Wording on hotel tax proposal not misleading for voters, judge rules

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SAN DIEGO — A judge ruled Friday that a San Diego ballot measure summary regarding a 2020 initiative to raise hotel taxes is not misleading — as alleged by two activist groups that sued to change the summary — and can be forwarded to voters with minor tweaks.

The ruling was made regarding Measure C, which proposes to raise the city’s hotel tax by as much as 3.25% in some cases to fund a convention center expansion, homelessness services, road repairs and more.

Two groups, San Diegans for Open Government and Alliance San Diego, filed suit regarding what they alleged was misleading language in the proposed Measure C ballot summary. The groups claimed the measure’s summary was holding back information vital to voters, including how much money would be raised annually.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney ruled that the summary be altered to reflect what the hotel tax rate would be if enacted, rather than listing how many percentage points the hotel visitor tax rate would increase.

However, he otherwise ruled that the summary was not misleading or in violation of state law.

The proposed measure summary now reads, “Shall the measure be adopted to: increase the city of San Diego’s 10.5% hotel visitor tax to 11.75, 12.75, 13.75 percentage points, depending on hotel location, through at least 2061, designated to fund convention center expansion, modernization, promotion and operations, homelessness services and programs, and street repairs; and authorize related bonds; with a citizens’ oversight committee and audits by the City Auditor?”

City leaders and Measure C proponents characterized the ruling as a victory for city residents.

“We appreciate Judge Whitney’s thoughtful ruling and his flat rejection of the plaintiffs’ claims that the ballot question was in any way false, misleading or defective,” said City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. “As a result, San Diegans will be able to rely on ballot information that is fair, honest and easily understood.”

The Yes on C campaign issued a statement praising the ruling, which states, “The judge’s ruling today affirms Measure C is as clear as can be — tourists pay to help make San Diego a better place by expanding the convention center, creating jobs, reducing homelessness and fixing streets.  This ruling isn’t just a victory for Yes on C, it’s a victory for all of San Diego.”

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