Mayor, TMD Cease Fire In Tourism Funding Spat

The latest flashpoint in the heated political and financial confrontation between Mayor Bob Filner and San Diego's tourism industry has just ended on a peaceful note.

Once again, the dispute was over millions of dollars to bankroll promotional campaigns to attract visitors here.

It seemed the hostilities between the two sides had long since been settled, but that understanding soon enough passed by the boards.

The hotel industry's Tourism Marketing District accused the mayor of reneging on a funding agreement.

He said they were in default -- told them to stop "whining" and complaining".

Now, for the time being, things supposedly are 'all good'.

"I'm sorry, really, that once again it came to this kind of dispute,” Filner told reporters in a late-afternoon news conference Friday. “I thought the agreement was very clear … that the Balboa Park centennial event was going to be high on the priority list for funding by the TMD."

TMD officials issued a statement saying they're "hopeful" that the city's release of $5.7 million for the San Diego Tourism Authority and Balboa Park Centennial planning group takes place "by the close of business (Friday)."

Chairman Terry Brown called the breakthrough "a positive step forward for San Diego's tourism industry."

The hoteliers had warned that the Tourism Authority, which their district heavily underwrites for visitor promotion, would have to shut down Monday for lack of more than 5 million dollars promised by the city.

But Filner argued that TMD was short-changing on the 5 percent of the district’s accrued revenues it owed to the Balboa Park centennial project.

Late Friday, the TMD agreed to provide the up-front cash, and the city followed with its disbursement of funds.

But the mayor strenuously objects to the fact that the tourism money comes from a 2 percent room tax surcharge he claims is illegal, because it wasn't approved by the voters -- only by city's hotel owners in a private election that favored the biggest properties.

That funding scheme is yet to be resolved in the courts.

Filner figures the outcome will be in the taxpayers' favor under the rubric of Prop. 26 -- not the hoteliers'.

"It's a burr under his saddle; it won't go away -- that's one of his main points that irritates him,” says political consultant John Dadian. “And something that irritates Mayor Bob Filner is always going to come out in everything he does. And in this case, it’s a matter of negotiations and coming to agreement."

The two sides may be on more collision courses over the next two years, because the centennial planners can request up to 10 percent of future TMD revenues.

But the only guarantee is, they can't be "unreasonably denied".

That could become a phrase for a judge to interpret.

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