Steamboat City Council scales back air service education campaign proposal
Steamboat Springs — A proposed education campaign about the winter air service program at Yampa Valley Regional Airport was grounded Tuesday night after some Steamboat Springs City Council members were concerned it could be perceived as a lobbying effort.
The stewards of the air program were proposing to spend $50,000 of lodging tax revenue next year to have the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association oversee a year-long education campaign to explain the complexities of the air program and highlight its economic impact on local businesses.
The education campaign would have come right before a potential ballot initiative seeking the renewal of the quarter-cent sales tax that supports winter air service at YVRA. The tax sunsets at the end of 2016.
“How is this (education campaign) going to be perceived as anything other than the start of the next campaign?” Councilman Kenny Reisman asked.
Reisman expressed support for the Local Marketing District board, which oversees the funding for the winter air service. But he said a public education campaign could too easily be perceived as lobbying on the eve of a potential election.
After much discussion about the proposed campaign, the council, in a split 4-3 vote, ultimately decided to reduce the amount of funding for public education efforts to $25,000.
The scope of the effort also was narrowed to include only an annual report that would provide data ranging from the air service program’s estimated return on investment to future financial projections.
The original campaign proposal included proposed interviews with local business owners about the impact of the tax and the air service program and a series of public meetings.
Councilman Tony Connell said the funding and the release of more information to the public would increase the transparency of the program.
Council members Sonja Macys, Scott Ford and Reisman opposed spending the money on the annual report and the additional data because the effort could still be seen as a campaign in support of the tax’s renewal.
Some of the council members noted that the Chamber and the LMD Board would not be objective sources of information.
Reisman suggested another private entity could fund such a campaign about the benefits of the program.
The council’s discussion about the education campaign came before it gave approval to the winter air program’s operating budget for 2015-16.
The program will include about 122,300 round-trip available seats this season, an increase of 13 percent of seats flown last winter season.
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