In an upset to rival Secretariat’s 31-length victory at the Belmont Stakes in 1973, Mammoth Lakes Town Council voted to approve the formation of a TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District) at its regular meeting Wednesday night in Suite Z.
The vote appeared close (3-2, with Bacon and Wood voting no), but wasn’t.
The three votes cast in favor had already been made when Wood cast his final dissenting vote.
A cynic (i.e. Lunch) would surmise that Wood wishes to sit on a Council approving the TBID (so he can take credit if it’s successful), while voting against it (to hedge against its possible failure).
But not all of us are so cynical.
The TBID is expected to raise $4.7 million annually. The money will be spent on commercial airline subsidies and a massive marketing effort.
The TBID will impose a 2% lift ticket tax, a 1.5% tax on restaurants and retail, and add a point to the lodging (Transient Occupancy) tax.
There are exceptions built into the TBID based upon business volume (at certain revenue thresholds, the TBID charge to businesses – excluding lodging – will be a flat fee) and business demographics (if more than half of a business’s gross is local, that business would pay a flat fee)
Implementation will begin September 1.
Derek Johnson of Crystal Crag Lodge in the Lakes Basin, who has threatened a legal challenge to the TBID formation, was not in attendance Wednesday.
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory was in attendance, but in what must be a first, did not speak. He knew he had it in the bag. That or he was under a strict gag order from COO Greg Dallas.
In explaining his rationale for supporting the TBID, Councilman John Eastman quoted extensively from information supplied by a trade association lobbyist, because a trade association lobbyist is obviously going to provide you with the best, most objective information.
Aside: I had reporter Katie Vane do a little research on the increasing pervasiveness and power of public relations hacks in relation to journalists and this is what she came up with:
According to the Future Journalism Project, from 1997 to 2007, there was 30% job growth in independent Public Relations. This excludes in-house PR or PR departments in advertising or SEO agencies. Meanwhile newspaper newsrooms in 2007 were 30% smaller than they were in 2000, according to Pew Research.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010, there were 320,000 public relations managers and specialist jobs, and only 58,500 reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analyst jobs.
*So we journalists are outnumbered roughly 6-to-1, and when I look around me, I see that among the folks fighting on my side include the staff of the Fifty Center … Makes me feel like I’m a member of F Troop. No wonder Eastman would take his facts from a guy who manufactures facts for a living.
As for the rest of Council, Eastman’s colleague Michael Raimondo eschewed labored analysis in favor of the anecdotal. In his support of the TBID, he said simply, “I don’t hear people bragging that they’re making so much money that they don’t need more.”
Councilmember Matthew Lehman said the TBID is vital to help the Town grow out of its problems.
In explaining the rationale behind her ‘no’ vote, Councilmember Bacon said everyone in Town has a relationship to tourism, so if a tax is being contemplated, everyone should participate.
As for Wood, he suggested that spending $7 million out of what is essentially a $23 million Town budget on marketing alone is not balance.
He added that ideas he floated to cap the Town’s contributions to Mammoth Lakes Tourism (out of Measure A) or designate business license fee revenues to other needs were rejected.
As an FYI, Wood and his fellow Councilmembers voted Wednesday to extend the DIF (Development Impact Fee) tax break for another year to contractors who are not subject to the TBID. So much for concern about the state of the general fund.
In other news … Town Manager MMMartinez is all set to go on vacation for the entire month of August. The original plan was to have Police Chief Dan Watson serve as acting Town Manager for two weeks and then have Public Works Director Ray Jarvis serve as acting Town Manager for two weeks. But since Jarvis is leaving as of August 2, Sandra Moberly will replace him in that role.
Debra Ray Trial Date Set
On Monday, presiding Judge Stan Eller set a Nov. 5 jury trial date for the case of Debra Ray. Ray was arrested in April on suspicion of embezzling about $29,000 from the Crowley Lake Mutual Water Company; she plead “not guilty” to the charge. According to Deputy D.A. Daniel Lengeman at Monday’s arraignment, the trial is expected to take 5-7 days. Trial confirmation is set for Oct. 7.