The CVB Is Out Of Control - And Response (3)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hats off to County Commissioner Tim Boyd for doing the heavy lifting and exposing the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau's use of public tax dollars.  


It is like watching grass grow waiting for the remaining Hamilton County Commission members and county leadership to act as leaders and be highly offended at the disrespect the CVB is showing towards public tax revenue.



The idea that CVB controls an entire tax stream is offensive, considering CVB is not a government agency. CVB has threatened our elected leadership with their attorney and boldly stated they are not subject to open records or public review, although 100 percent of CVB revenue is derived from taxation.   What arrogance of power.


CVB takes public money derived from taxation without public review. 


Our state legislators must intervene because our Hamilton County leadership will not upset the lunch party list on the Chattanoogan titled, “Doak CVB Credit Card Pays For Meals With Chums.”

When do our county elected officials begin to act and take control of the hotel sales tax that is projected to increase to $8.2 million?


Will the Hamilton County Commission continue to hand CVB millions in increased tax revenue without a justifiable need for millions in additional tax revenue?  I think they may.


I was reading the CVB lunch party list on the Chattanoogan.  I thought the taxpayers had already gifted the big lunch to former Mayor Jon Kinsey with a substantial property tax exemption or PILOT for remodeling a hotel to apartments. Now, public dollars must buy the PILOT club lunches too? 

Political relationships and the public funds those relationships afford are a locked door where the little people funding the CVB have no say.  The lunch list is not about lunch, rather the list describs why crony capitalism will prevail.
It is clear that the CVB is budgeting to funds available, instead of genuine need and public benefit.  It is the duty and responsibility of our Hamilton County Commission to allocate public funds on a need basis, not the amount of funds generated.
We have public schools that need facilities and maintenance.  I believe  groups are asking that the hotel tax windfall currently assigned to CVB be diverted to school facilities. This is a no-brainer; CVB does not need $8.2 million for their mission.


If we had real leaders on the Hamilton County Commission, the resolution for CVB would be revoked in its entirety, and Hamilton County would add CVB to the list of supported agencies in the same manner as the county and city fund the Chamber of Commerce.


Commissioner Boyd has presented reasonable and logical ideas on how to remedy the CVB situation. 


CVB should merge with the Chamber of Commerce.  At a minimum, relocate the CVB offices to merge as a division of the Chamber.  That way our largest corporate welfare recipients could share the same roof.


The Chamber of Commerce and CVB organizations essentially have the same mission.  They market and promote.  Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga fund the Chamber of Commerce at about $1.2 million annually from tax revenue, as I understand.  It makes so much sense to merge CVB with the Chamber of Commerce to share resources.


After merging the CVB and Chamber,  operational costs of CVB could be assessed, and Hamilton County could fund CVB on a need basis rather than the amount of tax revenue generated from the hotel tax.  CVB budgeting to the hotel tax revenue stream needs to be nipped in the bud.


In the interim, It is grossly irresponsible of our Hamilton County government to grant 100 percent control of a public tax stream to a non-governmental agency.  The CVB should be funded in the same manner as the Chamber of Commerce and other non-governmental groups receive public support.  The blank check method of CVB budgeting must end.
Collecting and allocating tax revenue is constitutionally defined as a Hamilton County government function. Why is CVB in control of a public revenue stream? 


The city of Chattanooga properly utilizes their share of the hotel sales tax by paying down bond debt.  Hamilton County government passed a resolution gifting an entire tax stream of hotel tax to a non-governmental agency, regardless of the amount of revenue generated.  What a huge mistake our county government has made.


Based upon the names on the CVB lunch list, our Hamilton County elected officials will, likely, do nothing, and let the politically influential control them.   


Crony capitalism always wins.


April Eidson


* * *


A 'news' headline containing the word 'Chums' doesn't exactly fall in line with journalistic integrity.  Will someone please point to me where has made any attempts to interview members of the CVB to garner their side of the story, or is this simply a coordinated smear campaign between and Commissioner Boyd?  I will let the reader decide.


I admit openly that for those outside the hospitality and tourism industry, it can be difficult to clearly understand the methodology and purpose behind what the Chattanooga CVB does to bring tourism dollars into Hamilton County.  This leaves no excuse for fear mongering by a select few purposefully misleading the public with misinformation or line items taken out of context.


I'll refrain from going line by line and explaining to Ms Eidson how she has been misinformed and led down such a negative line of thinking.


However, a few quick points:


Releasing information such as what cities the CVB spends marketing dollars gives cities such as Knoxville and Huntsville, who are competing for the same tourism dollars, an advantage.


Is there a better funding source than percentage based budgeting?  To boil it down, the more hotel nights the CVB recruits, the larger their budget becomes.  Their funding for all intent and purpose is performance based.


To say the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and Chattanooga CVB has 'essentially the same mission' is willful ignorance.  Chamber promotes Chattanooga as a place to establish your business.  The CVB promotes Chattanooga as a tourism destination.  Enormous difference in nearly every aspect.

The bottom line is this:  The public should educate itself and not rely on misleading headlines and the fear mongering opinion pieces.

Justin Strickland

* * *

I read with great bewilderment the implications of waste and excess of routine business lunch tabs picked up on the CVB credit card.  The only item I might question is the apparent propensity to frequent the same locales.

 Anyone questioning a business lunch has a gross misunderstanding of how business is conducted. What do we expect our CVB president to do - sit in his office and never meet anyone face to face.  If one of those lunches assisted the Chattanooga community in reeling one special event - they would exponentially pay for years of lunches.  Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.  Spending this money with human interaction over lunch (as opposed to dinner) is a very efficient use of money.   

Assuming we applied this mentality to all businesses - how would that impact our food and beverage industry?  We all need to get out and meet people in person.  That seems to be a dying pastime.  We sit with sandwiches at our desk; noses in our smartphones.

Mr. Doak, keep it up.  Results are what define success.  That success cannot be refuted (look at the average nightly rate for a downtown hotel - obviously the demand is there).  

My suggestion - add a fourth or fifth restaurant to the location.  

Knox Campbell  

* * *

Thank the good Lord for the April Eidsons of the world. 

Tom Travers

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