Over the past few days we’ve been discussing the lack of accountability for use of over $100,000 of your tax dollars, granted by the city of Hudson to the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. And that’s over $100K per year; in the past few years well over half a million dollars of your tax funds have been granted to the HACCTB, and it’s a safe bet that not one person in our city government can say for sure what all of the money was used for.
What we do know is that a disproportionately high cost is attached to the HACCTB’s administration of the funds. Ostensibly to be used for tourism, much of the money seems to go instead to the Chamber. The latest example we have is the recent report that, for the first nine months of 2012, when the city of Hudson gave $82,661 of our money to the HACCTB for advertising and promotion of tourism. According to their own books, the amount HACCTB spent on advertising, promotion, printing, mailings, meetings, mileage, etc. was $24,857. An amount of $50,275 was spent on “Allocations” which, according to a handwritten note from the organization, means payroll, rent, etc. In other words, on themselves. And the remaining $7,530 was simply declared “Income,” apparently, again, for themselves.
We expect there to be some cost to administer the process by which the advertising and the mailings are produced. But $50,275 to administer $24,857? And to whom does the $7,530 “Income” go?
This issue of “where has our money gone?” is about our money and not about anything else. The possibility of squandered tax dollars is neutral on the subject of Hudson tourism. If you are in favor of investing in tourism advertising and promotion, then you probably want to see our money go much further than it has in this direction. You would probably like to see $58,00 spent on tourism, and $24,000 or less spent on overhead, instead of the other way around. You can help make this happen.
Possibly you believe this money could be better spent elsewhere. After all, $115,000, the amount proposed to be granted to HACCTB in 2013, would buy a lot: a mile of new curb and gutter for our streets, or several years’ worth of grooming of our city parks, or the expansion of hours at our library, which had to recently close on Mondays for lack of funds. Again, you can help make this happen.
Either way, you would have to get the city council to go back to square one, undo the vote at their last session to grant this money to HACCTB, and start a real discussion about how to live up to the city’s procurement policy, which governs these sorts of investments, and which states that the city must strive to “make the maximum use of...local tax dollars by paying the optimum price...”
Well, the city council can do just that. It’s called reconsideration, and our city charter makes provision for it by allowing any member of the council who voted “yes” to granting $115,000 for tourism (all of them did) to simply state at the next regularly-scheduled meeting that he or she wants to reconsider the issue. It’s been done before, and it works.
Whatever results from a reconsideration of the use of our tax dollars, whether things remain unchanged or whether a new direction evolves, at least the city will be doing what they haven’t done in years, and that’s hold an open discussion and solicit comments about how this money should be spent. And whatever the outcome, we’ve all got to feel better about how our tax funds will be treated.
If you want to make this happen, just contact your council representative and tell him or her that you want them to ask the mayor to put reconsideration on the agenda for the council meeting on this Monday, January 28. It’s as simple as that. City council contact information can be found at www.ci.hudson.wi.us/council.htm, or just do a search on “City of Hudson”. Both phone numbers and email addresses are provided, so you can call or write.
It’s our money, and it needs to be treated with some respect. I’ll be asking my council representative for reconsideration.