The board also voted unanimously to approve a slightly smaller budget for fiscal year 2013.
The subject of the failed TSPLOST, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters on July 31, came up during the Cobb Travel & Tourism’s board meeting as it lunched at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel on Tuesday.
Board Chairman Don Geiger said he wished the TSPLOST had never come to a vote.
“What happens now is cities like Dallas and Charlotte and Tampa and the cities that we compete with — Atlanta competes with — uses that against us,” said Geiger, the general manager of the Courtyard Atlanta Cumberland. “The fact that we voted on this and it didn’t pass, for whatever reasons that it didn’t pass, it’s basically a tool for other cities to use to say ‘not only do they have bad traffic, but they’re not going to fix it.’”
Rhoden, owner of Futren Corporation, which manages area country clubs and business dining clubs, said the communication problem must be fixed.
“It was obviously a major communication gap between the parties,” Rhoden said. “And folks that were advocating for the TSPLOST were not hearing or understanding and folks that were against it voted at the ballot box, but in the lead-up there was not discussion. Each party was telling the other, but no one was listening. And somehow or another we’ve got to communicate better.”
Rhoden said he recently had lunch with a TSPLOST critic who lives in west Cobb.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to challenge you on anything. Tell me what happened.’ And we spent an hour and a half. And I learned a few things. Didn’t like some of what I learned, but I learned a few things. And I think we need to figure that out on a broader basis throughout the community, and I think Travel and Tourism could be a leader in that process. Because we’re not going to pass another one unless we communicate.”
Board member Al Martin of Georgia Power said he’d like the Cobb Legislative Delegation to share with the board what the plan is now that TSPLOST has failed.
“What amazes me is they’re the ones that came up with it, and then they all were against it,” said board member Bob Weatherford, who serves on the Acworth Board of Aldermen.
Rhoden said communication doesn’t mean both sides have to agree on everything.
“Everybody is not necessarily going to agree, but we’ve got to hear and fully understand the other side, and I think the pro-SPLOST folks failed to recognize the lack of trust, the lack of community regional spirit on the part of many of the more parochial people in the region, so there wasn’t the communication there.”
Rhoden said he was a supporter of the TSPLOST, yet “There was no forum in which to exchange ideas in a civil manner to try and persuade or dissuade or communicate.”
Geiger said it was important to note that Cobb Travel could not advocate for such things as TSPLOST, to which Rhoden replied that encouraging conversation didn’t have to include advocacy.
The Journal asked state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, who was not at the meeting, to weigh in on the topic.
Responding to Geiger’s comment about cities in other states using the TSPLOST’s defeat as a weapon against Georgia, Setzler said, “Anyone willing to devour billions on shameful projects to gain the approval of Dallas bureaucrats does not need to be anywhere near public tax money.”
Setzler also commented on Weatherford’s remark about why lawmakers supported the TSPLOST legislation but then opposed the project list.
“We built a model car, we wound it up, and before it drove off the cliff with $8 billion we had the sense to stop it before it was too late,” Setzler said. “The legislature vastly overestimated the ARC’s ability to develop a rational project list; I don’t think we’ll make that mistake again.”
In other action, Cobb Travel’s board voted unanimously to approve its budget for fiscal year 2013, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
Cobb Travel receives most of its funding — about 68 percent — from The Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which is chaired by former county chairman Earl Smith. The Exhibit Hall Authority provides Cobb Travel with 8 percent of its gross hotel/motel tax collections.
Cobb Travel’s projected revenues and expenses for the FY2013 budget are balanced at $1.286 million, compared to FY2012’s budget of $1.334 million, a decrease of 3.62 percent or $48,375.95.
“We’re a strong organization, and a lot of that really comes from us using less of our savings and being extremely fiscally responsible,” said Holly Bass, Cobb Travel’s executive director.
The board has $299,010.55 in its reserve fund and plans to use $119,877.59 of that in FY13.
Aside from the revenue it receives through hotel/motel tax collections, the rest comes from such things as membership fees and sponsorships.
“Hotel/motel tax for Cobb County from June last year to June of this year — year to date amount — is 6.72 percent higher,” Bass said. “That tells me that things are going well with our hospitality industry and that more rooms are being booked now, more people are traveling and staying in hotels than they have during the past year or two.”
The mission of the nine-employee Cobb Travel & Tourism is to promote tourism, conventions, trade shows and sports development activity throughout the county.
Bass reminded her board to attend the upcoming “Economic Development Partners” dinner at the Georgian Club, which Cobb Travel is sponsoring along with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland Community Improvement District and others.
“That’s really just to thank our state and local partners for all of the activity and actions that they do for us throughout the year,” she said.
The Sept. 20 event is being spearheaded by Brooks Mathis, the Chamber’s vice president for economic development, she said.
Bass also said in October she would be attending the Chamber’s trip to Fairfax County, Virginia to learn about how they promote tourism there.