Opinion

City council should continue funding for Oak Harbor chamber | Editorial

If Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley gets his way, funding for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce would be reduced and money redirected to more community events.

Currently, the chamber receives $72,000 in hotel-motel tax money.

The decision to renew the funding is usually made in December, but discussions were moved up to before November’s election. The mayor cites political motivation as the reason.

Dudley said he believes holding more community events will best improve the local economy.

The money in question is raised via a state 2 percent tax on hotel and motel room rentals. The tax revenue is intended to be used for promotion of tourism or operation of tourism-related facilities.

While the chamber’s primary function is to serve its membership — those businesses and organizations that are the lifeblood of the community — it also serves an important role in drawing visitors into our community.

Each year, the chamber puts on two community events, the annual Fourth of July celebration and Holland Happening.

The chamber also works to attract visitors to this area throughout the year, not just during the summer, and not just to attend events.

The chamber is, as Councilwoman Tara Hizon said this week, a “portal” to our community.

Anyone visiting, or thinking of visiting North Whidbey is likely to turn to the chamber for information about what to do and where to eat, shop and sleep.

The chamber fills that role extremely well.

The chamber also comprises people representing a broad range of businesses. Among its members are those reliant on tourism for the survival of their businesses, and who have a first-hand understanding of what draws people to North Whidbey.

The city council is smart to be supportive of the chamber. A solid vote to renew the funding would honor the spirit and intent of the state hotel-motel tax while reaffirming city council support of the chamber and its mission.

We would also urge the mayor to let go of the notion that the city should be placing all of its eggs in the events basket as a way of boosting the city’s economy.

 

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