TDC ditches their brains, gets bested by competition

by September 1, 2008 • 12 comments

Perhaps this post isn’t necesary, but I feel it prudent to underscore Bryan’s comments and insight into the current actions of the TDC.

An interesting point is brought up, and that point is: why are we just now discussing the budget?

We had all summer with little or almost no activity regarding public TDC meetings.  It seems that there was ample time to discuss these issues and more.  Is there a reason the TDC meetings come virtually to a halt during the summer months?  This is the time we need to be discussing everything and making changes on the fly as needed.

Additionally, why were we notified at 4pm on Friday, before a long holiday weekend that first thing Tuesday after Labor Day a special meeting would be held to discuss such important matters.  Is the TDC incapable of scheduling meetings in advance?  Or, is this done intentionally so as to keep public attendance low and allow the TDC to make decisions with little or no public scritiny?

As far as the distribution for the budget document goes, I’ve never seen this document before I was forwarded it from Bryan.

What about improving our sports facilities or implementing a lifeguard system.  The county was able to move quickly in actuating a ticket system for those that swim during red flags, which should help, but Panama City Beach has yet to make a move to improve the safety of our beaches.  Tourists from around country now think of our beach in a similar manner as those that swam in the imagined shark-infested waters of the Jaws-era.  We need to wash ourselves of this image and reinstill security in the minds of those that not only visit here, but those that would like to visit here.  As Bryan mentioned, do we know how many tourists we are losing because they are flat out scared to swim in our waters?  I understand being cheap (or frugal, depending on if you want to be positive or negative about this), but THIS IS NOT SOMETHING WE CAN IGNORE ANY LONGER.  Is our City incapable of coming together and making a decision?  I know the mayor is opposed to using money from the general fund, but what about bed tax money?  When will this be discussed?  When are we going to look at what our competition is doing and do the same?  This is common business practice.  You see what your competition is doing that’s working and you do it also, only better.  duh.

Oh, right, improving our sports facilities.  What’s up with that?  Why are we scoffing at the opportunity to expand our tourist base?   Don Schumacher of Don Schumacher & Associates, Inc. recommended at the last TDC meeting that we expand our existing sports facilities.  He cited that the only reason we were still competetive is that we have a beach, but that soon that would not be enough to stay in game.  He recommended adding 4 to 8 more baseball/softball fields and a large indoor multi-purpose facility that could be used for basketball, cheerleading competitions, and myriad other indoor sporting events.  The facility could also be used for trade shows and conferences.  The estimated cost would be $20 million but would result in an estimated annual economic impact of around $30 million.  During the meeting before mentioned, Chairman Andy Phillips requested that  Schumacher provide an estimated cost of a feasibility study for a project of this magnitude.  Has this been done?

Another interesting point that has been brought up is that locals strongly oppose a bed tax increase.  Can I ask why?  Again, we have to look at what our competition is doing.  If our competition is doing something that we are not, that gives them a competitive advantage, again, we not only look like idiots, we ARE idiots.  Why can’t we move on this?  Why don’t we raise our bed tax.  We are at 3%, Walton County is at 4%, we need to be at 5% at least.  We want to compete?  We need more money.

Bryan is growing concerned that we are seeing more and more the TDC acting the way is did two years ago.  We need to see action, we need to see decisions made.  We can’t afford to sit back on our heels and allow our competition to continue passing us by.

Please share your comments on the opinion by leaving a comment below.  Let your voice be heard!

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1 Bryan Durta September 1, 2008 at 10:02 am

I have previously been a supporter of increasing the bed tax due to our competitive disadvantage. However, I am now, at least temporarily, opposed to any increase. My reasoning is that I believe the current TDC is not acting responsibly with the funds they currently have. Governmental funds need to be spent responsibly regardless of who is paying it. It seems that the TDC just keep allocating everything to advertising and ignoring the other options that many believe are much more important. For example, we could have paid for a lifeguard program with just the funds wasted on the “Summer White Sale”. And the advertising they are doing is not even designed to reach new visitors. All they are doing is spending money in markets where everyone already knows about PCB. Bed tax revenues should not be used for advertising that the tourist business should be paying for themselves.

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2 Jason September 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

Bryan, I wouldn’t disagree, but as we just got a new TDC last year, I find it highly unlikely that we’ll get another one anytime soon. We need to work with what we have and move forward as best we can.

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3 Bryan Durta September 1, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Just to be clear, I am not advocating for a new TDC. There are plenty of board and committee members that know what is necessary for this destination to move forward. All the community needs is for them to stand up for what they believe in rather than just trying to get along.

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4 Linda September 2, 2008 at 5:28 am

You mentioned “Tourists from around country now think of our beach in a similar manner as those that swam in the imagined shark-infested waters of the Jaws-era.”
I don’t think you have to worry about that as nobody outside the southern states ever hear about PCB. Now of course, that is what I consider a problem. PCB needs to advertise to other parts of the country. I am from Chicago and never see any advertising to come see the beaches of PCB. I only knew of the place because my daughter went to spring break down there in her college years. Hopefully once the new airport arrives, it will attract non stops from other parts of the country and then PCB will need to market to those areas to keep people coming. Otherwise, those flights will cease to exist.

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5 Don September 2, 2008 at 8:20 am

The splintered marketing efforts of our area do not allow for adequate marketing to all the distant markets we should be reaching; for example Chicago, Houston. Hopefully Coastal Vision 3000 will enable us to attract visitors from these areas that otherwise would not be possible. Discounting may attract some to our area increasing bed tax, but it hurts individual owners who see reduced rental income as expenses of ownership rise. For property values to increase require a better balance between rental income and expenses.

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6 lbresort3 September 2, 2008 at 8:35 am

More tax money will not make the TDC more productive. It is time for the TDC to make its mission and operations open to the public. We need to know the whole system so we can understand what the TDC can do or not do. There is too much “organized confusion” when it comes to who in government actually does what. We have a saying in public safety, “the only thing a committee is good for is to waste time.”

The lower bed tax compared to other locations should be a reason to come to PCB. It is a proven fact that people will drive several miles to buy gasoline at a station that is 2 or 3 cents cheaper. Don’t you think that room customers look a the tax rate, too?

Now to even the playing field, where can a person report people that rent and do not collect nor pay taxes on the rental? It is hard to compete with these renters when they are already 10% cheaper. From the tax collections, we know who is paying. We need to go after the non-payers. That will give you a bed tax collection increse without a bed tax increase. And we do not need another government employee to do this. There is plenty of time after the mail is opened and payments logged.

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7 John September 2, 2008 at 8:40 am

In the improving our sports facilities arena:
A spring “Golf Tune-Up” event to get folks ready for play (since it warms up a little earlier here) up north would not be a bad idea. It could niblle into the spring break crap a little bit. We are in competition, but our courses are already offering $39 rates for some of our best courses during prime season.
BTW for the knee jerk reaction of spring break advocates who will say it is too windy, have you forgotten that golf was invented and reigns along the windy coasts of Scotland ? Do you think it doesn’t get windy in the spring up north? What do you think our Snowbirds are doing all winter? HELLLLOOOO !

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8 Jack Bishop September 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Give them a break you guys. The public hearings, workshops, etc have been going on for months. Keep the pressure on through the committee system. Community impute is necessary, but decisions have to be made, time tables kept. Budget action can and will be amended. It has happened in the past and will most likely be done again this year. The County requirements must be met in a timely manner. There will be plenty of time for discussion and change.

Firing the agency is not the answer. That would be starting all over again, and we can’t afford that. Hang On! It will be a wonderful ride. But you will have to speak up in the public forum. Do so rationally and with the numbers, and most of the time, reason will prevail.

Getting the Bed Tax increased will be difficult. The case will have to be made with the numbers to reflect the New Panama City Beach, not the old one!!

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9 Linda September 2, 2008 at 4:06 pm

How can you be sure somebody is not paying their taxes?
I’ve been paying mine, but I’ve always wondered why some sites list different tax rates. As far as I know there if Florida, Bay and PCB.

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10 Moe September 2, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Yep, that’s right Jack. You and your buddies keep having your “committee” meetings and doing business as usual, and we’ll all keep having this conversation for another two decades. The faces up front change (some just make another tour with the same ideas as a decade ago), but the lack of direction continues. Let’s start by stopping the funding of only a “SELECT GROUP” of private, for-profit events on PCB. Anyone want to offer up your audited books for printing in the News Herald if you take the public money? Give the public what they want when they want it, and it will survive on its on. Like the massive market that Sanders has created with softball and baseball that did not exist a little more than a decade ago. Saved alot of rear ends this past season. There’s your feasibility study money Andy, right there in the $160,000 handout that Jack(and friends) and a couple of others are getting to insure that they make a dime on their events. If it doesn’t (or won’t) work, get out of the way and let someone else have a stab at a PRIME holiday weekend who will not ask for public money. YOU WANT NUMBERS Jack and friends. How about 20 mil outlay with a 30 mil return. Miss that meeting? And “don’t fire the ad firm”? NO, just cut it down to something that you can measure. Drop the advertising is an art BS TDC members, oh yes and “committee” members. I’m not a huge fan of this mega lifeguard movement, but look at the HUGE PR bounce that Walton county got off of their very limited lifeguard program. You would think that they have guards on every inch of their beaches and care so much about their guest’s safety. White Sale, the TDC, got sold a load of BS. Let the tax collectors pick their own advertising gimics, and save the $500K for tangible marketing ideas.

AND Jason, you guys keep up the pressure on the TDC and the sleeping public that depend on this market for a living to wake up. Can you please find a list (I can’t find it….TDC website is too busy promoting itself and the money it’s wasting) of these workshops, committee meetings, etc. and post it at the top of your TDC page. It would really be nice to have a publically posted list of who’s on these committees and why they are qualified to spend millions of dollars to steer this old beach into the future, but I know that I’m dreaming.

And then the increase in the bed tax. Support could be drummed up for the increase, but only if there were wording as to where the money HAD to be spent. It’s not the increase in tax or funding sports facilities,etc, but not trusting this governmental control board in spending it with long-term goals in mind. It seems that everyone fell for the “oh we are gonna do things differently” line again with the changing of the guard. You’ve gotta decent group of employees (I don’t like this last minute notice nonsense though if this was Dan’s idea), but a lack of real leadership in a board that as Jason said, “just wants to get along”.

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11 Bryan Durta September 2, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Jack,
Thank you for your comments. I am glad to hear that you feel that budget amendments can and will be made. You are one of the strongest voices in the movement to transfer college spring break financing from the TDC/CVB to the private sector and I appreciate it. Hopefully we can get this done when the 2009 program comes up for discussion in the coming months.

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