Letters and Opinion

Council faced unpleasant choice

August 29, 2009

[In the Aug. 17 editorial] IBJ accuses elected officials of making decisions based on partisanship rather than good judgment. This superficial pronouncement of the reasons behind Proposal 285’s vote tally lacks thoughtful evaluation of why councilors cast their votes the way they did at the August 10 council meeting.

As the lone Republican voting no on the Capital Improvement Board finance package, I submit that there were many reasons why councilors balked at voting for the measure foisted upon us by the General Assembly. It wasn’t all due to partisanship and it wasn’t just because of the “T” word. The increase in hotel taxes was just one distasteful aspect of the CIB financing plan.

It was difficult for those faced with the vote to believe and accept that there was no backup plan if this measure failed. No Plan B? Would policy makers really gamble the city’s future by putting an all-or-nothing bet on a council vote?

As IBJ admitted, Proposal 285 offered only short-term solvency to the CIB’s fiscal woes. The lack of a well-thought-out, long-range solution was reason enough to abandon this Band-Aid solution.

To consider a yes vote, councilors demanded something they didn’t get—a thorough examination of past CIB decisions made in order to develop a healthy strategy for how to best avoid past mistakes. It was also difficult to commit to passing a large financial rescue package when the determination of actual dollars needed seemed in constant flux. Available funds in the CIB budget were being “newly” discovered just days before the council vote took place.

Regarding the hotel tax increase—scholarly studies indicate that increased occupancy taxes do carry adverse effects. Guests will balk at a double-digit tax on a $100-a-night room. They will stay in less-expensive rooms, or in the next county. Visitors may stay with relatives or shorten their length of stay.

The City-County Council was forced into accepting the entire CIB package handed us by state legislators. We couldn’t devise alternative funding sources. Crafting a sound, forward-thinking policy should have included contributions by those having to vote on it—members of the City-County Council.

Partisanship may have lurked behind some of Proposal 285’s no votes, but most of us refused to vote yes on the basis of our good judgment.

Christine Scales
City-County councilor, District 4


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