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City Councilwoman Marti Emerald was the lone dissenting vote.

From: Carol C.
Sent on: Thursday, December 6, 2012 1:38 PM

Carol

A thank you  for working wonders and bringing Donna and Steve (sounds like a musical act) to the meeting.They are the beacon of good govt. Meanwhile below is the answer to the question of who sold out taxpayers at the city council. Marti Emerald  was the voice of reason.You may want to pass this information on. John Mattes


Tourism Marketing Tax Approved, But Is It Legal?

Aired 11/27/12

GUESTS

Joe Terzi, President & CEO, San Diego Convention and Visitors' Bureau

Katie Orr, KPBS News Metro Reporter

Jordan Barry, professor, University of San Diego School of Law

Transcript
San Diego's Tourism Marketing District was launched as a pilot program five years ago to collect funds from hotels to pay for marketing campaigns aimed at tourists.

On Monday, the City Council voted to re-authorize the district to collect 2 percent of gross room revenues from hotels with 30 or more rooms to continue the sales and marketing programs. Smaller hotels would pay 0.55 percent.

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald was the lone dissenting vote.

Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, or ConVis, praised the vote.

Terzi told KPBS about 75 percent of ConVis' income comes through the tourism marketing district. He said it currently generates $30 million a year, and expects that amount to increase because the new district is bigger.

Some have expressed concern about the precedent of private individuals assessing and collecting taxes, essentially without oversight or accountability.

But Terzi told KPBS "it's not a vote of the people issue."
"The test is are the funds that are being allocated into the district by the payers, is it benefiting the payers directly?" he said. "And you have to prove that that is the case, and there's not a significant benefit to anyone other than the payers. So that's why the district was expanded, to make sure that we're able to meet that test to say, 'yes, there is benefit to all of the hotels in San Diego. Some more than others.' And that's why the funding scenario shows that 2 percent for hotels that are larger and 0.55 percent for hotels that are smaller."

Terzi acknowledged that it's not hoteliers who pay the tax, but tourists paying for hotel rooms, but said there are "arguments on all sides."

"I'm not a lawyer, nor do I want to get into the legal arguments," he said. "I will tell you without the tourism marketing district, San Diego would be in a very bad position right now because we would not have the money to go out and compete with those that we compete with every day for these tourists coming into San Diego."

He added there is "more oversight than we'd like" from the city on how ConVis uses its funds.

"Having said that, we have an obligation to report to the tourism marketing district on expenditures," he said. "That gets audited and approved through their financial oversight organization, which is an independent accounting firm. Then those funds are approved and supported. Then they go to the city. And the city oversight through their department actually checks and verifies that the expenditures are appropriate based on the budget and the opportunity to use those funds, and finally we get the funds returned to us by the city.

"So there's not just one, there's two checks and balances on how the money is spent."

Mayor-elect Bob Filner wanted to use half of the tourism tax on public safety, but the City Council's vote Monday makes that unlikely. Terzi said Filner's plan is a bad idea.

"I think with all due respect, our new mayor really doesn't understand the issue," he said. "I know he has good intentions. But my first response would be the $148 million that is collected through the hotels in the form of TOT taxes fund a significant portion already of police and fire. And so to say that the tourism marketing district should be supporting police and fire is somewhat redundant when you think that most of the funds coming out of the TOT taxes that come directly out of hotels already support a significant amount of police and fire services."

Jordan Barry, a professor at University of San Diego's School of Law, told KPBS he understands why the tax makes people nervous.

"If you think about it one way, we have a decision about taxes being made by essentially just private actors," he said. "And we don't normally have that, right? Normally we have a vote of the people or elected representatives decide these things. Some people are very nervous about the idea that private companies can set tax rates.
"And this election that the hoteliers had, it's not even clear exactly how many votes each hotel had. We know the general scheme of how the election worked, but not exactly how the votes were divvied up. So it's a lot of concern about power being allocated in public hands, plus there's an issue of lack of transparency and accountability."

In February, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told KPBS that limiting the vote on the hotel tax to only hoteliers “tests the boundaries of the law.”

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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• MAUREEN CAVANAUGH, KPBS Midday Edition Host CONTACT • PAT FINN, Producer CONTACT _________________note the difference in the coverage between the UT and KPBS_________________________________ An existing hotel room surcharge that is used to market San Diego as a tourist destination was extended Monday by the City Council for nearly 40 more years.

The levy-- 2 percent for most hotels -- is expected to raise more than $1 billion over a 39-1/2-year period, money that the city expects will yield millions of dollars in overnight hotel stays.

The council voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Marti Emerald dissenting and Councilman David Alvarez absent, in favor of the tourism marketing plan.

Emerald, while supportive of the marketing program, argued that the tax should be submitted to a vote of the local electorate.

In order for the tax extension to move forward, it also required a vote of the city's hoteliers, who approved it overwhelmingly. In a weighted vote based on the expected tax individual hotel owners would pay, more than 94 percent cast votes in favor of the tax, the San Diego City Clerk's office reported Monday.

The 2 percent levy, which is over and above the city’s 10.5 percent room tax, will apply to all hotels of 30 rooms or more starting Jan. 1; a tax of 0.55 percent will be levied on all those properties with 29 rooms or less, including seasonal rentals.

Tourism promotion is especially critical as an increasing number of San Diego's rivals are adopting similar levies to market their cities to leisure and business travelers, said Joe Terzi, who heads the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, which receives the bulk of its funding through the hotel tax.

The tourism and hospitality sectors, which represent the county's third biggest industry, account for more than 160,000 jobs.

"By any measure, the results of this effort have been a tremendous success," he said. "Every one of our major competitors has adopted the same principle...Los Angeles will add $10 million to their advertising budget, putting them above our level."

The revenues collected from the special fee are administered via a Tourism Marketing District governed by a board of local hotel owners and operators. The current district and associated room tax, created in 2008, are due to expire Dec. 31.

By the end of the year, $112 million in revenues will have been generated through the tax, which city officials say is responsible for creating 15 million room nights citywide over the past five years.

A number of those who have been beneficiaries of the marketing funds, including the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Crew Classic and San Diego Bowl Game Association, urged the council to approve the tax, arguing that successful promotion of their individual attractions and events generates thousands of hotel room nights and increased visitor spending.

 

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