To the Editor:
As a nearly 50-year-veteran of the tourism industry and one of the “authors” of the Florida accommodation tax legislation in the 1970s I must underscore the importance of preventing politicians from having anything to do with the execution of any marketing plans.
Commissioner Jack Debman insists on referring to the monies derived from tourists who pay the bed tax as being “local taxpayer monies” and thus should be under the oversight of the local county commissioners.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Except in a very rare instance, a resident of Jackson County will not be paying the bed tax. It is a tax levied nearly 100 percent on out-of-county, out-of-state visitors and therefore is not a tax accountable to local politicians.
How many of the local commissioners are experts or even marginally knowledgeable about tourism marketing? One that I know of, and his business caters more to the affluent visitors, unlike the rest of Jackson County.
The county government should, like most counties, be a conduit for collecting and dispersing funds only in accordance with the approved expenditures by the tourism board. In other words, let the board operate without political influence. The money should be in a separate account managed by the tourism board and spent according to the best interest to expand tourism expenditures within the borders of the county.
Unfortunately, what I see is too many political hands stirring the pot locally. Appoint the tourism board, let them make the decisions for expenditures and the county pay the bills accordingly from the tourism fund.
As one on the sidelines and having dealt with many, many forms of “boards” in the tourism industry, we are making it a complicated issue to the detriment of the local businesses who either rely on or cater to out-of-county visitors.
While I respect what the county officials are responsible for in the daily operations of Jackson County, this is not a place for them to have control or final say so.