Council wasting money,misreading law

Published 7:13 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Last week we reported that the Port Arthur City Council rejected a new logo and slogan.
We also reported that apparently at least some city councilmembers don’t understand how taxes and expenditures work.
To be clear, I was in favor of the new logo. The proposed designs were cleaner, more modern looking and could have helped brand Port Arthur as a modern, forward-thinking city. But, the logos were defeated. No big deal.
Well, except for the fact that many of the reasons the council voted against the logo made no sense.
First, Morris Albright III tried to argue that no “funding source” has been found for the new logo, even though 1.) there was a funding source and 2.) money had already been spent from said funding source. As Charlotte Moses pointed out, the funding came from the Hotel Occupancy Tax.
Then Albright made the strange claim that there’s no “new” funding for new uniforms and whatnot, as though the city would otherwise never have to buy new uniforms and business cards and the like. Who knew the old logo came with free business cards and uniforms in perpetuity?
Several on the council groused that citizens would rather have newly paved streets. At one point Albright said the money spent on the logo so far could have been used to pave half a street. Who knew a street is now a standard unit of measurement? Is this metric? And which half would be paved?
But never mind all that. The really concerning thing is, the statement’s false —Hotel Occupancy Tax monies have to go back into tourism and visitor-related expenses and street maintenance isn’t included in that category.
In fact, the Texas Municipal League’s publication, “What cities need to know to administer municipal hotel occupancy taxes,” includes this warning: “The law specifically prohibits the use of the local hotel tax to cover the costs for a transportation system that serves the general public.”
So, yes, in theory the money could be used to fix streets. But, then, the sky’s the limit if you disregard the law, I suppose.
To my mind, however, the really aggravating thing is, the city had already spent quite a bit of money for the new logo. All the council had to do was pick one. Then, as new business cards and uniforms were needed, it would be phased in — presumably with little extra cost or fuss. But, as it stands, these same people who were upset about misusing city funds on a logo literally refused to accept what they’d already paid for.
If that isn’t bold leadership, I don’t know what is. I assume these same folks would walk into a coffee shop, buy a cup of coffee only to remember that it’s overpriced garbage and leave their purchase on the counter in protest. That’ll show ‘em.
In any event, if the members of the city council are going to refuse to spend money on tourism-related expenses from a tourism tax until money can be found to fix all the streets in town, I suspect we’ll be in for a long wait. Holding tourism expenses hostage until the streets are fixed is silly and shortsighted, of course. It is a bit like the fellow who cannot walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
Which, come to think of it, maybe our city council can’t do that, either.

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