Citizens Plan Atty: City Attorney Aims to Disenfranchise Voters in Stadium Debate

A San Diego attorney spearheading a downtown development proposal that allows for a stadium has accused the City Attorney of attempting to disenfranchise voters by threatening to keep a citizen’s referendum off the November ballot.

Cory Briggs addressed a 25-page report released Monday by the San Diego’s City Attorney’s Office pointing out potential legal problems and risk with the Citizens Plan.

The initiative, backed by Briggs and former City Councilmember Donna Frye, is aimed at hiking the city's hotel room-tax rate, to generate more money for public safety and services.

Several points in the Citizens Plan were identified as having potential legal risk, according to the City Attorney’s report.

One of those included was, "allowing hotel operators to retain tax revenue collected from guests (who are the taxpayers) is at odds with state and local laws, including San Diego Charter section 85, requiring deposit of all tax revenue in the City’s treasury," the report states.

The timing of the report raises questions, Briggs said.

"I think it is a calculated maneuver to ensure the public is disenfranchised," Briggs said.

"It’s the beginning of a process the City intends to implement to prevent the voters from once again weighing in on big issues affecting the City’s future," he added.

If there’s going to be a lawsuit over the Citizens Plan for a new NFL stadium, Briggs advised the City to file documents so that facts could be brought out in court.

Briggs has earned the ire of municipal attorneys across California by lodging numerous lawsuits that cost taxpayers plenty.

Major funding for the Citizens Plan signature-gathering campaign came from JMI Inc., which has proposed a satellite campus of San Diego State University on the site of Qualcomm Stadium if and when the Chargers move.

Briggs’ plan faces an undercurrent of opposition from the hotel industry.

However, on Tuesday, Briggs told NBC 7 that the San Diego Tourism Marketing District has agreed to throw its support behind the Citizens Initiative, a November ballot measure that will ask voters to raise hotel taxes to expand the convention center. 

The support from the TMD would leave the Chargers' downtown stadium proposal dead, Briggs said. 

City Attorney spokesperson Gerry Braun said the City has not received a copy of any settlement proposal with TMD.

"We were provided only with an agenda of topics for a meeting that is still three days away," Braun said. "Even after today’s news conference by Mr. Briggs, his purported settlement terms remain a mystery to the City." 

When approached by NBC 7, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani did not comment. 

City councilmembers Scott Sherman and Chris Cate have come out against the plan, according to NBC 7 media partner VoiceofSandiego. See how politicos responded here. 

The San Diego County Convention and Comic-Con have not supported the plan.

The Citizens Plan has the Chargers' seal of approval as well as that of Councilman David Alvarez and mayoral candidate Lori Saldaña.

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

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

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