-Mayor Jerry Sanders was unable to sign all the necessary paperwork by the time he left office.

Filner objected to aspects of the deal beyond indemnification. He originally asked for higher pay for hotel workers and for some of the money raised by the 2 percent charge to go to public safety.

Both demands were later dropped, though City Council President Todd Gloria has promised to hold a hearing on a potential livable wage ordinance in the near future.

San Diego Tourism Marketing District AdSAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner announced Wednesday that he plans to sign an operating agreement with San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District Thursday afternoon.

A dispute over details of the contract blew up in recent months as the mayor sought numerous changes, but the two sides reached a deal about 10 days ago.

The district uses a 2 percent charge on hotel room rates — which is separate from the hotel room tax — to promote San Diego as a vacation destination. It also supports organizations that put on events which attract visitors.

The mayor has already signed amendments to the deal, but he still has to affix his name to the original contract. That action would release administrative funds to the agency.

The City Council renewed the TMD last November, but then-Mayor Jerry Sanders was unable to sign all the necessary paperwork by the time he left office.

Filner objected to several aspects of the deal, including protections for the city in case judges invalidate the TMD’s funding mechanism.

If judges rule that money collected from the levy is an illegal tax and has to be reimbursed, Filner wanted San Diego’s largest hotels to protect the city from liability. Otherwise, the city’s general fund — which pays for basic services like public safety and recreation centers — would have to pick up the tab.

The agreement reached early last week protects the city, said Vince Hall, Filner’s chief of staff.

SAN DIEGO – Tourism marketing dollars could begin to flow again in San Diego.  Monday afternoon the San Diego City Council officially passed an amended agreement of the marketing pact, but the agreement did not come without drama.

“Somebody put my name as to form and legality with an unsigned signature line expecting me to bless something without our input,” said Jan Goldsmith, City Attorney.

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 5.18.43 PMGoldsmith questioned the Mayor Bob Filner’s council.  He said the new agreement was reached without the City Attorney’s input.

“We’re not going to be questioned by the City Attorney in this forum,” returned the Filner’s staff member.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Filner announced reaching an agreement on the amendment of the marketing district pact.  He has now agreed to new conditions that protect the city from adverse legal judgments on the district’s funding mechanism.

Despite the debate from Goldsmith, council members unanimously approved the new agreement.  They also overturned Filner’s previous veto.

Tourism executives said since the TMD debate, San Diego has cancelled some $8 million worth of advertising, getting back in the game will be difficult.

“Now we have to quickly go back in market and see if we can find any space,” said Joe Terzi, San Diego Tourism Authority President.  “We have to see if if we can find any 30 second and 60 second spots which at this point we think we’re closed out of the markets right now.”

Filner must still sign the original marketing agreement.

“It’s expected he will,” said Terzi.  “Once he does funds will be released.  Perhaps even as soon as next week.”

San Diego Tourism Marketing District AdSAN DIEGO — Mayor Bob Filner Monday signed an operating agreement with San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District that releases administrative funds to the agency that promotes the city as a vacation destination.

The mayor’s action ends a months-long dispute and came about an hour before the City Council was poised to override his veto of the deal.

The City Council renewed the tourism district last November, but then- Mayor Jerry Sanders was unable to sign all the necessary paperwork by the time he left office.

Filner objected to several points in the agreement, including protections for the city in case judges invalidate the TMD’s funding mechanism are still insufficient.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed challenging the 2 percent levy on hotel room rates that generates money for the agency. The charge is separate from the hotel room tax.

If the TMD is legally required to pay back money to the hotels that has already been spent on marketing, the city’s general fund would have to pick up the tab, according to Filner. He wanted the hotels to assume the risk.

An earlier agreement fell through, leading to the City Council’s agenda items scheduled for this afternoon. It’s unknown how the council agenda will be impacted.

Tourism officials had said industry layoffs could begin in the next couple of weeks if they didn’t get the funding.

tmd city council  SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council will try Monday to override Mayor Bob Filner’s veto of an operating agreement between the city and its Tourism Marketing District.

Filner vetoed the pact last week after a deal on amendments with the tourism agency’s board fell through. According to the mayor, the protections for the city in case judges invalidate the TMD’s funding mechanism are still insufficient.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed challenging the 2 percent levy on hotel room rates that generates money for the agency, which advertises San Diego as a vacation destination. The charge is separate from the hotel room tax.

If the TMD is legally required to pay back money to the hotels that has already been spent on marketing, the city’s general fund would have to pick up the tab, according to Filner. He wants the hotels to assume the risk.

The City Council had been poised earlier last week to ratify an amended agreement, which would have provided administrative funds to the district. Tourism officials say industry layoffs could begin in the next couple of weeks if they don’t get the funding.

Six votes will be needed to override the veto. If the Council does so, it will then consider amendments to the operating agreement brought forward by Filner and hoteliers.

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