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.