Tourism is the most important foundation of our city’s economy. By some estimates, tourists account for more than 25% of all taxable sales in the city. Tourist demand for good restaurants underwrites the culinary reputation of our city. Tourist patronage extends to our golf courses, our Sonoran Desert Preserve, our cactus league stadium, even our libraries and recreation centers.
So this week, I took time to visit what is, arguably, our #1 tourist attraction. It’s not in a glitzy building; its buildings are among the oldest in the city. It’s not a special weekend event; this tourist attraction is open all year. This attraction I am referring to is our downtown treasure…Historic Scottsdale, Old Town, 5th Avenue, the Arts District! Sometimes the things most familiar are the things most taken for granted.
And what is the city doing to preserve, promote and enhance this tourism experience “event”?
I was reminded of the 2010 citizen-approved increase in the hotel bed tax. As City Treasurer, I proposed a financial policy (adopted by Council as #21A) to set aside more than $1.0 million of bed tax receipts each year to support tourism-related events. Since then, bed taxes have funded several numerous events; a weekend Polo event; a seniors’ golf tournament; even a Trolley route. Last week, Council rationalized spending $380,000 of unspent money from prior years to pay for [another!] capital project overrun at WestWorld. Why isn’t some bed tax money earmarked to preserve, promote and enhance the daily tourism-related event that happens in Historic Scottsdale?
I hear downtown merchants talk about the need for additional parking, concerned that the city traded away a parking area behind the “Pepperwood” building on the mall. But the only new parking the city has proposed is for the entertainment district to accommodate weekend revelers in the bar district.
The Goldwater name disappeared long-ago from its Fashion Square department store, but the pioneer names of the downtown merchants are still proudly displayed on their store fronts…Saba, Atkinson, Ortega, Shipp, Bischoff, Porters and others. These are the families who underwrote Scottsdale’s first and most enduring tourist attraction. For decades, they have weathered the cyclicality of our economy and now anxiously await the day when their business will return to the levels of 2007. We need to celebrate their tenacity. We need to applaud their dedication.
More than anything else, we need to partner with these pioneer businesses to preserve the viability of Scottsdale’s #1 tourist attraction. If I am elected your Councilman, you can be sure I will never lose sight of the importance of tourism on our local economy and the livability of our community. That’s why I ask for your vote and your support in the upcoming Council elections.