The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
A few thoughts about local tourism efforts at the end of a weekend of two huge events, either of which usually fills every motel room within 30 miles. It's a shame that the Whiteman AFB air show conflicted with the first (big!) weekend at the State Fair (neither the Powell Gardens function nor the Lone Jack commemoration are likely to have filled Warrensburg rooms). This unfortunate confluence of events cost our motels some full-occupancy nights, reduced the potential room tax and sales tax take, and probably had a lot of people eating in other towns' restaurants. While the Thunderbirds' schedule may have offered no real choice, it's something to think about next time.
About that lodging tax. Remember, it was passed by 44 votes to support tourism activities of the GWACC&VC(Greater Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center), who in the first year received about $54,000; by law, the money is to be used to promote tourism. A daily paper report indicated that the money was used to "help fund Chamber functions and services." This statement was later corrected, but we don't know if the reporter covering the GWACC&VC Board made the error or if he accurately reported erroneous statements.
The Mayor appointed a 5-member board to oversee the expenditure of room tax money by the GWACC&VC. I stopped by City Hall last week to ask about the minutes of this board's meetings. The minutes are not available at City Hall. I then asked about written reports to the Council - nope, none of those either. My visit generated some calls and I'm informed that the minutes are on file at the GWACC&VC office; since this is a City board involved with the expenditure of tax money, I strongly recommend that minutes and reports should be filed at City Hall, reviewed by City Staff and provided to the Council. I am also told that the GWACC&VC is preparing an annual report on the tourism fund; again, this should be subject to audit by the City's newly-appointed auditing firm.
That got me to thinking; I don't know that I've ever seen a notice in the paper about this Board having meetings. I know that the Sunshine Law only requires public notice by posting in a public place, but it makes sense that a Board overseeing the expenditure of public funds should meet with some regularity, especially at the inception of a program when guidance and policy-making are most needed, and would actively encourage public participation and input.
The public is entitled to have access to how tax revenues are spent; the City has an absolute duty to ensure that the public receives a progress report on revenues, detailed expense reports, account balances, and future planned uses.
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