Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chapter 2, footnote 1: Mayor wants to name members of LART panel

This was the original text of Daniel Chacon's story that appeared in The Colorado Springs Gazette on Jan. 11, 2013.

The headline was "Mayor wants to name members of LART panel," with the subheadline, "Council traditionally decides who helps dole out the tourism money."

A proposal from Mayor Steve Bach's administration to take over appointing members of a committee that recommends where thousands of dollars in tourism taxes will be spent has caused some consternation among Colorado Springs City Council members.

Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin and council Administrator Aimee Cox said they had been working with the mayor's office to streamline the committee's work.

But what they got this week was a proposal to give the mayor sole appointing authority of the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax Advisory Committee.

The seven-member panel recommends annually where money from revenues collected from taxes on hotel rooms and car rentals should be spent. About two-thirds of the so-called tourism tax is typically allocated to the convention and visitors bureau, leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars up for grabs for special events, such as the annual hot-air balloon festival and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

"The issue is that the City Council, by ordinance, has the authority to appoint a citizens committee to make recommendations about the expenditure of LART funds," Cox said. "The mayor's office would like the ability to appoint that committee."

The committee now includes a member of the Pikes Peak Highway Advisory Commission and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, three representatives from the tourist industry and two residents, including one representing the business community.

Under the proposal from the mayor's office, the committee would include three city employees, two council members, two people representing the lodging industry and three at-large residents.

The makeup of the committee is also at issue.

"We were concerned about having staff and council members on a committee that's supposed to be a citizen committee," Cox said.

Donna Nelson, the mayor's economic vitality specialist, said the proposal was intended to streamline the process.

"We want this to be a better process, and we want it to be smooth. Right now it's not because there are several different recommendations," Nelson said.

"The LART committee makes a recommendation, then staff makes a recommendation. The mayor gets them both and then he makes his decision for the budget. So, you could have one, two or three sets of recommendations. That's the problem. We want to bring everybody to the table so the committee that we're proposing has council, city staff and citizens at large," she said.

The allocation of LART funds was a point of contention during the budget cycle last year, which is what prompted the two sides to meet to smooth things out.

"The mayor's recommendations were used, and they varied considerably from the LART committee's recommendations," Martin said. "We gave the mayor all his requests except we added $45,000 to the (Colorado Springs) Philharmonic."

Martin said a citizens committee has "worked well over the years," but the two sides are trying to resolve the best way to move forward.

"The proposal we received, we felt, wasn't addressing all of the issues we had discussed," she said. "We're just asking to let's sit down one more time and see if we can reach something that works for everybody."

Cox and Martin planned to tell their colleagues about their work with the mayor's office this week. But they decided to put it on the agenda of the Jan. 22 council meeting. The council will hold a joint formal and informal meeting Jan. 22 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"When Jan and I saw the proposal, our thought was that this really needs a more robust conversation. This is a fairly significant change," Cox said.

"LART is one area where the city attorney has told council that it's their purview, so..."

The final few words of my copy of the article are obscured, but that's most of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment