Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sales tax, bed tax, Atlanta Braves and thank you to Commissioner Valeche for educating the public (and correcting the Post editorial board too)

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche wrote a letter to The Palm Beach Post responding to their muddled and twisted editorial which appeared in last Sunday's print edition. It was another in a long line of editorials that have you scratching your head: "Are they doing this stuff intentionally to confuse the public?"

After reading that editorial immediately thought of what occurred here in Lake Worth leading up to the last March elections but more on that later. Below are two excerpts from the letter written by Hal Valeche that explains to the editors and the public the difference between a proposed increase in the sales tax and the bed tax that would likely fund a baseball stadium in John Prince Park:

      "The Post seems to be trying to conflate this issue with that of the sales tax proposal currently before us. These are two separate issues, which, because of critical timing for the Braves, happen to be coming before us at the same time. [emphasis added]
      As you mentioned, I and several of my colleagues are striving to find a creative financial solution for financing the Braves’ move here. If we find it, be assured that it would have nothing to do with the current discussion of the sales tax."

[and. . .]

     "We are talking about two separate pots of money: the bed tax, which is paid exclusively by tourists and was a major component of our successful financing of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros; and a sales tax, which, although paid partly by tourists, falls most heavily and regressively on county residents."

Commissioner Valeche is opposed to an increase in the sales tax and he states that very clearly in his letter. But the point of the letter is made: There simply was no reason for the Post to combine the two issues of the sales tax and the bed tax. That leads to the next question: Was this purposefully done to confuse the issue in the minds of the public?

This is what immediately came to mind vis-à-vis informing the public on the issues and how easy it is to monkeywrench that process, the Gulfstream hotel redevelopment and the Casino at the beach. Two very separate issues that, in the minds of too many people, became linked together as one. One of the candidates in the last election (a winning one) was quite worried that so many people talked to "at the door" thought the historic hotel and the Casino were one issue being dealt with and the concerns the beach stay public. The candidate fretted about the City not doing enough to educate the public on the issues.

So how did this happen? Besides the mailers, the faces at the door, all those door-hangers. . . how did so many people get confused about the public beach/Casino and the Gulfstream hotel redevelopment? What follows will explain a lot. The video below is from the Bryant Park candidate forum held on January 25th. The question asked was as follows:
"Do any of you really believe that there is going to be a private beach club and convention center at the beach? If so, what documentation do you have to support that?
In response the incumbents and candidates went down the line and answered, one-by-one, including the Anarchist candidate Ryan Hartman. They all said "No." Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell went further and said, "Over my dead body." Then Frank McAlonan said the following:

The question was about the beach, remember, it was not about the Gulfstream hotel. But what did McAlonan focus his answer on? The hotel. This was all part of the intentional misdirection and disinformation that continues to this day. I'm not piling on McAlonan, all the candidates challenging the incumbents did the same thing in their own way. Which leads us back to these: 
Remember these signs in Lake Worth? "Hands Off Our Beach" and "Private Development".
The point is this: A possible baseball facility in John Prince Park is a very complex issue. And that's why it's so easy to get the public confused when issues like the sales tax are thrown into the mix. As the hard work continues coming up with a way to make this dream a reality just as much work has to be done to keep the public informed, accurately.

And thanks to Commissioner Valeche for taking the time to do that.