Leaders of San Diego's business community could have major influence on the city's ballot campaign over a half-cent sales tax increase.
In order to land a key endorsement for Proposition D., Mayor Sanders is now working with the City Council to pursue more specific financial reforms than the measure already calls for.
Early Thursday morning, the mayor persuaded directors of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to put off a decision on whether to endorse Proposition D for 2 weeks.
The Chamber has 3,000 business and industrial members, major political clout, and huge fundraising resources.
On Monday, a 'strategic roundtable' group gave the mayor a list of suggestions.
"There's a lot of issues around it, but it's basically about cutting a little over $70 million a year permanently," Sanders said at a Midway District news conference Thursday. "And putting that into a document so that new revenues that come in, we'll use some of them; and part of them we'll use to pay off debt and do other things."
Those "issues" weren't outlined publicly, but informed sources say Chamber directors want the mayor and City Council to commit to specific fiscal reforms that Prop. D doesn't spell out.
There's concern among the business leaders that a resolution or ordinance to that effect, passed by a council whose majority is labor-friendly, could later be waived or repealed.
Mayor Sanders has had the Chamber's backing for every measure he's taken to the ballot.
"Even if you support the mayor, there's a recognition that the mayor doesn't control the council," says Lani Lutar, president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Assn. and a key activist in the "No on D" campaign. "It would be a really big gamble that they'd have to take, because they have to respond to their constituency's concerns -- small business… And that's going to be a very difficult decision. It shouldn't be a difficult decision, but it's going to be a lot of political pressure."
The mayor is known to be an artist at applying political pressure.
But getting business people to sign on to higher taxes may be the proverbial "bridge too far".
"I'm not sure that there's probably anything that could get them to endorse Prop. D," Sanders said in a post-news conference interview.
They've got a membership and they don't believe a half-cent sales tax is the way to go about doing that.
"So I've told them I don't have any other way."
Mayor Sanders has until Oct. 7 to come back to the Chamber with an offer they can't refuse.