Urbana mayor kills funding for convention bureau

URBANA – Saying that “Not one Urbana business can document whether the CVB has been helpful to their business,” Mayor Laurel Prussing on Monday vetoed the $71,000 that had been included in the city budget for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city is facing an "unprecedented budget gap," Prussing told Urbana city council members on Monday, when she said she was vetoing the money originally included in the city's budget -- $71,820 -- for the convention bureau.

Here is the text of the mayor’s message to city council members:

As you know the City of Urbana is facing an unprecedented budget gap due to the effects of the national recession.  This gap will only widen as we face the costs of binding arbitration with our labor unions.

Because we need to invest our scarce tax dollars only in what truly benefits Urbana taxpayers, I am vetoing the line item appropriation of $71,820 for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 for the following reasons:

Not one Urbana business can document whether the CVB has been helpful to their business.  Two arts-related businesses have told me they benefit from the 40 North expenditure.  (Please note: that money-$30,000- is contributed to CVB by the City of Champaign.)

Other businesses have said they asked CVB for help, but were turned down.

An experienced hotel operator was stumped when asked what effect CVB had on his business.

We are spending twice as much on CVB as we are on the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  The City of Champaign has cut funding for EDC by $20,000 this year.  We have not cut EDC because they have been helpful to us on major projects such as Olympian Drive and also as an ally pushing for high-speed rail.

We are spending as much on CVB as we are in the gallery subsidy that has helped bring businesses to downtown.

CVB claimed an economic impact of $1.6 million in an e-mail sent June 11 and $3 million in a statement before the council two days later on June 13.  No documentation is offered to back these claims or demonstrate that CVB brings people here who would not come otherwise. 

A number of individuals have noted that CVB takes credit for the work done by others.

At first, I was prepared to work on a compromise so that CVB could take up some of our General Corporate spending on tourism-related spending, so they could continue to get a state match.

However, after comparing their claims with their actual results, I cannot in good conscience recommend we give them anything.  The State of Illinois does not have money to waste, anymore than does the City of Urbana.

I believe a far better use of the $71,820 would be to pay to fill two vacant police positions and to establish a reasonable pay differential between police lieutenants and sergeants.

Mike Monson, Prussing's chief of staff, said the council would discuss the matter at its July 11 meeting, with a vote likely a week later, on July 18. It would take a two-thirds majority -- five of seven votes, in this case -- to override the veto. That means three votes in agreement with Prussing would uphold the veto.

 

 

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fortherecord wrote on June 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Didn't Mrs. Prussing approve nearly $300,000 for parking signs in and around the downtown area? Maybe there was a round-a-bout included in that too, but come on. This lady is nuts. Downtown Urbana occupies roughly six block; if you cant find the parking garage you're going to need more than a sign.

youlikeroses wrote on June 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

didn't urbana just drop a million and a half to help support the renovations to jumers? now cutting visitors bureau? yet another great investment urbana.

Yatiri wrote on June 21, 2011 at 3:06 am

Though it is a token sensible move, it is only a start for Ms Prussing.

I don't know much about the Jumer's renovation and other wasteful spending. On the surface renovating Jumer's yet again, doesn't seem to me to be essential spending.

The reasons Prussing gives for keeping EDC funding concerns me: "We have not cut EDC because they have been helpful to us on major projects such as Olympian Drive and also as an ally pushing for high-speed rail." This just sounds like politically motivated reasons to spend.

What in the world is the "gallery subsidy"? And how did it help bring business downtown?

It seems to me that Ms Prussing has moved on the most egregious and blatant waste but more needs to be done.

Since she is a professional politician first, she probably wanted this feather in her cap to help deflect criticism against her so that she can be re-elected again and again and again.

Like I said, a token move striking down only the most ridiculous of the many wasteful projects.

If they wanted to truly cut waste, the two city administrations would merge. We don't need 2 mayors and 2 city councils do we? We do need the real public servants: police, fire, emergency response. These professional politicians are excess baggage.

Yatiri wrote on June 21, 2011 at 4:06 am

OMG!

Check out this story about Urbana's "art subsidy": http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2010-05-09/art-...

Makes me want to howl. The beneficiaries aren't even required to have space dedicated to the sale of art.

How in the world can this be justified?

Ms Prussing get busy with your scissors.

read the DI wrote on June 21, 2011 at 7:06 am

'bout time. Let the businesses market themselves. Isn't it business that always says the private sector is more effective than the public? Let 'em prove it!

enoughalready wrote on June 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

This is the best line of her message:

"As you know the City of Urbana is facing an unprecedented budget gap due to the effects of the national recession."

The recession played a role but what about incompetence, poor planning, poor decision-making, failure to take appropriate actions early in the recession, lack of commercial development, limited tax base, excessive city services that don't make sense even in prosperous times, and an economically ignorant community? The gap won't be closed with $70K cuts, but I do appreciate the desire to cut items that don't deliver a return - how about the mayor's staff and half of the city employees?

Yatiri wrote on June 21, 2011 at 9:06 am

Yep, blame shifting as if she were a fresh newcomer to the political scene.

No personal accountability with the politicos. They just point their finger away from themselves and end of story.

Grandefrap wrote on June 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Typical reaction from a politician who wants to make a name for him/herself for slashing programs without bothering to research the effect. Ms mayor, ask the past governors if this is a good idea. This move shows complete ignorance on the part of Mayor Prussing. For years the past governors have tried to divert funding from tourism programs to no avail because they were shown proof time and again that it is not only needed, but effective. Anyone who works in marketing knows there’s almost no way to always provide tangible proof their campaigns work, the results are proven through the buyers when products are purchased. The CVB’s job is to sell hotel rooms, and the hotel rooms have been selling, in spite of a recession. I know that countless tour groups and sports tournaments have been brought to the city because of the CVB, which resulted in thousands of room being sold…rooms that provide tax money to the city!! And the statement, “An experienced hotel operator was stumped when asked what effect CVB had on his business” is ridiculous! Who is this anonymous “experienced” hotelier? Clearly not someone who understands the tourism industry. Ask what the OTHER hoteliers say about the CVB! Ms Mayor, are you aware that tourism is one of the TOP industries of Illinois, let alone the country. Get your facts straight before you make a boneheaded move like this!

read the DI wrote on June 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Please cite the evidence you say is out there. And then explain to us why the taxpayers should underwrite the marketing for private businesses?

bremax wrote on June 22, 2011 at 9:06 am

Businesses and business owners are a huge chunk of the tax base. When a town promotes tourism and conventions, all kinds of different businesses in the town generate higher taxes for the town. When the cost of the promotion is less than the extra tax revenue that comes in, we all win.

It appears in this case that 40 North is the only part of this project that generated extra tax revenue for the city, so probably only 40 North should get funding, not the full CVB.

read the DI wrote on June 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

That's not evidence, that's speculation.

bremax wrote on June 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

That is neither evidence nor speculation, it is a logical argument.

You had asked why tax payers should pay to help market local businesses, and I answered that taxpayers should do this because it is in their own financial best interest.

The CVB itself may be worthless, but the idea behind it is good. When arts related businesses benefit from 40 North exposure, more dollars stay in our local economy. This extra economic activity helps not just the artists themselves, or the town culturally, but also increases the tax base and provides employment.

read the DI wrote on June 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Logical perhaps but still speculation. Logic also dictates that more spending on teachers must always be better, and yet the empirical evidence shows this is not the case.

Please do better

Yatiri wrote on June 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

If Ms Prussing, a big believer in government programs, says that CVB isn't worth it, that's hard enough evidence for me that it ought to be cut for sure.

I also suspect that her principal motivation is political and agree with you on that.

No brainer.

read the DI wrote on June 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Logical perhaps...but logic also dictates that more spending on teachers must always be better, and yet the empirical evidence shows this is not the case.

Please do better.