Editorial: Time to step forward

Published: April 8, 2005

BOTH SIDES in the debate over increasing the city’s hotel tax can claim victory after last week’s vote.
Only opponents of the higher tax, of course, actually won. The TOT won’t be raised, because the yes vote didn’t reach the required two-thirds threshold.

But proponents of increasing the tax from 10 to 12 percent also won, because most of the town’s voters agreed with them, reflecting the effectiveness of the group’s campaign: From circulating the initial petitions, to making their case in front of the post office and in letters to the editor, to getting out the vote on election day, they did a good job convincing a large number of Carmelites that tourists weren’t contributing their fair share of municipal tax revenues, and that charging an extra $2 on a $100 hotel bill would have a negligible effect on the city’s economy while substantially improving city services. We congratulate them on their efforts.

However, as we have often stated in the past, sticking somebody else with your revenue problem is a temptingly simple solution that is also simply irresponsible. If the city’s infrastructure is decaying, if staffing levels are inadequate, if important city institutions are being neglected, and if more needs to be spent attracting overnight tourists to town — if these things are truly perceived by the electorate as significant municipal problems, then obviously these same citizens wouldn’t hesitate to tax themselves to solve the problems. Residents of Carmel can afford to spend anything necessary to keep their city in tip-top shape. If the 56 percent of voters who supported raising the TOT don’t start appearing in front of the city council offering to have their own taxes raised, it means they think the city’s recent budget deficits weren’t really that big of a problem.

Correction, please

THIS WEEK, several local media outlets swallowed hook, line and sinker an announcement from a local activist that his “group,” which he claims is based in Carmel, had sued Monterey County for approving the Pebble Beach Company’s development and open-space plans. “Carmel group” sounds a lot better than “lone activist from God-knows-where,” and that’s why he makes the claim. But shouldn’t the news media know better than to embellish the circumstances of what is nothing more than one man’s blatant exploitation of state environmental laws to harass a landowner and try to overturn a decision of elected officials — officials who got where they are because a majority of citizens voted for them?

The activist, on the other hand, got where is he by appointing himself. And he knows full well that, even if he is fawned over by reporters near and far, he has very little support among the people who count most — namely, the residents of the Monterey Peninsula.

As a matter of fact, we’ve never seen any evidence that the “group” he calls “Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment” has any members at all. And even if it has two or three, we seriously doubt any of them live in Carmel.