"Why put public tourism group behind closed doors?" by: Mike Reddell

   When the Matagorda County CVB was removed from the Bay City Chamber of Commerce late last year I expected a proactive and transparent rollout when the hotel tax-funded group was placed under City Hall direction. 
   Now the CVB and its voting board has been replaced by the Bay City Tourism Council (BCTC) with members who have non-voting, advisory roles. 
   When CVB met, its meetings were open to the public. 
   Now that the main tourism promotion group for the whole county is at City Hall, officials there and tourism manager Heidi Martinez decided the tourism council doesn’t fall under Texas Open Meeting Act (TOMA) rules. 
   That means the meetings don’t have to be posted and they are closed to the public. 
   The tourism council’s advertisements and promotions for Bay City and the county will be primarily funded by the city-imposed hotel occupancy tax. 
   We, at the Sentinel, have been told hotel tax revenues are not the same as, say, property tax income, which means the tourism group isn’t subject to the open meeting act.  
   Please. 
   They called a closed meeting last week, when the hotel tax-paid consultant led the group in a strategic planning and goal-setting session. 
   The problem was city council members were invited – three attended – and that made the session a city council quorum under TOMA. 
   So, the city hurriedly posted a last-minute public meeting notice to meet TOMA strictures.  
   I found it entertaining the wonderful vibes from the session were worthy of a glowing Facebook post by the tourism director the day after the meeting and two council members attending said the media should have been there to  report on the consultant’s interesting remarks on tourism. 
   The public and the press should have been invited. Tourism is a community venture, why else have members from other Matagorda County communities? 
   Why should any City of Bay City meeting groups be behind closed doors? 
   Every function at City Hall is predominantly funded by city taxes and fees, not to mention federal and state grants that also come from tax dollars. 
   Nowadays, most regular city council meetings have requisite closed-door meetings, 
   Meanwhile, city officials are laboring to squeeze the tourism council into a niche where public meetings aren’t required? 
   Mayor Mark Bricker removed the CVB from the chamber and gave people the impression something better was in store for tourism promotion and since city hotel tax dollars fund the outfit, it should be under city control. 
   Instead, we have an organization that should be a friendly face to visitors and one that projects our image beyond our county borders under the finance department inside the locked-door maze of city offices at City Hall. 
   I’d just love to see documentation.

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