The Hollister City Council dealt the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce a financial blow Monday when they unanimously refused to award $78,000 over five years for the Chamber’s tourism efforts.
The proposed memorandum of understanding would not only have awarded the Chamber of Commerce $78,000 a year, but also 20 percent of the net increase in annual transient occupancy tax revenues that would be generated if Measure B passes in June. The measure would increase the tax, assessed on hotel stays, from 8 to 12 percent.
The door is not entirely shut on increasing the Chamber’s tourism budget. Vice Mayor Mickie Luna said she would like to look into the proposal in greater depth before making a decision. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilmember Karson Klauer were not as diplomatic in expressing their displeasure.
“I’m going to be blunter; I don’t like any of this,” Velazquez said. “I don’t understand how we don’t spend a dollar on the motorcycle rally, which would bring in 50,000 tourists, then turn around and award $400,000 for a local group to find more tourists. I think it’s bad financial planning. I think there has been some good that has come of it, but not enough for this.”
Klauer focused his attention on the proposed link with the city’s transient occupancy tax, saying, “I don’t like how much money we give to the hotels as it is, and we need every dollar we can get for the general fund.”
The county’s Chamber of Commerce is in a time of transition. In April, Chamber chief executive officer Juli Vieira resigned to take take the lead at the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s board chairman, Pinnacle Consulting president and former Hollister mayor Victor Gomez, said that they hoped to find Vieira’s replacement within 30 days.
“There are more than bikers coming to Hollister, we have seen an increase in tourism here, and we know the numbers in the hotels and at Pinnacles,” Gomez said. “Is it all about the money we spend on tourism? No, but it’s a component of it.”
Councilmember Jim Gillio recused himself from the discussion because of a potential conflict of interest.