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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

Publisher’s Notebook–Planned Initiative of Little Benefit to City

This is the political season, and there are so many candidates and issues it’s hard to keep track of them all.

One issue that is pushing to qualify for the November ballot is one titled the San Diego Taxpayer Protection Act of 2000. It is going through the signature-gathering process to garner enough signatures to qualify for the ballot this fall.

This new initiative is a change to the city charter to require a two-thirds vote of the people to levy any type of tax increase. While no red-blooded American wants to pay more taxes, blanket charter changes like the one this initiative suggests would, in my mind, do more damage than good.

The ability of any city to finance infrastructure needs is dependent on the credit rating of the city. Most experts on city government financing agree that when a two-thirds voter initiative is approved, the cities bond rating automatically drops a letter due to the difficulty passing bond measures at the two-thirds level.

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The real reason the initiative is even surfacing is due to the poor leadership provided by local government in San Diego.

What is really needed is a charter amendment changing the charter to allow a strong mayor form of government. With a mayor with clout, much of the pork barrel funding would disappear. The voters are really fed up with legislators who are practicing partisan politics by only really focusing on the constituents residing in their district and not the city as a whole.

The most abused tax is the transient occupancy tax, which when created in the late 1960s was solely intended for the marketing of the city of San Diego. Today, that pot of money has grown to more than $100 million with only 12.5 percent going to market the city. The other 77.5 percent goes to a list as long as your arm that funds everything from a North County Convention & Visitors Bureau based in Escondido to the funding of new police officers. In my belief, the system should be reversed and the 77.5 percent should go back to funding the marketing of the city and the 12.5 percent should be spread out between the dozens of other arts and entertainment entities.

Perhaps we could start to realign the TOT fund by renaming it the Visitor and Tourism Fund, because the only people who are “taxed” are visitors, not local citizens. The word “tax” is a misnomer because it is not a general tax to all citizens and therefore should not be lumped into taxing the local populace for new sewers, water systems and other infrastructure items.

If this initiative is approved, it really becomes an anti-business law. It will in effect prohibit the majority of the needed projects in the city from being funded.

The proponents generally following the Libertarian Party line of thinking that opposes any kind of tax would see a collapse of the funding channels used today.

I agree the lack of leadership by our City Council has led voters to want to impose stronger limits on spending, but if the two-thirds law was in effect today we wouldn’t have a convention center or a refurbished Balboa Park, because the voters turned them down each time they reached the ballot. Where would we be without the convention center and a world-class park?

I believe what we really need is a strong mayor form of government, not more initiatives that tie our hands. There is too much pork barrel, too many obstructionist measures, too many lawsuits and too little leadership.

If Mayor Susan Golding, who has done a good job as mayor, wants to leave a legacy, it should be the placement of a strong mayor form of government initiative on the November ballot and the other self-interest driven measures wouldn’t be necessary.

To the balance sheet.

Credit: To Merck & Co., for establishing a $2.5 million student fellowship program at UCSD for second-year neuroscience doctorial students. The fellowship not only supports the student in helping fund their education but it provides UCSD the ability to recruit the very best scholars to the university. The program is a five-year commitment from Merck and provides up to $25,000 per student in annual fellowships to cover fees and provide a stipend for students in their second year. What a way for two first-class organizations to team up. Congrats to both for creative thinking.

Credit: To Geoff Young, general manager of the newly remodeled Paradise Point Resort on Mission Bay for bringing the region a new world-class chef, Robbin Haas, who brought a new concept in restaurants to the hotel and this region. The new facility will be called, Baleen, which is patterned after Baleen Grove Isle in Miami. The Miami facility was voted one of the hottest new restaurants by Bon Appetite magazine. One of the attractions to this new waterfront eatery will be the ability for boat and yacht owners to sail up to the resort’s dock and walk into the restaurant for dinner. Dishes like lobster in a martini glass and wood-fired meats will be a treat for the customers. With a $20 million remodel about complete, I had lunch near the new facility prepared by executive chef Kurt Hauser and pastry chef Jean-Marie Verhoeven outdoors adjacent to the bay and I must say it was five-star. Everyone is going to enjoy dockside dining at Paradise Point.


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