November 13th, 2016

Does Election Mark a New Era at City Hall?

Leadership, Composition of City Council Could Alter the Playing Field

Conjecture abounds about the meaning of Tuesday’s local election results and the impact, if any, on the workings at San Diego City Hall. A solid Democrat majority will take a full grip of the city council reins and is expected to heavily influence the selection of a new council president at year’s end, among other things.



However, some City Hall observers speculate that while Democrats swept all the major San Diego city races this week, future political skirmishes on key policy matters may actually be less partisan than in the recent past. “The coalitions addressing these issues are forming not along partisan lines, but geographic ones,” writes Andrew Keatts of the Voice of San Diego. “Those fights…won’t always reflect party alliances.”

One key issue of importance to the local visitor industry — Convention Center expansion — is likely to benefit from this bipartisanship. The council is unanimous in its recognition of the need for expansion and that the expansion should be of a contiguous nature. On a related note, the council is also unanimous in its belief that the priority use for any future increase in the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) should be for the expansion project, not a Chargers stadium.

Joe Terzi, SDTA

Joe Terzi

Of course, council members will likely have differing positions on what else should be underwritten with TOT, as proceeds may be eyed for a variety of uses, such as shoring up the city’s ailing infrastructure  — including Balboa Park — and providing increased funding for arts and culture programs.

Bouyed by last week’s decisive defeat of stadium related Measures C and D, San Diego’s visitor industry leaders appear poised to enter the political fray with a bit more vigor than in the past. The folks responsible for putting heads in beds — and they are darn good at it — are also known in local civic circles for burying heads — their own — in the sand when it comes to public policy and community affairs. But just as changes are a foot at City Hall, so too may a new era of greater civic engagement be underway in the tourism sector. And that’s a good thing for the industry, as debates over a new stadium for the Chargers, potential Convention Center expansion, and the future use of TOT to fund destination marketing will continue.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer

Mayor Kevin Faulconer

“I’m encouraging the industry to not wait,” San Diego Tourism Authority head Joe Terzi told the Union-Tribune’s Lori Weisberg this week. “The industry should be working with the mayor’s office to clear the path to make the expansion a possibility.”

Hotelier Bill Evans, who chairs the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, adds, “Our clients have spoken for years about the need to improve upon and expand the center. How that gets done depends on the leadership of Mayor Faulconer.”

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