Frustrated Citizens Initiative Author Calls Out Indifference at City Hall

The controversial attorney who authored the so-called “Citizens Plan” initiative to restructure the city’s hotel room taxes has scheduled a Monday meeting with the Chargers to game-plan for the November election.

Cory Briggs hopes the team, which has published its own initiative for a downtown stadium and convention facility, can help generate critical mass for the success of both measures.

But he tells NBC 7 that right now he has “zero” optimism for the prospect of getting city leaders off the fence to throw their support behind the Citizens Plan – or at least engage in substantive discussions.

“The reality is, the politicians are abdicating their responsibility to their constituents,” Briggs said in an interview Friday.

“At the end of the day, they can’t do anything while they’re in election mode. They’re not in governance mode. Right now it’s all about politics.”

Briggs is no more a babe in the woods of political machinations than he is unschooled in courtroom warfare.

He’s earned the ire of municipal attorneys across California by lodging numerous lawsuits that cost taxpayers plenty – whether or not he prevails.

While the Chargers’ initiative might seem to be on a parallel track with Briggs’ brainchild, there are key differences in the tax hike numbers and endgame objectives.

The Briggs approach is backed by former Councilwoman Donna Frye, a proponent of public parklands and restoration of the San Diego River along the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley.

Major funding for the signature-gathering campaign is coming from JMI Inc., which envisions developing a satellite campus of San Diego State University on the site – if and when the Chargers vacate ‘The Q’.

The Bolts’ scheme is laser-focused on downtown’s East Village, where JMI reigns as the district’s leading landowner – and is looking to build a 1,600-room convention hotel between Petco Park and the Chargers’ proposed “convadium”.

Competing tax hike measures might confound voters who also will consider a SANDAG regional transportation tax increase, along with several other ballot propositions.

Two city councilmembers and a council candidate have come out against what the team is proposing, and Briggs’ plan faces an undercurrent of opposition from the hotel industry.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is reserving judgment on both measures, pending further review.

So Monday’s meeting of the minds among Briggs, his supporters and the Chargers’ brain trust could be an opportunity for strategizing how to overcome inertia at City Hall and beyond.

They might find common ground to refine their approaches and frame narratives for maximum political appeal.

But it’s hard to see how the two measures could be merged.

And given Briggs’ tenacity, it doesn’t seem likely he’d fold his hand after coming this far.

The Chargers have said they plan to invest upwards of $10 million in their ballot campaign, expected to begin in two weeks with efforts to gather petition signatures from registered voters.

Could ten million bucks be better spent down the road, with the team stepping aside to see how Briggs’ plan fares – and if it passes, tailgate on it?

Or if the plan fails, could the stadium game plan be salvaged by trying to skin the cat another way, in a special election in 2017?

It would be intriguing to learn whether those questions are broached Monday.

For their part, Citizens Plan organizers report they’re closing in on the 90,000 signatures needed later this month to qualify it for November’s ballot.

Meantime, mayoral candidate Ed Harris is taking direct aim at the incumbent’s low-profile stance.

“Where’s Kevin?” Harris said in a campaign statement issued Friday. “He has not shown an ounce of leadership on the Chargers, SDSU expansion and Convention Center issues.”

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