6/29/2006 11:23:00 AM Editorial Tourism job just got a lot harder
While it may not have been the intent, the City of Robinson has completed what some would call a "hostile takeover" of the Crawford County Tourism Council.
By levying its own five percent hotel/motel tax, effective Sept. 1, control of the tax income generated by use of the county's motel rooms - all of which are currently in Robinson, and which generated more than $68,000 last year - moves to the city council. The county board, which implemented the original tax, apparently can do nothing about it. And after Sept. 1, the tourism council, which the county board created, will effectively no longer exist.
As tourism council president Carol McGahey said - more graciously than many people who've had the rug pulled out from under them would have put it - "life goes on."
Presumably, the city will create its own tourism board that will administer the money and come up with ways to spend it that will continue to benefit the entire county. We have to say "presumably" because city officials apparently haven't given it much thought up to now.
"We have not put together a plan yet," Mayor Gary Davis said. "The council wants to look at things and establish a game plan." It's a little troubling that the city did not have a "game plan" in place before deciding to levy the tax, but it's good to know it's on their radar.
In theory, it could work. The city could create a tourism board that would, like the county's, include representation from all parts of the county and which would take a countywide view of tourism promotion. The mayor's public comments so far seem to be intended to reassure: "It is my intention to make sure there are no questions of how and where this money will be spent," he said.
But perception can be everything, and decisions like the one made Tuesday night only make it harder to overcome the long-standing, mindless intra-community rivalries and squabbles that keep good things from happening in regions like ours, with limited population and resources. How willing will Oblong be to approach a Robinson-funded, Robinson-created tourism council for help promoting the Fall Follies or the tractor show? And what factors will now affect a decision to divide limited funds between, say, a Robinson ball-diamond improvement and a project promoting the Hutson Cabins?
It could work. But, especially considering the way it happened, the important work of promoting tourism here - difficult enough in an area like ours, with limited attractions and limited resources to develop them - has been saddled with an unnecessary layer of complication, potential distrust, division and suspicion.
"This truly makes it almost impossible to work together," McGahey said. She is probably not alone in that view, and that's something the city will have to work very hard to overcome - time and effort it could have put to much better use.