The tourism bureau had an emergency meeting last week to discuss
what to do about reports they had received that the city was going
to take over the hotel-motel tax in Lincoln. This is the money that
provides the lion's share of the funding for tourism. The funds are
currently under the control of the Logan County Board, but the city
has the right to take those funds into their coffers.
week's meeting of the tourism board, Alderman Tom O'Donohue
attended. This week, he gave the council a report on what happened
at that meeting.
He began with the following statement: "I'd like to start by
clarifying for those who either don't understand, or haven't had a
chance to study. ... At no point, in case you're wondering, has the
city council had a conversation about taking away money from
tourism. We never said we were taking away the money on May 1; we
never said we were taking away the money on Dec. 1.
"However," he continued, "as I told the tourism group last
Monday, it is going to be part of the budget conversation. What we
were talking about earlier, as Alderman Anderson brought up, there
are places where there is money out there. For instance, tourism has
averaged over the last five years about $155,000 from the
hotel-motel tax. So there is going to be a conversation of the city
council: Does the city council want to take control of that $155,000
a year, or does it want to keep it where it is? So that is all that
we have discussed at this point. There is no one who's ever said we
are taking the money. There are aldermen who think it is a good
idea; there are aldermen who think it's not a good idea."
O'Donohue wrapped up by saying: "So, we never had the discussion.
I just want to say that first, so the people are telling stories
about me around the council chambers when I am not around can just
relax and take a deep breath."
He went on to talk about the conversations at the tourism meeting
last week. He said the tourism board wanted a guarantee that the
council would not take the money on May 1. O'Donohue said he told
the group he was not in a position to make that guarantee for the
city, but he didn't see how the city could do it that quickly, that
they wouldn't be ready to do it.
O'Donohue said that ultimately, because the council couldn't
offer the guarantee, the tourism bureau decided to cancel many of
the projects they currently have going. He named specifically that
the list included canceling advertising as well as the annual
tourism breakfast, normally in April, and several other items.
In addition to those discussions, O'Donohue said he had been
given a packet of tourism bureau materials that contained
information he doesn't believe the city has ever seen before. He
noted there was an operating budget in the packet, a copy of the
tourism bylaws and a strategic plan. He urged the council members to
read all the content and said it was enlightening as to what the
tourism bureau was doing in the city and county.
He told the council that during last week's meeting, the tourism
board had voted to make him a voting member of the board and had
approved appointing another city council member as an ex officio
O'Donohue noted that this will have to be approved by the Logan
County Board, which currently has jurisdiction over the bureau. He
also noted that the tourism bylaws have no provisions in them for an
ex officio from the city.
O'Donohue wrapped up his presentation by saying he knew not
everyone would be interested in tourism, but he really wanted to
encourage everyone to read especially the budget and the long-term
goals of the strategic plan.
"Those are the issues we will be discussing when it comes to
whether or not we want to look at taking the money or not," he said.
"As I told the tourism board, the money is mostly generated by
businesses in Lincoln, and currently, as it stands, the people of
Lincoln don't really have a say in how the money is spent."
O'Donohue noted that a member of the tourism board was in the
gallery, as well as Bill Hoagland from Main Street Lincoln. Andi
Hake of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce was also on
hand, along with county board member Andy Anderson.
The member of the tourism board on hand was Stacie Wachtel, who
at the regular monthly meeting of the tourism board, earlier in the
evening, was appointed to the position of bureau chairwoman, with
Peggy Lee of Elkhart being appointed as the vice chair.
Wachtel introduced herself to the council and posed a question.
She said she wanted to know if the talk about taking the tourism
money away didn't come from the council, where did it come from?
O'Donohue said he'd be happy to share his opinion, but it was
just an opinion. Nothing further was said.
Wachtel also told the council that she thought last week's
meeting was a good step to moving forward with the city.
[to top of second column]
During discussion, David Wilmert said he didn't have a problem
with offering the tourism bureau a guarantee that the city would not
take the money on May 1. Melody Anderson said she didn't see any way
the city could take it that soon even if they were so inclined.
Sue McLaughlin, city administrator, also said: "I told Mr. Ladd
three times in our meeting (just prior to the current city meeting)
that there was no way we could do it by then, even if the council
were so inclined. We couldn't get it done by then."
O'Donohue asked if there was anyone who did want to try to take
the money May 1, and no one responded.
Jonie Tibbs questioned the future of the tourism bureau, asking
if the city would dissolve the bureau after taking the money.
Mayor Keith Snyder and O'Donohue both said no, not all.
She then asked how the bureau would be funded.
O'Donohue said it would be the city's responsibility to handle
those funds and distribute them. He added that even if the city did
take the money, it does not have the authority to dissolve the
Tibbs asked if the city would hire a different director. Snyder
answered, "It could be; we've not made that decision."
Tibbs also commented that no one on the council knew about this
until the "cat got out of the bag." She said they learned after the
fact that there had been a meeting of "certain individuals" about
this. She said the council has always talked about these things as a
group, and she felt there should have been a meeting about this.
Tibbs also noted that a city representative has been appointed to
the tourism bureau in the past. She noted an appointment was made
four years ago, but said she couldn't say if that person attended
any of the meetings.
Snyder responded to Tibbs, saying: "There was no cat to let out
of the bag. The discussion was always going to come up as part of
our budget discussion. It was the tourism's choice to call a special
meeting and bring attention to the fact that we were going to have
"I had a conversation with Mr. Ladd two weeks ago about it. He
wanted to know where things were because the council has talked
about doing it previously. He wanted to know where things were, and
I said it would be part of our budget discussion, and that was it.
"He said, ‘When do you think it might happen?' and I said, ‘I
don't think it would be fair for it to happen before Dec. 1,' so I
don't know where all this nonsense about May 1 came from.
"I also know the furor, if you will, was created by tourism
calling a special meeting. It was always going to be discussed as
part of our budget discussion April 1."
Snyder went on to say there were people who talked about this,
but there were no clandestine meetings about it.
O'Donohue said he didn't understand the accusation of clandestine
meetings -- that aldermen had conversations every day about things.
Tibbs asked him how he knew that. And, O'Donohue answered, "Because
I've had them with you! You come to me and talk about building and
In response to O'Donohue raising his voice, David Armbrust
blurted out: "Get off your soapbox. You're blowing my hearing aid
The discussion on tourism came to a halt immediately thereafter,
and the council moved on to other topics.
It should be noted that the tourism bureau had its regularly
scheduled monthly meeting Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. LDN also will have a
report on that meeting in today's edition. For the tourism meeting,
O'Donohue was unable to attend, and McLaughlin went in his stead.
[By NILA SMITH]