MAC Attack--Monterey businesses say "yes" to arts, historic preservation and no to MAC.
Thursday, June 4, 1998
If we are to believe last week''s tirade on the Monterey City Council by Morgan Christopher ("Public Forum," May 28), then we would have to believe that we are led by a council of artistically challenged anti-preservationists. As a member of both the business and social community, I am appalled at the amount of disinformation being spread by Morgan Christopher and his cohorts in the Monterey Action Coalition (MAC). For those of you who were not present at the marathon, five-hour, May 19 city council meeting, let me set the record straight. Mayor Albert and the city council showed visionary leadership by unanimously supporting MAC''s desire to allow the voters to have their say in regards to the Arts and Historic Resources Initiative on the November ballot. All MAC has to do, as does any other grass-roots effort, is collect 1,500 signatures from registered voters. The 1,500 signatures would show the city council that this is a community-wide request and not the pointless desire of some absurd minority. MAC obviously believes they are special and should have their wishes handed to them on a silver platter. No such luck. Achieving goals takes hard work. Welcome to the real world.
In his article, Christopher stated that "the speakers before the council were divided..." Nothing could be further from the truth. All speakers, including the hospitality industry, were very much in favor of the development of arts and historic preservation. Everyone understands the importance of tourism to our community. The hotel tax makes up to close to 40 percent of the city of Monterey''s entire General Fund, which supports us (police, fire, recreation, etc.).
A point of contention in this matter regards the 16 percent Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP). As everyone is aware, the city charter mandates that 16 percent of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) be contributed to the NIP. The MAC group demands that all of the TOT increase be given to their project and that the city charter be ignored...ignore your Neighborhood Improvement Program? Even when offered more, Christopher could not see the forest for the trees. As Coast Weekly''s Squid reported last week, the midnight meeting suggested a 1 percent increase in the TOT instead of MAC''s 0.5 percent request. We can see that 84 percent of a 1 percent TOT increase would net a whole lot more than 100 percent of a 0.5 percent increase. Do the math.
The hospitality industry also feels that the MAC initiative is too vague; it falls short of funding the priorities of the entire community--such as Windows on the Bay and tourism projects as they relate to transportation mitigation--as well as the development of off-season business and retaining tourist market share. Again, I say "do the math." Attracting more tourism means more TOT revenues, which mean more funds for the arts.
I wonder whether Christopher is interested in putting forward accurate information. In last week''s forum, he stated that "The State Theater is now no closer to restoration..." This is simply not true. Members of the Hospitality Association are currently vigorously pursuing the funds to acquire the State Theater for restoration and conversion into a first-class arts and civic center.
One statement of truth from Christopher was his comment that "in a healthy community, commerce and culture are interwoven." The business and hospitality communities agree wholeheartedly. It is a shame, though, that such a potentially healthy organization as MAC, with a few articulate and thoughtful members, must allow a person such as Christopher to purposely and willfully spread such blatant disinformation. Eventually, through common sense and the need for survival, all organizations rid themselves of their liabilities.
Michael Morrison is the owner of Valet Auto Care in Monterey.