"Expect hardball," a U-T San Diego editorial promised this week about an anticipated referendum campaign by the paper's publisher and his political allies against the city council's vote to hike the minimum wage. "It can get ugly."
A glimpse of the financial firepower that Douglas Manchester may be preparing to marshal against the wage boost is contained in a disclosure filed this week with the city clerk by a political committee calling itself "Families Working Together for Financial Freedom."
As anticipated by city-hall political insiders, a bevy of corporations and political action committees — not families — came up with the cash.
The fund raised $59,000 from April through the end of June from a group of high-dollar restaurants and two hotel-industry political action committees, the document shows.
Funding came from George's at the Cove in La Jolla, Trophy Properties, Inc., and the Brigantine, Inc., which each put up $5000. Prime Steaks, Inc., and Prime Steaks III, both of Oklahoma City, also gave $5000 each.
The San Diego Lodging Industry Association kicked in $9900 and the Hotel-Motel Association Issue Advocacy PAC furnished $7500.
Manchester, who owns the Grand Del Mar hotel and golf course, has been a force to reckon with in both groups.
Through the end of June, the committee had spent $113,784 in a campaign to mount an initiative drive to counter the minimum-wage boost favored by San Diego City Council Democrats, according to the filing. The group reported $56,640 in outstanding debt.
The proposed initative was submitted to the city clerk for circulation approval in April. A U-T story reported April 29 that "Instead of incrementally increasing the minimum wage to $13.09 by July 2017 as [city councilman Todd] Gloria proposed, the new ballot measure calls for incremental hikes to $12 by January 2018….
"The new measure would also exempt many businesses from paying the higher minimum wage, make employees who receive tips ineligible for some pay increases and limit a sick leave requirement to full-time workers."
The minimum-wage battle drew more interest in political circles earlier this week with the revelation that San Diego State University is being sued by Elite Show Services over what the security vendor alleges is the school's failure to honor a $236,057 Qualcomm Stadium security contract subject to the city's so-called Fair Wage ordinance.
The school, which runs the KPBS public broadcast operation, a well-funded public opinion player on both radio and television, has yet to respond to the charges.
Whatever posture SDSU president Elliot Hirshman and the school-operated media ultimately adopt, the U-T is, for one, confidently predicting that big political money will carry the day in the city's minimum-wage war.
"Referendums to force a council rollback of humongous increases in the linkage fee on commercial and industrial development and to force a public vote on the updated community plan for Barrio Logan, which posed a threat to San Diego’s ship repair industry, were both successful," the paper's July 30 editorial noted.