What happens when the Colorado Springs city government has $4.87 million of non-earmarked revenue lying around, ready for the biggest, most aggressive money dogs to snatch up?
If you want to know, take a look at the suggested 2016 disbursement of revenue from the city’s Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART). The tax is funded by a 1 percent levy on car rentals and 2 percent on hotel room rentals.
Uses of LART revenue, according to city budget documents, are limited to “tourist promotion and visitor attraction as well as economic development activities.” This year’s budget, prepared in late 2014, projected $4.16 million in LART revenue. The current projection for 2016 is more than 20 percent higher.
It’s hard to imagine an activity that doesn’t qualify for one of the designated categories. Predictably enough, eager hopefuls queue up every year with their dreams and schemes.
In an ideal world, funds would flow to the new, the innovative, the adventurous, the cool and the exciting.
In our staid city, money flows to the powerful, the established, the cunning and the boring.
Here’s a sampling:
The biggest dog by far is the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, which by long-established custom receives two-thirds of the total LART revenue off the top.
Thanks to the antics of our city’s voters, encouraged by The Broadmoor, we have a fine Convention and Visitors Bureau, but no downtown convention center to host major conventions. Imagine the Army without weapons, motorcycle cops without motorcycles, the Broncos without a stadium — you get the idea.
Not content with a mere $3.25 million, the CVB also will collect $150,000 for airport advertising in conjunction with the Regional Air Service Task Force.
Next in line: the dependably fickle promoters of the USA Pro Challenge, who are slated to receive $225,000 if they convince the cycling tour’s organizers to bring a stage of the week-long event back to Colorado Springs next August. The money apparently gets laundered through a local group, the Pikes Peak Cycling Society.
The Bruno Event Team is slated to get $150,000 for the U.S. Senior Open, while the Colorado Springs Philharmonic will pick up $123,000 for summer symphony productions. The proposed Pikes Peak Summit Complex will get $100,000, and the rest is slated to be divided up among scores of smaller recipients.
Colorado Springs Sports Corporation will get $20,000 for the Rio Olympic Downtown Celebration, $29,000 for the Rocky Mountain State Games and another $25,000 to help stage four smaller events.
The Grand Prix of Running receives what the French call “une somme dérisoire” — $720 for the “Take 5” in the Garden of the Gods and $240 for the Classic 10K. Other runs did better, with $1,200 for the Run to the Shrine, $2,000 to the Race for the Cure and $10,000 to the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.
In aggregate funding, the Pikes Peak Pickleball Association easily outdistanced the runners. The PPBA will rake in $5,000 to help the organization host the second Great Plains Regional Pickleball tournament, as well as another $25,000 to fund pickleball courts in Monument Valley Park. In case you’re not familiar with pickleball, it’s a slow-paced net-and-ball game — think of it as shuffleboard for today’s semi-active seniors.
Such events seem to be at least somewhat eligible for tax funding, but others seem less so. For instance, $15,000 to the Downtown Partnership to fund a summer tourism magazine? News flash: There are actually private-sector newspaper and magazine publishers in Colorado Springs who receive no government subsidies and would be willing to handle that.
And appropriating $18,400 for the annual Territory Days? Speaking only as a Westside resident, the event is better titled the Memorial Day Weekend Nightmare. If you want to park in front of your house, or invite friends over for little get-together, forget it.
Why not rotate neighborhoods? I’d totally support “Broadmoor Days.”
But it’d be nice to see something fresh and inventive — and I have just the plan.
Here’s an idea for a new facility that will permanently rebrand our city, lead to massive international publicity, be entirely self-financing and require only a few modest city ordinance changes.
All we need is a southwest downtown site with plenty of sunlight.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Marijuana Museum! The history of the demon weed, its emergence from the shadows and its Colorado rebirth. Visitors will marvel at an attached grow facility, visit a retail marijuana gift shop — the possibilities are endless.
City Council, it’s up to you … and if you don’t like the idea, Denver will.