San Diego city council votes against November special election

Mayor's effort was defeated 5-4
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 13:12:28-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)--The San Diego City Council voted Monday not to call a special election for November 7 for San Diegans to vote on Mayor Kevin Faulconer's plan to raise hotel room taxes to pay for expansion of the convention center, street repairs and homeless programs.

The council voted 5-4 not to schedule the Transit Occupancy Tax ballot measure. 


Following the vote, Faulconer expressed his displeasure with the decision and said the city deserved better. 

"There is nothing more democratic and fair than holding an election so voters can make their voices heard. But the City Council majority has made the irresponsible and politically-driven decision to deny a public vote. Council members who say they share the community’s priorities were given a chance to act, but they chose to do nothing. Our city deserves better than what happened today. To every San Diegan bewildered by the Council’s inability to carry out the simple task of calling an election, your disappointment is understandable, but we must move forward. I remain determined to doing what it takes, including working with the community and City Council, to expand our convention center, help our homeless and tackle the civic issues facing our city."

City council member Chris Ward, who voted against what he called a "unnecessary and costly special election" issued the following statement: 

"The frustrating thing is that we agree on what we want. I have been a long-time supporter of expanding our convention center and strongly agree homelessness and infrastructure should be our priorities. We could be here today considering a stronger measure with enthusiastic bipartisan support, but the handful of remaining proponents have proven more committed to political games than actual solutions. After months of good faith effort to work with the mayor on addressing major flaws in this proposal, we have not adjusted the allocation of homeless dollars, we have not obtained the land needed for an expansion, and rather than build the support necessary to pass such a measure, months of outreach has produced a passionate grassroots coalition full of stakeholders now opposing this effort. After today, we can focus on identifying the best approach for 2018 and go to voters with a package that addresses some of our most pressing issues. We can get this right, we have more people than ever working to get it right, and we’ve learned a lot that will help us get there. Next year.”

What lead up to today's defeat

Faulconer included $5 million in funding for a special election in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the money was redirected to other programs by council members who preferred to wait until the next regularly scheduled general election, in November 2018.

The mayor, accusing the council majority of "being squeezed by their political backers," subsequently restored the funding, which he has the power to do. The council can consider overriding the mayor's action this week, with six votes.

"I believe it would have been prudent to set aside the funding for a special election, and deliberate about the merits of a November special election at a future date," said council member Chris Cate, a Faulconer ally. “That is why I support the mayor's decision to use his veto power, and restore special election funding, so we may have a full discussion in the coming weeks."

Faulconer wants his convention center plan to go before voters this year since construction costs are increasing and because most legal hurdles have been cleared.

The expansion plan was approved by the council six years ago, but the project has been tied up by court challenges since then.

The mayor revived the idea in his January "State of the City" address, proposing to raise San Diego's hotel room tax to fund the construction project and create a funding stream for homelessness programs and fixing pothole-riddled streets.

San Diego tourism industry leaders contend that the largest trade shows are bypassing the city because the convention center no longer offers enough space. Other cities have for years been trying to lure San Diego's biggest show, Comic-Con International, out of town.

The mayor's office estimated that $10 million each would be raised for road repairs and homeless programs in the first year of the tax hike.

What's next? 

The city council will consider overriding Faulconer's $5 million funding restoration Tuesday with six votes.

On Monday, June 19, the council will decide whether to place the proposed "SoccerCity" redevelopment of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley on a special election ballot or delay it until next year's general election.

SoccerCity project manager Nick Stone scheduled a press conference on the status of his project Tuesday morning.