COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Big bailout not to taxpayers’ benefit

With a 4-0 vote and no discussion, the Oceanside City Council gave away close to 1 million taxpayer dollars to private endeavors at their meeting on June 23. The hypocrisy of this approval was later shown when Jerry Kern lectured other council members during city budget discussion, “Our responsibility up here is to the taxpayers … ”
Too bad Kern and the other council members’ earlier vote had already told taxpayers they don’t matter when it comes to a near million dollar bailout and giveaway for special interests.
What would be your thoughts if I told you the Oceanside council approved a $155,000 per year management contract for the Oceanside Municipal Golf Course that also took over the liability of that management company’s $961,000 private loan? Yes, the Oceanside council did that. The company, which will now manage the golf course for the yearly fee, formerly leased the golf course under a revenue sharing agreement and had borrowed the $961,000 during the time of its’ golf course lease for improvements.
Because this company that formerly leased the golf course could not get another loan to perform other improvements required under the terms of the Oceanside lease, this company could have been found in default of its lease and Oceanside could have requested proposals from other companies to manage the golf course. Instead, Oceanside not only released this company from the previous lease requirements but then also rewarded this same nonperforming company with a $155,000 per year, 10-year management contract and a $961,000 loan bailout with a risky variable interest rate that Oceanside will now be paying back for 10 years instead of the management company. In addition, Oceanside will be hiring a brand new employee to monitor this management contract with only a portion of the salary paid for by the golf course and no funding for benefits.
We have all heard federal government horror stories like this but this actually happened right in Oceanside. I thought the golf course was supposed to be making money to help pay for city services, not creating new debt for our city with a private enterprise loan bailout.
On March 17, 2010, the Oceanside City Council established a private Tourism Marketing District, which is funded by a 1.5 percent tax on all 30-day or less Oceanside vacation rentals. Note only Oceanside rentals pay this tax.
The Tourism Marketing District will be administered by a nonprofit called Visit Oceanside. Via the tax, $465,000 per year in estimated Tourism Marketing District income will be available to Visit Oceanside for the promotion of Oceanside and city accommodations. The idea of the tax was that Visit Oceanside was supposed to take over all tourism promotion with the tax proceeds so the city could stop funding promotion. Oceanside funded the $21,750 that the hoteliers needed to hire an expert in the creation of marketing districts. That amount was to be repaid once the district was established.
Lo and behold, Oceanside’s council not only awarded $108,000 more dollars to Visit Oceanside for a contract to run the Welcome Center but also forgave the $21,750 that was supposed to have been repaid to the city. Let’s hope the hotels don’t cut their marketing budgets now that they have all this taxpayer money for promotion through Visit Oceanside.
To add insult to injury, check out the web site for Visit Oceanside (http://www.visitoceanside.org/Hotels-Oceanside-California.shtml) which features three Carlsbad hotels on a website funded to promote Oceanside. Then check out the Carlsbad and North San Diego County information on the website portion for vacation rentals. Nuff said.
Whose interests were council members protecting on June 23? Big pocket hotel owners and a golf course management company or the taxpayers of Oceanside? Of course, the council members will tell you the bailout and giveaway was done to benefit the city. Isn’t that what they always say?
Since Jerry Kern is the only council person up for election this November who voted for this near million dollar giveaway and bailout on the same night employees were laid off in budget cuts, I suggest you remember this lack of protection of the taxpayers in November when you cast your vote for Oceanside City Council.

Lizbeth Altman is a resident of Oceanside.

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