Saturday, August 21, 2004
As I review the Local Marketing District proposal, I am reminded of other such proposals -- such as the DDA and 3-2-1 -- to push forward a poorly thought out plan to generate new taxes that benefit a narrow segment of the community. Once again, the public has not been involved, they have little knowledge of the details and there is a philosophy of "Trust us, we know best."
We are told that the LMD is needed immediately and without it the planes will not come, our economy will be in shambles and the sky will fall. The same claim was made for the 3-2-1 proposal, yet even with its failure the planes still are coming into our valley. The only real problem was that we kept adding more new pillows and there were never enough planes full of visitors to use the new pillows.
The focus of this proposal is marketing, growth, seize the tax opportunity before it's used for something else, and bring in more tourists for the overabundance of new pillows.
This undermines the Tax Commission's mandate to develop an overall tax strategy and the Growth Commission's mandate to make recommendations on managing growth. This undercuts the use of a lodging tax for more pressing issues such as the $2 million shortfall for Steamboat Springs Transit bus service and to purchase land for affordable housing.
The content, method of implementation, lack of community involvement and timing is divisive and will further polarize our divided community. The problems with our present sources and uncontrolled growth have created traffic congestion, an affordable housing crisis, and a general loss of community. Shouldn't we solve these problems with the Tax Commission and Growth Commission before we shortcut these two publicly mandated commissions and worsen the present situation?
The City Council should vote Sept. 7 to delay this proposal until next November's election. This will provide time to educate the public, examine the implications, receive community input, and avoid the appearance of trying to slip something by the community. After all, this tax proposal will not take effect until the ski season is over in April of next year. So there won't be a substantial loss if we pass something that's more carefully crafted and starts at the beginning of the 2005 ski season, when the bulk of the lodging tax is collected anyway.
A second alternative has been proposed by a few members of the community and several Tax Commission participants speaking as private residents. They suggest that the petition be rewritten as follows and the issue placed on the ballot in November 2005 for a citywide vote. The 2 percent lodging fee would be applied toward maintaining (not increasing) airline subsidies and toward the community-mandated expansion of SST to meet the needs of locals and visitors.