Eva Knott 4:04 a.m., May 23
Tourism Marketing District has some economic incentive...for city councilmembers
City councilmembers have collected more than $42,000 from top three hotel companies part of TMD
For Monday's council hearing, council president Todd Gloria is planning to shed some light on the controversy surrounding the Tourism Marketing District. At the meeting, councilmembers will hear the benefits that the Tourism Marketing District, the special assessment paid by hotel visitors to promote tourism. They will be shown a slideshow touting the importance that the tourism industry has on San Diego, such as its "$18.3 billion economic impact on the region."
But one fact you won't hear during the presentation is the economic impact that some of the largest hoteliers involved with the Tourism Marketing District have on councilmembers and their campaign accounts.
Since 2008, the eight city councilmembers currently on the council have received more than $42,000 from executives employed by the three largest companies; Atlas Hotels, Bartell Hotels, and Evans Hotels. Executives from each of the three chains happen to serve on the Tourism Marketing District.
Campaign finance disclosures show Marti Emerald leads the pack, having raised a total of $8,075 since January 2008. Executives at Evans Hotels, whose owner Bill Evans serves as the Treasurer for the Tourism Marketing District, pledged $3,350 over four years.
Runner up to Emerald is District 1 representative Sherri Lightner. Since 2008 Lightner and her campaign committee raked in a total of $8,055 from the three hotel companies. Lorie Zapf raised the third most with $7,875, then Scott Sherman with $7,260, Kevin Faulconer with $6,000, Todd Gloria with $4,025, and rounding out the bunch was David Alvarez collecting only $1,100.
The upcoming city council hearing isn't the only outlet for residents to learn about the importance of tourism and the Tourism Marketing District has on San Diego.
Council president Todd Gloria is also spreading the word via his latest newsletter.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you have likely heard something lately about the Tourism Marketing District’s (TMD) future...In addition to contributing funding for events like the Holiday Bowl, the TMD’s promotional efforts have drawn visitors to our City. This equates to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenue, on which the City depends to help fund core services like police, fire-rescue, and libraries. And having more visitors in San Diego also means that the tourism industry and the many businesses related to it remain strong economic generators and job creators.
Unfortunately, the future of the TMD is now at risk. Last year, the City Council approved the renewal of the TMD by a vote of 7-1 to preserve this successful program and its positive impacts on local residents, the City, and our economy. The Mayor opposes the implementation of the TMD agreement unless additional revenue is given to the City and hotel workers’ wages are increased. As the son of a former hotel maid, I could not more strongly favor better compensation and improved working conditions for tourism industry workers, and would support that goal if it were pursued directly. Further, I have been outspoken on the topic of the need for more revenue for the City, but the TMD is funded through an assessment on hoteliers for the specific purpose of promoting events and tourism in San Diego; state law prohibits the use of these funds for general civic purposes.
San Diegans want progress and practical decision-making based on principles. Moving forward with the Council’s approval of the TMD is right and necessary now.
Of course, councilmembers aren't the only elected officials in San Diego that have benefited from the generosity of these hotel executives. As Matt Potter reported in a February 20 article, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith collected thousands of dollars in contributions from the same group.