DeMaio told hoteliers to pay, but public would get the bill

Thursday, February 16, 2012

As the convention center expansion plan (and the imposition of a huge tax to fund it) continues to loom over San Diego, Carl DeMaio's hypocrisy on taxes and the rights of voters has been laid bare. But it's important to remember that he's long been in the pocket of developers.

We know that developers were big backers of his initial city council campaign, and that he feels that he "owes" those supporters. And so in 2009, when city staff recommended that taxpayers stop subsidizing developer fees, it was DeMaio that cast the lone vote to keep spending taxdollars to help developers.

The city's analysis found that taxpayers were covering as much as 14% of the permiting costs for developers, amounting to millions in tax dollars that were going to help subsidize developers instead of providing basic services. Especially at a time when the city was wrestling with deep cuts to public safety, libraries and other basics, the city's Development Services Department saw an opportunity to reduce its own costs and by extension help ensure that more tax dollars were spent directly on serving the public. The entire city council agreed except DeMaio, who stood alone defending developers at the expense of taxpayers.

The stakes now are much higher. While DeMaio proposes providing basic public services via volunteers, he wants the public to pay higher taxes -- to rich hoteliers to help them boost their profits. That means that San Diego's current taxes will pay more than $100 million diverted from the general fund, plus any additional costs down the line. But that isn't enough, so the proposal calls for the public to pay a new tax to hotels. You might not know that to listen to DeMaio though. At a mayoral debate last month, DeMaio told the audience:

I challenged the hoteliers that if it is such a great idea, you pay for it. You come up with the financing. And guess what? The market responded and they stepped forward and they put together a financing package that’s something I can support.
But of course, in the proposal the hotels themselves don't pay. The public pays via new taxes to the hoteliers. They need to serve as middlemen because voters rejected the tax twice already. So when DeMaio told them "you pay for it," they came back to the self-appointed taxpayer watchdog where they don't pay for it and taxpayers do, and "that's something [DeMaio] can support."
Lucky for him, it turns out throwing taxpayers under the bus to support his own career means that DeMaio is someone the hoteliers and developers can support.