Ron Ellington drafted on July 10 a set of bylaws for Visit Pensacola that he shared with the Greater Pensacola Chamber officials. The final set delivered to the county commission on Sept. 16 is significantly different. The new version strengthens the hoteliers control over tourism tax dollars.
July 10 version: To develop, administer and promote tourism through the performance of general activities for the development and promotion of tourism and convention activities in Escambia County.
Sept. 16 version: To develop, administer and promote tourism through the performance of general activities that increase the number of leisure and convention overnight guests, Tourism Development Tax (TDT), other tax collection including Local Option Sales Tax, and related product and services sales in Escambia County.
Analysis: The change clearly defines the mission for the benefit of hotels and condominiums. The new mission statement makes it difficult for any proposal that doesn’t directly benefit the hotels and condos to receive funding from Visit Pensacola.
The July 10 draft had only seven classes, which included the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce. The Sept. 16 version has eight classes, replacing beach chamber with Arts, Culture, Entertainment and adding an At-Large seat. The new version also requires that new classes and/or members be added in pairs and one must be a bed tax collector.
Analysis: Requiring additional members be added in pairs makes sure lodging industry controls the board.
Board Removal for Cause:
The July 10 version didn’t have this section. The new version says, “Any member who supports a competing TDT budget request shall constitute a conflict of interest and its Class, Member and Board seat shall be automatically and immediately terminated if the Class Member fails to withdraw its support of that competing budget request within 10 days of being notified in writing of the conflict of interest.”
Analysis: ACE has asked for a portion of the 2013 budget surplus for a cultural arts festival. This section could get them kicked off the board.
Board of Directors:
The new version mandates that all directors advance the goals and objectives of Visit Pensacola. No director can support a competing request of TDT dollars. July 10 version gave the lodging industry only one seat. The Sept. 16 version gives them two seats.
Analysis: It’s not difficult to see where this is going.