CITY COUNCIL REVERSES VOTE, REAUTHORIZES TBID
Tourism Business Improvement District receives public support for the tax levy but is urged to reorganize
Last night, in front of a crowded and somewhat angry room, the City Council voted 5-0 to reauthorize the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), reversing the 3-2 vote made at the September 12 regular meeting. Video of the meeting can be viewed on YouTube.
Long-time City leaders took the podium during public comment including Larry Bowden (former Council member and Mayor), John Cole (former Council member and principal of 29 Palms High School), Dawn Benton (29 Palms business owner) and Ann and Mike Congdon (owners of VHR 1; Ann Congdon is President of Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Mike Congdon is a docent). A new generation of City leaders also spoke out including Mike Usher (GRND SQRL owner and President of the Downtown Business Association) and Anna Stump (Public Arts Advisory Committee Chair and Mojaveland proprietor).
Unlike the overwhelming opposition to TBID expressed at last week’s regular meeting, many speakers supported the 1.5% levy paid by accommodation guests but called for the reorganization of the TBID (comments are excerpted and/or condensed):
Dawn Benton: Successful businesses reorganize occasionally…they examine their strengths and weaknesses. I think the TBID group has some strengths and it has some weaknesses…I would encourage you to reconsider your vote and to push a reorganization of the TBID group.
Larry Bowden: For 2-1/2 years there were COVID-related issues and the world has changed. Time to sit down and see what is working and what can be improved. That’s how success happens, when people get together with ideas and solutions, not with hate, bullying and misleading facts.
John Cole : (The TBID) is an important part and important element of this community. A lot of time, effort and money was put in to establish this District. The adjustments that need to be made, let’s go about making them. That'll take some work and time and energy both from the Council level into the District and the entire community for that matter.
Ann Congdon: The TBID is doing its job – it takes a long time for these things to work out. Sure some things can be improved – let’s sit down, let’s talk about it, let’s improve it. Please don’t get rid of it.
Mike Usher: There has to be another option. And I believe that option has to be a system where the TOT tax remains intact. New stakeholders get together to establish a new, more transparent community-facing system, one that prioritizes community building and community events because building and investing in our community is how we increase tourism.
Other in-person comments included Scott Clinkscales expressing support for TBID Marketing Director Breanne Dusastre and a few calls for the dissolution of the TBID.
Several letters were read into the record by Mayor McArthur Wright. In one, TBID Chair Rakesh Mehta expressed being open to public concerns: Granted there might be things that could be done differently from my board and myself. I can assure you that we are open to any and all suggestions is very nice to see that a local citizen and business owners are getting passionate about the TBID and as Chair I can assure each and every one of you that your voice will be heard.
However TBID Board members Ash Maharaj and Patricia Knight, who spoke in person at the meeting, promoted TBID’s accomplishments and showed little self-reflection or acknowledgement of public concerns in their comments.
City Manager Frank Luckino also failed to hear the considerable public support for reorganization, and described strategic planning as a single four to five hour meeting focused on budget reallocation. When Mayor Wright asked, “What about the Board?” Luckino again deflected, mentioning the forming of subcommittees.
It appeared that Council heard the calls for change, but may need to monitor their City Manager for a reorganized TBID to become reality.
Note: The original version of this article listed Ann and Mike Congdon as the founders of Sky’s the Limit. That’s incorrect, the founders were Jerri Hagman and Jerry Mattos.
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