Written by Justin Culetu
In a 6-3 decision, the Democrat-controlled San Diego City Council voted to move forward with Measure C, which appeared as a hotel occupancy tax ballot measure during the 2020 election, even though it failed to pass. The measure received 65.24% approval from voters.
A two-thirds majority of votes are needed to pass tax increases, like Measure C, which was made clear on the ballot materials sent to San Diego voters. However, the Council majority claimed that according to the California constitution, a simple majority can approve citizen-initiated tax hikes. They also claimed that the state constitution nullifies city written ballot material.
Advocates for Measure C touted that it could generate $6.8 billion in additional hotel tax revenues, including approximately $4 billion for the San Diego Convention Center, $2.1 billion for homelessness, and $700 million for street repairs.
“Voters should be able to rely on ballot materials, but the constitutional right is more fundamental. We need to go with the state constitution and 65% of voters and say it was approved,” Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn said.
The three dissenting votes came from Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe and Vivian Moreno, as well as Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera. All three council members claimed that the approval of the ballot measure would undermine the democratic process, as the language on the ballot clearly stated that two-thirds of votes were needed for passage.
Currently, legal validation suits for the measure will take the matter to court. Three appellate decisions have already concluded a simple majority is sufficient on the tax hike, with the state Supreme Court denying review of two of the lower court’s decisions.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria approved of the Council’s decision to move forward with the measure. As a supporter of Measure C, Gloria stated, “The people of San Diego asked us to take up this measure and an overwhelming majority voted to support it. It’s time we implement the will of the voters.” Until the measure gets validated by the State courts, Gloria promised he will not be collecting the tax.
During a time when government trust is already at a low for citizens, it is important for the San Diego elected officials to respect the one thing this country prides itself on: the institution of enfranchisement. Voters were made aware of the criteria for passing the measure when they received their ballots. Government officials retroactively going against the original criteria undermines the people’s trust in their government, by undemocratically implementing a policy proposal.
Photo via Voice of San Diego