"A tempting pot of money for politicians"

COLUMBIA, 7/31/16 (Beat Byte) -- Lorah Steiner, the former longtime director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), has come out strongly against Prop. 1, the 25% hotel and motel (aka bed tax) increase voters decide Tuesday. 

City leaders and a bank-funded PAC say the tax hike will help raise $38 million for improvements to the Columbia Regional Airport.  

"Columbia does not need a 38 million dollar airport terminal," Steiner said on Facebook last week.  "Airlines will not flock to a city simply because it has more terminal space." 

Steiner also said the pricetag is "4 times higher than it should be," comparing it to a new $11 million airport in Punta Gorda, Florida.  She relocated to Florida in 2011, after three decades in Columbia.   She directed the CVB for 24 years. 

Steiner also worried politicians will misappropriate bed tax revenues, which are supposed to fund tourism only.  

City manager Mike Matthes in 2012 added "economic development" to the tourism mandate in a city ordinance governing the bed tax.   City Council members adopted the change. 

Punta Gorda's airport will serve one million passengers this year -- more than 10 times Columbia's volume -- and has a larger terminal than the one under consideration if voters approve the hotel/motel tax hike.  

Arguing with Loop CID director Carrie Gartner, whom Missouri Ethics Commission filings say is handling social media for the Yes on Prop 1 booster group, Steiner noted Punta Gorda's new airport is even built to weather hurricanes. 

"Lorah, you don't live here anymore so you don't know all the facts," Columbia Airport Advisory Board chairperson Greg Cecil added.   "To compare where you are to Columbia is not the same.   Pick a comparable airport and provide a comparison." 
Steiner fired back.   "It is interesting some people believe I should not comment on an issue affecting the city I called home (and where I still have family) for more than 35 years," she told Cecil.  

"You, of all people should remember discussions in CVB board meetings regarding the importance of protecting the bed tax from uses that do not directly benefit tourism," Steiner continued.   "The bed tax is a very tempting pot of money for politicians.    Airport infrastructure should NEVER be paid for with a bed tax. 

"You have opened the door to other inappropriate uses of the bed tax revenue.