Bidding the BID a fond farewell
November 8, 2005
While the rest of South Lake Tahoe waited for election returns for the county and California, the board of the controversial Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District cast another important vote Tuesday evening recommending disbanding, a fitting end to a flawed idea.
Now it is up to the South Lake Tahoe City Council to follow the recommendation.
The people behind the BID may have had the best of intentions to create a funding stream for much-needed marketing. But the BID would never satisfy the South Lake Tahoe business community because of two key problems, as we pointed out in an editorial in January: Its approval process was undemocratic, and it created a tax that disproportionately penalized smaller businesses.
While BID supporters thought it was necessary to offset losses of marketing funding from the city to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, that argument never held water. The BID’s opponents weren’t arguing against marketing, they were arguing against unfair taxation. It was a matter of principle, and they were right.
Because businesses had to vote no to stop the BID, it was destined to become law, even with full turnout. Why? Because the weight of voting was relative to the gross receipts of a business. Bigger businesses, the ones that benefit the most from tourism marketing, held more voting power. And the real stinger? Contributions to the BID were capped at $3,000 a year – the biggest businesses paid less relative to other businesses.
The BID experience, which spawned a lawsuit and played huge in the El Dorado County supervisor’s race, should serve as a lesson to those in power: In the future ask before putting your hands in business owners’ wallets.
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