LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
But it won’t happen in a timely manner unless the city passes the restaurant tax and procures a steady stream of revenue, estimated at about $2 million a year, to build and maintain this needed infrastructure.
Along with passing the tax, the council needs to consider and implement three recommendations to make the tax more palatable to citizens.
First, council members need to go on record that money from the tax will only be used for tourism and recreational activities as currently mandated. A legislative effort in Frankfort could give cities more flexibility to dump restaurant tax money into their general funds. But that would be a waste and won’t help London take care of its pressing needs.
Secondly, the new city tourism commission must work hand in hand with the existing London-Laurel County Tourism Commission. There really is no need for two tourism commissions here, and the city handled the formation of its new commission very poorly, which led to a lot of questions and negativity about the proposed restaurant tax.
So, the pressure is on all those appointed tourism officials to show they can work together without a duplication of services and without creating their own little fiefdoms. We don’t need a new tax to create a new government bureaucracy.
After some initial surprise and concern over the city’s tourism commission, there are signs that the two groups are finding ways to work together. It’s crucial that they do.
Thirdly, the city council needs to reassess its commitment to the wellness park currently under construction at College Park. It doesn’t make any sense to spend millions of dollars developing a park that no one is excited about. In this case, if you build it, no one will come.
London and its citizens will be better served with a new city park within walking distance of downtown. That would tie everything together and make the downtown area even more vibrant and alive.
No one likes paying more taxes, but people are more receptive if they know what the money will be used for. The money generated by the restaurant tax will certainly make London and Laurel County a better place to live.
We have the need. City council members have the opportunity. Now, all they need is the vision and the courage.