(Update 11/12 - the link works now - sorry 'bout that....)
I noticed it again this morning: my beach access sucks. The parking lot is badly in need of repaving and striping; the planter is sprouting only weeds; and since Rita took the walkway out, the beach users need to compete with the city tractors for access. There is a soiled disposable diaper under one of the benches that has been there for days if not weeks. (I unlitter bottles, cans, etc. on a daily basis, but I cannot bring myself to touch that nasty thing.)
Many if not most of the town's public beach accesses are falling into a state of disrepair and neglect and the goal of creating a contiguous dune ridge has received nothing but lip-service. We have strict laws about keeping glass off the beach with hardly any enforcement. Ask why this is so and it always comes down to "not enough money."
But wait just a doggone minute! Of course
there is money -- so much money that we can spend $300,000 to get the town's name - tiny tiny - on a Nascar truck!
Everyone knows that the town of South Padre Island collects a hotel/motel tax - something like 5 million annually - that "may not be used for the general revenue purposes or general governmental operations of a municipality" and must be used for the kinds of promotions and expenses commonly associated with "putting heads in bed" -- right?
Well, Island resident Will Davis thinks we may have more latitude in spending those funds than our town leaders realize -- or care to admit. He has written a thoughtful, well-researched letter outlining why he thinks this and then goes on to list some town expenses currently being paid for out of the general fund that could conceivably be funded with the hotel/motel tax. This letter has been sent to the Mayor, BOA members, and several other movers and shakers -- with no appreciable result. I believe that the community as a whole could benefit from more people reading this and then discussing what it could mean and perhaps applying some pressure on our elected officials to investigate further.
Will agrees and has given me permission to post his letter on my server
What follows is an excerpt. You can read the whole document here
... please do!
Comments are welcomed.
...If residents knew, however, that a broader use of these funds were permissible, I believe many would be of the opinion that such permissibility should be actualized, at least to some degree. If so, that is an opinion I would share, and I will briefly offer three reasons why.
(1) Many costs associated with some of the activities listed above are currently paid for on SPI out of the general fund. These include beach policing, code enforcement, construction/maintenance of beach access, sanitation (bathroom facilities), parking, and the like. In my opinion, this is an undue burden on town residents. If some money from HOT revenues were utilized to help defray such expenditures, this would release general fund monies now encumbered for such purposes, allowing them instead to be redirected to other activities/functions bettering resident life, or alternatively, returned to the residents themselves.
(2) Relying largely upon general fund revenues for such purposes is impractical because the resulting budgeting pressures make it difficult to meet perceived needs effectively. In other words, it is difficult to meet specific needs with excellence without money, and when a large pot of money, potentially available for such needs, is erroneously identified as untouchable, needed projects may be left unattended, or where they are addressed, quality may suffer. I hesitate to offer specific examples, as I know my own judgments on particular specifics are uneducated. No doubt, for example, many on the "Beach and Dune" committee would have a better idea about the priority needs relative to beach issues. I will venture only the untutored layman observations that the beach accesses are paltry, worker access is problematic, parking seems to be an omnipresent challenge, bathroom facilities are limited, dune restoration is under-attended, and park/recreational venues are nonexistent. I will offer no particular suggestions with regard to the interesting item #3 in Section 351.1055 Subsection (c) quoted above except to recall it to your attention. It implies many possibilities.
(3) SPI is a tourist destination because of the beauty and allure of its beaches. Certainly no special event, no advertising spot, no marketing campaign, no matter how clever, comes close to competing with the visitor attraction of the beach itself. Short-term gains in stimulating tourist interest may be made by dedicating all HOT revenues to advertising, etc., but in the long run attracting visitors and retaining their interest to return is dependent upon the wise management and protection of our beaches. Suitable enhancements maximizing tourists' sense of security, ease, and delight in their enjoyment of the beach experience, accompanied by appropriate husbandry of the natural environment, will result in long-standing and increased future benefits to the tourist industry unmatched by other activities.
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