Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
DeMaio backers behind Tourism Marketing District attack Filner in U-T San Diego
U-T San Diego, run by GOP hotel magnate Douglas Manchester, not pleased with Democratic mayor's self-styled reform plan for city "tourism" subsidies
The San Diego Tourism Marketing District, TMD for short, has long been a fixture at city hall, funneling $30 million or so of hotel tax revenue through a hand-picked industry-controlled board of directors to an array of pet causes, including the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival and the San Diego Sports Commission, according to board minutes.
Other cash recipients have included Thunderboats and the Craft Brewers Guild Beer Week, along with the Convention and Visitors Bureau (now called the San Diego Tourism Authority). December's college football bowl games - to which local politicians and business insiders often wrangle free tickets - have also been beneficiaries, as has the Rock and Roll Marathon.
Filner's proposal to revamp how the cash is handed out has not gone down well with U-T San Diego owner Douglas Manchester, long a denizen of the city's hotel owning elite. The publisher's latest blast came today in the form of a story on the paper's front page:
Filner says he wants a better bargain for taxpayers and workers than exists in the nearly 40-year-deal. At least one tourism official described the mayor’s conditions as nonstarters while hoteliers feared a continued delay in releasing the marketing fund could harm what is an $8 billion industry in the short term.
That wasn't all:
“All of his conditions are in my mind nonstarters, and I think he knows that,” said Joe Terzi, CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, which relies on the marketing district for roughly 80 percent of its budget.
“For some reason he’s positioning this in a way to make this not at all palatable to the industry. The best thing for him to do to support the industry is to sign the deal.”
Added Republican city councilman Kevin Faulconer, whose wife Katherine Stuart runs a lucrative downtown events company that specializes in obtaining street closure permits from city hall for elaborate convention block parties:
“The mayor should have signed the tourism contract over a month ago and supported thousands of jobs that working families rely on,” he said. “Instead, his delay tactics are leaving these jobs hanging in the balance in an already fragile economy."
And there was Robert Rauch, the general manager/partner of the Hilton Garden Inn, and a big contributor to the failed mayoral campaign of GOP ex-city councilman Carl DeMaio, a longtime Manchester friend and political ally:
“The mayor seems to have a complete disregard for our industry from my perspective. I think he’s damaging the city of San Diego in multiple ways.”
No supporters of Filner's plan were quoted by the paper, and the U-T also editorially complained about Filner's interference with the subsidies.
Who runs the marketing district?
The organization's website shows that the nine-member board includes Rauch himself, along with a host of the most powerful names of local inn-keeping, including chairman C. Terry Brown, long a funding pillar of the county Republican party, and Bill Evans, whose family got its start leasing city owned hotel land on Mission Bay, and remains the biggest operator of public leasehold hotels, including the still contentious Bahia Hotel deal.
Richard Bartell, president of Bartell Hotels, whose employees and executives have given heavily to Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders and DeMaio, is also a member, as is Patrick Duffy, the general manager of Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.
And then there is John Schafer, vice president and managing director of the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown.
The U-T publisher transferred his interest in that property to Host Hotels and Resorts, a mammoth hotel owner, in a complicated deal which included a substantial stock holding in Host, as reported by Don Bauder in March 2011.
Schafer personally gave $1000 to DeMaio's mayoral cause, according to data made available online by the San Diego city clerk's office.
GOP hotelier turned media mogul Manchester currently operates the Grand del Mar resort complex in North City and is developing a big convention hotel in Austin, Texas with the aide of Rick Perry backers.
According to his LinkedIn.com profile, Schafer has been in his current position at the Hyatt since September 2010. Before that he was in charge of the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.