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The $87,406 question: Is CVB worth it?

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POSTED August 19, 2009 2:11 a.m.
Now – more than ever - it is essential one spends their money wisely.

It is what prompted the Manteca City Council majority – minus Debby Moorhead who said “no” and Steve DeBrum who was absent – to approve an $87,406 contract with the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau for the 2009-10 fiscal year on Tuesday night.

The contract Is based on 20 percent of the city’s motel room tax on the previous year minus a 3.8 percent cut back to match rollbacks in employee wages. It goes into the general fund of which there is still a $2.5 million deficit to cover.

The CVB is charged with one thing and one thing only – to lure visitors’ dollars into the coffers of Manteca businesses and ultimately increase municipal tax receipts.

Hotel owners understand the importance of the CVB as they can tell you of events sponsored by the organization that have filled hotel rooms as well as those visiting Northern California and were convinced by efforts of the tourism group to use Manteca as their home base for part of their stay.

The California Senior Games the Manteca CVB hosted in March alone pumped over $200,000 into the local economy through money spent at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, attractions, and stores. That is more than double the $87,406 the CVB receives from the city.

The CVB also works as the group booking agent for the teams that fill Manteca hotel rooms 52 weeks each year playing at the Big League Dreams sports complex. There is a long list of events they participate in or sponsor to draw people to Manteca such as the Crossroads Street Fair. They are now preparing to relocate into space at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley so they can access the estimated 2 million visitors that Bass Pro Shops will attract in a given year plus the lifestyle outlets targeted to start opening in February.

The goal is to pump dollars into the economy to sustain and generate jobs.

Yes, many of those jobs are less than $12 an hour. However, without those visitors tons of dollars would be lost and they’d be more people struggling to make ends meet. Manteca would have less revenue to pay for city services.

Moorhead has every right to question the expenditure and it is unfair to claim she is simply making political hay for a reported run for mayor.  Her detractors may say it is ironic that she is questioning the expenditure since the council’s elimination of tax dollar support for the Manteca Chamber of Commerce of which she serves as chief executive officer preceded her announcement that she was running for City Council a little over a year ago.

It is, however, a legitimate question. You might call it the $87,406 question.

Judging by the various businesses that CVB helps bring out-of-town dollars into, the answer to the question appears to be “yes.”

Yet one shouldn’t dismiss Moorhead’s point.

What is needed is a bit more transparency in what the CVB does. The city staff – once skeptic – is now convinced that the CVB is an extremely wise investment and benefits the Manteca economy as well as the city’s bottom line in the general fund due to data supplied by the CVB. That’s all fine and good but what about the rest of us?

There are only two ongoing contracts the city has these days – one is for municipal legal services, the other is with the CVB.

The attorney’s work is obvious based on city staff reports and his presence at meetings.

The CVB should either volunteer – or be required to provide a monthly instead of quarterly accounting of its activities from room bookings to how many visitors it helps bring into the area. It can be provided as part of a city manager’s report either posted on the city’s website and/or distributed at a meeting every month.

It is hard to believe if such information was made available on a monthly basis that someone versed in business such as Moorhead would not see the positive impact and strong return on the city’s investment that a percentage of the room tax provides.

It doesn’t matter whether the funding is in place and that ultimately it may turn out to be the right thing.

Government by its very nature is a complicated mess thanks to state laws. The City of Manteca is doing a fairly good job at being transparent and explaining how it does the people’s business. It needs to go a step further and have monthly public reporting of what the city gets for the people’s $87,406.
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