Snag holds up final tourism marketing deal: Council postpones ratification vote scheduled for Tues.

Ratification of agreement postponed to Monday

SAN DIEGO - A tentative agreement to end a funding dispute between Mayor Bob Filner and the city of San Diego's Tourism Marketing District has run into a snag, forcing the City Council to postpone a ratification vote scheduled for Tuesday.

Filner told council members that amendments to an operating agreement between the city and the district don't have strong enough protections for the city government's general fund in case judges find the agency's funding mechanism to be illegal.

Some pending lawsuits contend that a 2 percent charge on hotel room rates to fund marketing activities amounts to an illegal tax. If judges agree, the city might be ordered to refund money already paid out for advertising San Diego as a vacation destination.

A lawyer for the tourism agency said he disagreed with Filner's assessment of the legal protections.

The two sides had tentatively agreed March 28 on a deal to end a months-long standoff over the issue.

"So much for the 'kumbaya' moment," Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner compared the hold-up to the movie "Groundhog Day," in which a man keeps experiencing the same events over and over, or an episode of the television sitcom "Three's Company," in which the characters all remember things differently.

Filner wants the area's biggest hotels to protect the city from any risk associated with the lawsuits.

The City Council renewed the TMD for 40 years last November, but the mayor has refused to sign the initial five-year operating agreement, which releases administrative funds to the agency.

Tourism officials say the lack of money has caused them to hold off on a planned campaign to promote San Diego as a vacation spot this summer. The tourism agency also provides financial backing to area activities which attract tourists, like the Holiday Bowl and California State Games.

The council postponed ratification of an amended operating agreement until Monday.

"Today was meant to reflect a consensus that isn't there at this time," Council President Todd Gloria said.

He ordered both sides to have a consensus agreement, or their own versions, to his office by the close of business Thursday.

Terry Brown, the tourism district's chairman, said it was important to wait and get the details right.

"We will make our best efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution," Brown said. "We are thankful that the council continues to express its support for the thousands of men and women who work in the tourism economy, and for their efforts to release the TMD monies."

Brown said layoffs could hit the tourism industry in a couple weeks if the standoff continues.

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