Editorial: City, LTVA should give a little bit
We’d like to thank all those who contributed to our Opinion pages last weekend, sharing their views on whether the city should provide funds to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
There’s no doubt that the South Shore’s economy depends on tourism. And most would agree that marketing the area to attract more tourists brings economic benefits to almost everyone.
The question of whether the city should contribute funds to the marketing effort is less clear-cut.
Councilman Hal Cole, who made the motion at last month’s council meeting to deny the funds, argues that the city has done much to provide a product for visitors and locals to enjoy, including the ice arena, Heavenly Village and the gondola. Now it’s up to others to market the product, he contends.
In addition, the city is right now grappling with a budget gap of $2.8 million in its general fund. Without knowing yet how that gap will be eliminated, some would say it’s only prudent to hold off on contributions to the LTVA.
The $335,000 the city had allocated in its budget for the LTVA, then voted 4-1 last month to deny, amounts to about 7 percent of the visitors authority budget. The funding loss comes at the same time the LTVA is receiving less funding from other sources.
We’re most disappointed that loss of city funds will jeopardize or eliminate special events the LTVA had been soliciting ” events that both locals and visitors could enjoy.
Another unfortunate consequence of the council’s funding decision is that the city no longer has a seat on the LTVA board of directors. The council had assigned Councilman Bill Crawford to that position for this year, but Crawford resigned after the vote to withhold the LTVA funds. A council member doesn’t belong on the LTVA board if the city hasn’t contributed funding, he said.
Mayor Jerry Birdwell, the lone vote in favor of the funding, said this week that he’d make no effort to fill the seat.
Since the city has invested so much in the “product,” as Cole says, it’s surprising that the council doesn’t want to have a say in how that product is marketed.
LTVA Executive Director Carol Chaplin said Friday that the city’s seat on the board remains open, although the visitors authority will take a look at changing its bylaws to eliminate the position.
Even without this year’s funding, the city and visitors authority have been long-standing partners. The LTVA uses a city building for its visitors center, and has turned to the city for assistance for its Opening Days Lake Tahoe street festival, just to name two examples.
We’d like to see the council reconsider some amount of funding for the LTVA when the dust from its budget gap settles. Perhaps this could be for a specific special event, as Councilwoman Kathay Lovell has suggested.
We’d also like to see the city and visitors authority keep the lines of communication open. Could a council member retain a seat on the LTVA board even without the city funding? Is a non-voting seat a possibility? At the least, the LTVA should encourage and welcome a city representative to attend meetings.
We’re all in this together, after all.