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City hopes for banner year

The city of Oak Harbor is asking itself for money.

In fact, the city council recently approved a proposal to submit an application for lodging tax funding to both the city and Island County. The proposal, which comes from city staff, is to buy tourism-promoting banners to put on city light poles along Highway 20 and Pioneer Way.

This bureaucratic weirdness of asking oneself for money is actually perfectly reasonable if you understand how the 2 percent lodging tax is collected and distributed. The state authorized cities and counties to tax hotel and motels up to 4 percent for tourism promotion.

Both Oak Harbor and Island County have passed the entire 4 percent tax. The first 2 percent tax is earmarked for more localized tourism-promoting groups and activities. The second 2 percent is for an island-wide marketing campaign.

The city is asking for money from the first 2 percent fund. To get the moolah, the city and any other organization must submit a request for funding to the respective lodging tax advisory committee, made up of representatives from local hotels and organizations that promote tourism. The committees then makes funding recommendations to the city council members or county commissioners.

City Administrator Thom Myers explained that the staff’s idea is for two “banner campaigns” in the city. Under the scheme, the colorful banners would be hung from the banner brackets that are already installed on light poles along the highway and downtown.

One proposed banner campaign, Myers said, would be a “calendar of events” to highlight happenings throughout the county. One set of banners displayed in the spring, for example, would promote “Mystery Weekend” in Langley. The proposal is that this banner campaign would be funded by both the city’s and county’s lodging tax.

The other proposal is for welcome banners. According to Myers, there would be a sequence of three banners. The first would say “Oak Harbor,” the second would be “welcomes” and the third banner could be changed periodically to “Holland Happening,” “Race Week,” or other city events.

Myers proposed that this banner idea could be funded from just the city’s lodging taxes since they will just advertise city events.

Only City Councilman Paul Brewer questioned the proposals. He asked why the city instead of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce or another entity is submitting the request for money.

“Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the chamber to manage this?” he asked.

Myers’ answer was simply that the city is already “in the business” of putting up banners and he’s trying to expand the banner program.

In the end, the council members unanimously (Richard Davis was absent) approved the request to submit a request to the city’s lodging tax committee of $2,850 for the “calender of events” banners and $7,500 for the “welcome banner.” In addition, they approved a single application to the county requesting $9,530 for the “calender” banners.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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