San Diego Mayor Bob Filner agrees to release tourism funding

SAN DIEGO - The city transferred $5.7 million to the agency that promotes San Diego as a vacation destination Friday, bringing a quick end to the latest dispute between Mayor Bob Filner and tourism officials.

At a news conference, Filner told reporters he released the funds after the Tourism Marketing District Board of Directors voted earlier today to provide nearly $500,000 to organizers of a centennial celebration in Balboa Park in 2015.

"This is going to be the major event in San Diego in 2015," Filner said. "It's going to take a whole year of our energies, and San Diego is going to have the attention of the world focused on it. It's worth doing, and it's worth fighting for."

The city money provides the TMD with administrative funds to stay in business. It then takes revenue from a 2 percent charge on hotel room rates and distributes the money to organizations that attract visitors to San Diego.

Filner said the district only recently invoiced the city for its funds. He also said centennial committee members were given no respect by the TMD board at a previous meeting, making him worry they would get no money.

"This week's meeting was a lot different," Filner said.

Terry Brown, the chairman of the TMD, said in a statement that the release of money was "a positive step forward for San Diego's tourism industry."

The payment also means the San Diego Tourism Authority -- which used to be known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, or ConVis -- will remain in business. The SDTA, which relies on TMD funding, had said it would shut down Monday and lay off 85 employees if it didn't receive any money.

The SDTA will also receive tourism district money, but how much was unclear because it is based on invoices, a TMD spokesman told City News Service.

Filner previously 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.

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