Attempts to expand the San Diego Convention Center and strengthen one of the region’s great economic engines have fallen victim to civic bumbling and missteps over the years, leading to frustration from many stakeholders and to bafflement from residents. But instead of wading through all this baggage, here’s a simple way to think about the issue: Expansion remains a good idea — the sooner, the better.
This is why The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board urges the City Council at its April 15 meeting to put a signature-qualified hotel room tax measure — one that would fund the convention center’s expansion as well as homeless services and road repairs — before voters in the March 2020 primary. As U-T columnist Michael Smolens recently detailed, there are many complications. Some high-profile local groups don’t think convention center expansion is nearly compelling enough an issue for the City Council to exempt the vote from the measure approved by San Diegans in November 2016 that requires that citizens’ ballot initiatives should in normal circumstances only be considered in general elections. Also, in May, the Port Commission is expected to consider approval of a $300 million hotel on a waterfront site that some leaders think should be saved for convention center expansion.
But even without that site available, the economic case for expanding the convention center would remain solid. As long as voters understand that visitors would fund the expansion with higher hotel-room tax rates, the chances of getting the needed two-thirds support are strong. City Council members: It’s time to lead on a crucial issue.
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