Tom West, editor of the Morrison County Record, hit it out of the park, not once this week, but twice. His viewpoint column in the August 12, 2007 issue of the Record discussed the Little Falls City Council’s lack of voting on an increase in funding for the Little Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau (LFCVB). The LFCVB has not seen an increase in funding since 2002, even though the city has collected more in lodging and food & beverage taxes during the same amount of time. Of course, mainly visitors to the city pay the lodging tax, but it’s not only visitors who are paying the 1/2 percent food & beverage tax. Every time a city resident eats in a city restaurant, he/she pays the tax too. State law and city ordinance delineates how these taxes are to be used. State law requires that 95% of the lodging tax go to an established Convention & Visitors Bureau, with 5% going to the city for administration. City ordinance allocates the food & beverage tax to tourism purposes.

The City Council keeps dragging its feet on granting the increase, choosing instead to sit on the extra funds. One suggestion from the Council is to take the money away from the LFCVB altogether and start a new organization, or put tourism back in the hands of the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

History lesson: Back in 1990, when the Tourism Bureau started (it had a slightly different name from what it has now), the Chamber was in charge of it and the lodging tax went into the Chamber’s coffers. As it turned out, this was a bad idea on a couple of levels. The Chamber is a membership organization and their first priority is their membership, which is fine as long as tax dollars that are supposed to be for the common good of the entire community aren’t involved. When it came to promoting hotels that weren’t Chamber members, but that were collecting the lodging tax, the Chamber balked. For this reason, the LFCVB reorganized as an independent nonprofit organization in 1999. Despite the suggestion from the Council, we would not want to return to the previous situation with the Chamber and tourism.

As for starting a new tourism organization, here’s where Tom West hit it out of the park. He says in his column,

It doesn’t make sense to me that the city council or the 1,059 county residents who owe their jobs to tourism would want to kill that momentum and start over from scratch.”

Here, here!

Exactly who does the Council think would run a new organization? Currently, the board consists of representatives from area lodging, restaurants and attractions. Is someone suggesting that those who collect the tax, those most closely associated with the tourism industry, have absolutely no say in how that funding gets used? What kind of sense does that make?

Here’s where Tom hits another home run, saying,

It’s no secret that anyone who has watched a Little Falls City Council meeting on public access TV this year could be excused for thinking they were watching taped re-runs of “Divorce Court.””

There are members of this current City Council who are being disagreeable just to be disagreeable. This does not bode well for the future of Little Falls. It’s as though the bull was allowed into the china shop with the last City Council election. Our newest officials decided they could rush in and change whatever they wanted to without regard to everything those who had gone before had done and, even worse, without understanding the process and legalities to be met. If I had been in their position, a fresh-faced new Council person, I would have sat on my hands for a while and observed the entire process, asking lots of questions before mucking about to alter things. As it now stands, certain members of this Council are alienating people with their arrogance and their attitude that serving is more about them as individuals rather than about the electorate as a whole. It’s time somebody confronted the bull.

Angling for sensibility,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Sources:

CVB requesting 3 percent increase in funding – May 25, 2007 – MC Record

LF council tables decisions on CVB and TIF for housing project – June 8, 2007 – MC Record

Tourism’s budget debate draws angry words – August 14, 2007 – MC Record

LF pays extra $59,500 for Highway 27 project – August 14, 2007 – MC Record

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