Thank you for your recent coverage and editorial regarding the proposed changes to the Maryville Tourism Committee. I question both the timing and the intent of raising the issue, as I can find no coherent reason for expanding the committee membership. As I noted at the October 25th city council meeting (and captured in your quote on the Opinion page November 4th), “The problem is, there is no problem.”
Numerous stakeholders, including the non-resident individuals pushing for this change, have acknowledged the committee is functioning as it was designed. Committee meetings are open to the public, and residents and non-residents alike are able to provide input to the committee, ask questions, offer ideas, and even be funded by small tourism grants. Moreover, Nodaway County Economic Development, the Maryville Chamber of Commerce, and the Maryville Downtown Improvement Organization all hold seats on the Tourism Committee, and membership on those governing boards is not restricted by resident status. To say that non-residents are unable to have meaningful and beneficial interaction with the Tourism committee — that non-resident business owners are not being heard - is simply and demonstrably not true. To that end, I applaud the committee’s refusal to endorse the expansion proposal at their meeting last week.
What, then, is the impetus driving the proposed membership change? We’ve heard a variety of reasons: Other “more progressive” communities in Missouri do it, so we should too. Maryville is not Sedalia, Jefferson City, or Joplin, and if you look at their tourism board regulations, there are key differences in their committee structures that preclude a direct comparison. More significantly, we are charged with making decisions based not on what other communities do, but what is best for Maryville. We’ve also heard that funds administered by the committee are paid by out-of-town guests, so local residents should not have exclusive domain over those dollars. This strawman argument fails to acknowledge that non-residents also pay for water and sewer, sales tax, Mozingo camping fees, and many other sources of revenue to keep our city functioning. Is it reasonable to think that every person that spends a dollar in Maryville — regardless of where they live — should dictate how those dollars are spent? If you choose to spend money in the city, you are also choosing to support city streets, utilities, police and fire services, parks, and yes, city tourism.
In sum, I struggle to identify the rationale for the proposed change in structure, nor have those pushing for the change been able to provide a logical argument for what the city would gain. For me, it boils down to this: the Tourism Committee is a city board, funded by a city tax, established by city voters, and administered by city residents. We should resist any and all efforts — now and in the future — to give away local control to outside entities that, frankly, may not have the best interests of the City in mind. We must avoid tying the hands of future councils by codifying a committee membership change that is not only unnecessary, but takes away oversight of local dollars from local citizens.
Mayor Pro Tem