The countywide tourism tax, which will be assessed on lodging outside the city limits, passed Tuesday by a comparatively narrow margin. Many folks simply don't like taxes, no matter who pays them; others are more concerned with accountability.
Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron, who backed the initiative, is already familiar with a similar levy in lodging within Tahlequah proper. She says there have been no problems with oversight; in fact, elsewhere in today's edition of the Daily Press, she explains some of the process.
Catron, too, is aware that the measure, as presented on the ballot, is a little short on details as to that oversight. Others have suggested that the vague wording in itself may have been an oversight, but they're not especially worried about the process, since they know the City Council and Cherokee County Board of Commissioners will be heavily involved. Catron and others – namely, District 3 County Commissioner Clif Hall – have pledged to keep a sharp eye out on the ebb and flow of tax dollars.
We believe them. In fact, we have seen no evidence to suggest any of the elected officials who will oversee these funds aren't absolutely above board when it comes to stewardship of public funds. They might make mistakes, like anyone else, but we don't believe area residents have to worry about accountability.
TDP staffers know what it means to deal with shady elected officials. Over time, there have been many – especially among the county commissioner ranks – and if we smell a rat, we'll be the first to say so. We also will be keeping a watchful eye on how these monies are spent, and if anyone balks in giving us the information to which we and the public are entitled, we'll sound the alarm immediately. But we don't expect that to happen.
In other words, those who fear the money will be used in preferential fashion for promoting certain people's businesses, or that they will be left out of the loop, can rest a little easier knowing there are plenty of people on the case. And those who are a bit worried about how they will deal with this extra step in their business plans can get help from Catron or others with financial acumen.
In the meantime, naysayers should adopt a positive attitude and realize that tourism is, indeed, our only real industry here – and that anything we can use to get our area a few steps ahead could be a good thing. We're all in this together, so let's act like it.