Judge tentatively backs mayor in tourism dispute

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SAN DIEGO — Demands by San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District to require Mayor Bob Filner to sign an operating agreement that would release administrative funds to the visitor promotions agency were tentatively denied Thursday by a San Diego Superior Court judge.

Filner has the discretion whether to sign the deal, something the mayor has argued since he first refused to give his blessing to the afilner state of citygreement, according to Judge Timothy Taylor’s tentative ruling. He will issue a final decision after hearing oral arguments tomorrow afternoon.

The City Council renewed the TMD last November, but ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders did not sign the operating agreement before he left office. His successor, Filner, calls it a bad deal for taxpayers.

In his ruling, the judge pointed to the City Council’s renewal resolution that authorizes — but does not require — the mayor or his designee to sign “an” agreement, not “the” agreement.

“A plain reading of the 2012 resolution simply does not yield the conclusion that the council directed the mayor to enter the specific contract petitioner now claims must be signed,” Taylor wrote.

Sanders seemed to think he had discretion, since he didn’t sign the deal, according to the judge.

The City Council attempted to clarify its intention this week with a proposed resolution that sought to require the mayor to sign the TMD operating agreement, but the document was returned to staff before it was introduced. The judge said he knew about the new resolution but was unaware of its fate as he wrote his ruling.

Filner last week issued a counter-offer to the TMD which, among other things, called for stronger indemnification for the city in case a judge rules against the agency’s funding mechanism, which is being challenged in a separate court action.

He also demanded that the TMD spend $6 million on the 2015 centennial celebration of Balboa Park, encourage member hotels to pay a living wage to employees, and prohibit funding to organizations that pay annual salaries above $160,000.

The agency rejected the demands.

The TMD receives a 2 percent surcharge on room rates to advertise San Diego as a destination. Money also goes to organizations that stage events that attract visitors.

1 Comment

  • Phil Hannes

    The City already gets 100% of the (10.5% transient occupancy tax) that pays for pot holes, police, firemen, life guards and other infrastructure that benefits San Diego residents. The Mayor seems to forget to mention this…. The City took all the money hence the need to develop a separate fund to market San Diego. There are 73 other tourism assessment districts in California that have a similar process to collect separate marketing funds and this method is considered to be a best practice. The same is true of CA agriculture commodity boards that developed campaigns like "Got Milk" and "Real California Cheese" as well as the Visit California marketing organization. Over 180,000 tourism jobs currently exist in San Diego but without the marketing of SD all jobs will be at risk including those the Mayor is trying to help. The marketing campaign is fully audited and is reported back to the City and City Council. The Mayor seems to forget to divulge the REAL audit process to prove return on investment to ALL of San Diego.

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