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SD’s Tourism Marketing District’s odd strategy

Boardmembers expected to approve expenditure to file brief in case in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga

What better way to promote San Diego than for the Tourism Marketing District to pay attorneys to file legal briefs in other cities’ fights to keep their hotel tax up and running?

On March 7, San Diego's Tourism Marketing boardmembers are expected to direct Sacramento-based law firm Colantuono and Levin to file an "amicus brief" in favor of dismissing a case from the Inland Oversight Committee against the cities of Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, which questioned the legality of the Greater Ontario Tourism Marketing District.

The amicus brief allows for third parties — in this case, San Diego's Tourism Marketing District — to give their two cents on the case, oftentimes in favor of one of the parties involved.

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The lawsuit, filed in July of last year, was brought by local attorney Cory Briggs on behalf of his client, the Inland Oversight Committee — Briggs also has a law office in Upland. And, similar to Briggs’s December 2012 complaint filed against San Diego's Tourism Marketing District, the lawsuit against Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga challenges the legality of taxing hotel guests in order to pay to promote tourism. The problem, at least one of them, is that the tax is approved not by the electorate but by the largest hotel owners in the proposed district.

San Diego's Tourism Marketing Corporation has decided to chime in, hoping that an earlier ruling by judge Joseph Brisco — which stated that the plaintiff must represent one of the assessed hotels in order for the lawsuit to be valid — stands.

Briggs argues that because the hotel tax is a tax, any member of the electorate has a right to sue.

And while impacts from the case in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga could be felt in San Diego, questions have arisen as to the expenditure of tax dollars to file legal briefs in another county.

"How does spending San Diego tourism money on a lawsuit involving third parties in another county help promote San Diego tourism?” asked Briggs. "If the Tourism Marketing District can justify spending San Diego tourism taxes in a Riverside courtroom as good for San Diego hotels, that'd be the legal equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. They'll try. But all the adults watching will know it's b.s."

Boardmembers for San Diego's Tourism Marketing District will discuss the item during their March 7 meeting. Lorin Stewart, president of the Tourism Marketing District, did not return a message asking how much the amicus brief will cost.

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What better way to promote San Diego than for the Tourism Marketing District to pay attorneys to file legal briefs in other cities’ fights to keep their hotel tax up and running?

On March 7, San Diego's Tourism Marketing boardmembers are expected to direct Sacramento-based law firm Colantuono and Levin to file an "amicus brief" in favor of dismissing a case from the Inland Oversight Committee against the cities of Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, which questioned the legality of the Greater Ontario Tourism Marketing District.

The amicus brief allows for third parties — in this case, San Diego's Tourism Marketing District — to give their two cents on the case, oftentimes in favor of one of the parties involved.

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The lawsuit, filed in July of last year, was brought by local attorney Cory Briggs on behalf of his client, the Inland Oversight Committee — Briggs also has a law office in Upland. And, similar to Briggs’s December 2012 complaint filed against San Diego's Tourism Marketing District, the lawsuit against Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga challenges the legality of taxing hotel guests in order to pay to promote tourism. The problem, at least one of them, is that the tax is approved not by the electorate but by the largest hotel owners in the proposed district.

San Diego's Tourism Marketing Corporation has decided to chime in, hoping that an earlier ruling by judge Joseph Brisco — which stated that the plaintiff must represent one of the assessed hotels in order for the lawsuit to be valid — stands.

Briggs argues that because the hotel tax is a tax, any member of the electorate has a right to sue.

And while impacts from the case in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga could be felt in San Diego, questions have arisen as to the expenditure of tax dollars to file legal briefs in another county.

"How does spending San Diego tourism money on a lawsuit involving third parties in another county help promote San Diego tourism?” asked Briggs. "If the Tourism Marketing District can justify spending San Diego tourism taxes in a Riverside courtroom as good for San Diego hotels, that'd be the legal equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. They'll try. But all the adults watching will know it's b.s."

Boardmembers for San Diego's Tourism Marketing District will discuss the item during their March 7 meeting. Lorin Stewart, president of the Tourism Marketing District, did not return a message asking how much the amicus brief will cost.

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Hello, Mayor Faulconer and City Council: TMD San Diego, operating with our tax dollars, should be prohibited from this sort of extraneous activity. It is too far afield from the TMD mission. I understand that legal outcomes in the Inland Empire might affect San Diego TMD fortunes, but filing amicus briefs up there is way outside their charge. (TMD San Diego is already skating on thin ice with its "fee"as opposed to "tax" designation: TMD should not push its luck.)

March 7, 2014
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