TOURISM FUND HAS DEGENERATED INTO “PORK FEST”

NTF worksheet: douglascounty118.doc. 6-14.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM COMMENTS TO DOUGLAS COUNTY BOARD: June 17, 2014.

Good morning. Our names are Doug Kagan, 12320 William Street, and Jeff Stevens, 14518 Webster Cir., and we represent NE Taxpayers for Freedom. For several years, our group has been concerned with and opposed to the county government dispensing grants from the monies accrued in the Tourism Fund. This year, the proposed grant monies total $2.8 million, a large sum. The purpose of this grant program is to improve visitor attractions and facilities in the county. We believe that this grant process has degenerated into a “pork fest,” with many non-profit groups vying for funds, even though we think it doubtful that some of them actually attract many tourists to our metro area. Also, some of these requesting organizations easily could and should fund their activities from their own ranks.

We specifically oppose grants to the following:
Downtown Omaha Inc. for holiday lights: downtown businesses should fund this activity.
Great Plains Black History Museum: private contributions should fund this activity. Not a ranking tourist spot.
Malcolm X Memorial Foundation: Taxpayers should not fund anything for the legacy of this radical.
Midlands Latino Community Development: neighborhood should fund this activity.
Deer Park Neighborhood Association: No evidence of tourist attractions here.
South Omaha Business Association: No evidence of tourist attractions here.
Millard South Wrestling Club: If we fund this club, every school district will want money. We doubt that this activity attracts many tourists.
Omaha Hockey Club: participants should fund this activity. We doubt that this activity attracts many tourists.
Omaha Public Schools: same as Millard South Wrestling Club.
September Fest Salute to Labor: unions should fund this activity entirely.
Taste of Omaha: participants should fund this activity entirely. 

It is very apparent to us that the original purpose of the grant funding now has diffused into grants offered to any community group that believes it deserves a public subsidy.
Therefore, we urge the County Board to act selectively to approve grants only to non-profits that have a past record of actually attracting tourists and their dollars from the metro area and other areas.

By Jeff Stevens and Doug Kagan for NE Taxpayers for Freedom

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