The Bend City Council kind of voted 'sideways' on the 2% increase of the Transient Room Tax issue last night – by agreeing to keep the issue open for several more weeks.
Commentary from both sides took up the lion's share of both the City Council work session and regular meeting - and the Council voted to continue holding the discussion open for a few more weeks.
Jamal Patel - owner of a motel on Third Street speaking for other 3rd Street businesses says upping the tax by another two percent will hurt their business. "I can tell you first hand that when my customers check in - they ask 'do you have a room tax?' and I tell them, that' it's 10% and just raising it that 2% will make a big difference."
A group of advocates for the tax increase - says the increased revenue will help fund needed services like police and fire- as well as bringing more culture and arts to the community.
Speaking for those in favor of the ballot measure, Kelly Cannon-Miller urged the Council to take a stand.
"I’m not really sure in which world 7 months of meetings, countless emails, failed mediation and attempts at compromise constitutes a situation where we haven't talked about an issue enough. The critical point is this: we aren't talking about investments and marketing for this winter and shoulder season with this increase; vacationers are already booking this winter; we're talking about investments for 2014. If the deadline for this November’s ballot is missed, then we begin talking about investing in 2015."
A large group of speakers also urged the Council not to put the issue on the ballot; because they fear voters will pass it, since the tax won't affect them, but higher costs could discourage some tourism.
The Council voted to hold at least one more "round table" discussion in the next couple of weeks. But on July 10th will hold a definite vote on the ballot issue.
In other Council news:
The Bend City Council voted unanimously to authorize the Riverside - Franklin project last night.
The project authorized construction to begin on improvements to Riverside Boulevard and other downtown streets near Drake Park that will create a better traffic flow and more bike lanes. Councilor Marc Capell said the City's Contract Review Board gave it t thumbs up.
"And from the Contract Review Board, we all felt comfortable with this, went through the whole issue summary and pros and cons and I think everybody on the review board thought this was a good approach to move this thing along."
The work will begin almost immediately to keep within the time frame that allows state grant funding to cover a major portion of the cost.