It’s OK to say it out loud. They are the darlings of the local economy and of every politician driving under the influence of wine industry campaign contributions, but they can be a pain in the butt. We’re talking about Tourists.
Yes, though you might feel bad about it, you know you’d like to get even, just a teensy little bit. For the way they clog roads and block intersections, pester you for directions, crowd your favorite restaurants and coffee shops. For partying all night in the vacation rental next door and then throwing up on your porch. For pretentiously perching on tasting room stools, frowning seriously and pretending to actually experience the hints, notes in the swill they’re swirling. Or just for being from Alabama. Welcome as they are, tourists can be taxing.
Well, Measure L is a chance for county residents to tax them back, and pick their pockets for more cash.
Cash to fix crumbling county roads, cash for police and fire protection, cash to fix the county’s pension problems. Cash for public works and works of mercy that could go a long way to make life a little better for those who actually live here (or try to) by holding two or three jobs because the pay from any of them isn’t enough to feed a kitten. Cash to help create affordable housing for workers now living five or ten to a room who do much of the work that makes a visit to Wine Country seem classy, welcoming and romantic.
But whenever residents complain about the tsunami of tourist-trapping event centers, wineries, vacation rentals, traffic jams and the resulting burden on our water, environment, peace and quiet and quality of life, wine industry shills insist that without even more tourists our economy will collapse, turning Sonoma County into Somalia, but without the charm.
Well, now it’s time to take The Industry at its word and ask the tourists to “show us the money.”
County voters can do that on November 8 by voting yes on Measure L. If it passes, it will add a much-needed boost to the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Bean-counters say the hike could dump millions more per year into county coffers. It could be huge.
Because it is paid by people who don’t live here, TOT is a tax even a Republican can love. It’s added to the hotel, motel, B & B and vacation rental tab of every tourist who ever blocked your driveway while taking a selfie with a tree. Innkeepers simply tack the TOT onto the guest room price, collect it and turn it over to the county. Voila. Instant free money -- to fix roads, pay pension costs or settle police shooting lawsuits.
And here’s the best part: Because it increases the price of a hotel room, a bigger TOT can make tourists feel great about visiting. Remember: the Visitors Bureau assures them that a visit to Wine Country is Classy, Welcoming and Romantic. But ask yourself: What tourist would feel welcomed or classy checking into a cheap hotel, even for romance?
So instead of complaining about tourists, Do The Right Thing: Let our visitors experience just how Welcoming, Classy and Romantic wine country living can be, especially when they only have to sleep two to a room. Vote “Yes” on Measure L. For Love.