Marketing funds spark energetic council discussion
A debate over whether to spend city funds on marketing the South Shore to tourists illustrated the deep philosophical divide between City Council members on Tuesday.
Councilman Mike Weber was in favor of the expenditure, pointing out that the South Shore’s economy is “90 percent tourism-driven.”
Weber got into a fiesty exchange with Councilman Bill Crawford, who said spending the money on marketing was “irrational” considering the many needs facing the city.
At issue was whether the city should give the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority $225,000 to promote the South Shore through advertising and public relations. In a separate item, the council voted on whether to give the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce $22,000 to use toward a “wayfinding” program — a system of signs to help people find their way around town.
Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, firefighters had addressed the council regarding their contract negotiations with the city, making impassioned statements about the importance of public safety.
“I think the people who spoke about priorities were on target,” Crawford said.
Crawford also pointed to a lack of funding for a project to protect the Gardner Mountain neighborhood from runoff following the Angora fire.
But Weber said spending on marketing was a separate issue, and the expenditure would bolster the area’s economy.
“I came on board to try to grow the revenue pie, so everybody can eat steak together,” Weber said.
The council approved the funding agreements with the LTVA and the chamber on 3-2 votes.
In addition to Crawford, Mayor Kathay Lovell voted against the proposals.
Lovell didn’t jump into the debate between Crawford and Weber, but said later during a break that she’d rather see the funds go for public safety.
In July, the council voted unanimously to use $101,000 designated for marketing to pay for emergency radios for the fire department and programs to reduce fire fuels. But in August, the council voted to restore the marketing money, opting to give the fire department money from the city’s reserve fund instead.
“It was a 5-0 vote,” Lovell said of the council’s vote in July to use the marketing funds for fire safety. “It was the right thing to do.”
Lovell said she understands the value of marketing, but said a new fund established by lodging properties should be taking the place of city dollars in paying for it.
And she echoed some of Crawford’s comments in saying the LTVA seems to be in good financial shape.
“Why are they looking at the taxpayers’ money?” she asked.