August 8, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: City undertakes another money grab

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — After using blackmail to extort a greater percentage of occupational tax revenues from the county, the City of London used another unsettling tactic Monday night to bolster its financial future: divorce.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time we took control of our own future,” London Mayor Troy Rudder said as the London City Council voted to establish its own tourism and convention commission.

With that, council members walked out on a relationship with the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission that, from their own admission, has been successful in making the area a prime tourist stop in Southeastern Kentucky.

And they didn’t even leave a message, a note on the wall or anything when they slammed the door.

At the same time as the council’s vote, Rodney Hendrickson was across town wrapping up a long, successful day coordinating a junior golf tournament at Crooked Creek that has brought about 500 families into London from all over the world.

He began getting texts and phone calls about the city’s vote which neither he, nor any other tourist commission member, knew anything about. Today, Hendrickson and tourism co-executive director Kim Collier are probably wondering if they’re going to have a job.

Rudder confirmed at this point the city has no plans to confiscate any of the three percent motel room tax currently funding the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission, which will leave that revenue in place and ensure the commission’s future. The folks over at the Wilderness Road Center will be glad to find that out.

The mayor said the city will fund its seven-member tourism commission internally at first, with the option of tacking on its own transient room tax at a later date, similar to what Somerset did a few months ago when it formed a tourism commission for that city. Hotels in Somerset are now paying a seven percent room tax.

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