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— Nonetheless, the business/labor group pushing for an increase in the tax asked for a funding increase of $7 million next year for the convention center, two convention and visitor bureaus, and other promotional programs including the Holiday Bowl and San Diego International Sports Council. In view of the fire damage, the visitor bureaus perhaps deserve a year of increased subsidies for promotion, but after that, their spending should be sliced. Ditto the convention center. The Holiday Bowl can now stand on its own feet. It is outrageous that the International Sports Council has been getting public funds.

If the measure passes, police and fire departments and infrastructure will get a significant but inadequate piece of the new tax revenues. But they won't get enough to make up for years of neglect.

The promoters of the transient-occupancy tax hike want to freeze the spending increases in place. This gives the council no flexibility to spend the money where and when it is needed, points out councilmember Donna Frye, whom Mills calls "the only idealist on the council." Although the tax revenue is needed, voters should reject the proposal, because it locks too much corporate welfare in place.

"The fire was the culmination of a whole series of bad decisions," says attorney Mike Aguirre. "There were the repeated approvals of developments without the required firefighting infrastructure, along with the diversion of money from firefighting to things like the ballpark and Convention and Visitors Bureau. It has been the triumph of greed over need. Yet I saw councilmembers donning yellow firemen's jackets and treating it like a photo op."

But the public won't be aware of this massive scam. The mainstream media -- nationally as well as locally -- have been bought off with advertising dollars from the same corporations handing loot to politicians. It's enough to make you go up in smoke.

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