LOS ANGELES — The San Diego mayor threatened to veto a budget after the City Council voted to strip $5 million needed for a November special election on soccer stadium and convention center projects.
“A City Council majority is supporting the unprecedented step of blocking a public election by stripping funding from the budget,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “This short-sighted move results in denying the public a vote and getting nothing accomplished for our city.”
The 8-1 vote followed a boisterous five-hour Monday night budget hearing that saw testimony for and against placing the issue on the upcoming ballot.
The vote came as part of an overall approval of the city’s $3.6 billion fiscal 2018 budget to fund city operations. Councilman Scott Sherman was the lone dissenting voice on the budget.
Councilwoman Barbara Fry, who chairs the Budget Review Committee, said the City Council upheld the will of the voters who turned out to support Measure L, which requires citizen’s initiatives and referendum measures to be placed on a general election ballot when voter turnout is significantly higher.
Others who testified in favor of a special election vote are concerned the timing of plans by Major League Soccer to designate four new franchises in December would eliminate San Diego from the running if an election isn’t held until late next year.
Developer FS Investors wants to turn the site of Qualcomm Stadium, former home of the Chargers National Football league team, and nearby property into a $4 billion soccer stadium and massive mixed-use development that would have houses, apartments and retail.
A separate initiative would be to hike hotel taxes to pay for a $780 million plan to expand the convention center and provide a permanent funding stream for the homeless and street repairs.
The council was due to vote next week on the convention center and the week after on the SoccerCity proposal. FS pushed for the initiative and obtained the necessary signatures, but the proposal does not have to go to voters since it doesn’t involve a tax hike.
“The City Council majority wants to make San Diegans wait for more road repairs, wait to address the homeless crisis, wait to bring back tourism jobs, and jeopardize a chance to get a major league sports franchise,” Faulconer said.
The mayor vowed to use his veto authority to restore the special election funding, while still retaining funding added by the City Council for police, so the City Council can take an up-or-down vote on the ballot measures.
The City Council voted to strip the money for the special election and used the money for police services and to put more toward paying down the $37 million in outstanding stadium bonds for Qualcomm.
The city charter requires a supermajority of the City Council – six of nine votes – to override a mayoral veto. The mayor says three council members in addition to Sherman expressed support for funding the special election though they voted to approve the budget without funding it.