By Bradley Harrington
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” — H.L. Mencken, “In Defense of Women,” 1918–
Once in a while, as I ponder the daily news, I come across a story that reminds me clearly that we are living in Robert Heinlein’s “Crazy Years” after all. Belts may be tightening in lots of places all across our land, Dear Readers, but obviously not here:
“Directors of the local tourism bureau approved a new budget Monday of about $1.9 million for Fiscal Year 2018, which began July 1 … The budget is up $131,727 from FY 2017 … Visit Cheyenne is the convention and visitors bureau for Cheyenne and Laramie County. The agency develops, promotes and protects the Cheyenne area’s travel industry, according to its mission statement.” (“Board approves new budget for Visit Cheyenne,” WTE, July 18.)
For starters, I was unaware that the tourism industry here in Laramie County needed “developing, promoting and protecting,” myself. What kind of “development”? To be built by and paid for by whom? What kind of “promoting” takes place? Who determines which businesses get “promoted” … And which don’t? “Protected” … From whom or what?
That “mission statement” has severe collectivistic problems, to say the least; but, once we understand that this is our tax dollars at work, everything assumes a clarity not present without that knowledge.
For, of that $1.9 million, $1.8 million of it comes from “a lodging tax that was approved by Laramie County voters … Visitors who stay in Cheyenne hotels, motels, campgrounds, and bed and breakfast establishments pay an additional 4 percent lodging tax.”
A “lodging tax” is something Laramie County has had for years, whereby we’re so happy to see you here (so you can spend all of your money with us) that we’ve decided that’s not quite enough: We’re soaking you for another 4 percent on top of that, just for taking up physical space here in our dear county. Thank you so much!
So, now we have this bureaucracy, Visit Cheyenne, funded to the tune of at least 95 percent by this tax. What, aside from meeting their “company” payroll, do these bureaucrats spend the rest of our money on?
“Marketing is the largest expense in the FY 2018 budget at $804,606, up from $772,894 budgeted in FY 2017 … Goals in the marketing area include the production and distribution of a major visitor guide … And marketing plans using email, print, social media and television.” How any of that is going to increase tourism is never stated or alluded to.
Aside from such questions, however, isn’t the essence of this scam obvious by now? Visit Cheyenne allegedly drums up “tourism” through a variety of dubious methods, to get you here to spend your money. Then, once you’re here, they grab some more, in order for you to pay the bureaucrats for the privilege of conning you here to get conned some more WHILE you’re here.
Nor is such craziness limited to funding mechanisms; there’s plenty more:
Some budget goals: “Developing and promoting events in Laramie County to create a year-round tourism industry … Promoting downtown redevelopment by working with the city of Cheyenne and other economic development partners … Doing more to promote events in Laramie County so local residents are more aware of attractions.”
Just imagine the kind of chutzpah that has to go into these kinds of plans. First, scrounge up some allegedly socially and economically beneficial desire or cause. “Tourism,” in this case.
Next, proclaim a list of problems you perceive aren’t being addressed properly. (The main gripe here, apparently, is the lack of a sufficient quantity of “tourist” suckers showing up here often enough to suit the government’s desires for raiding their pockets.)
Then, boldly assert that such issues can only be addressed by swift and meaningful action on the part of YOUR bureaucrats and “marketing” expertise.
And, finally, if you can pull it off, try hornswoggling the county hicks into voting for a tax on those very people in order to pay for your hard work — which, after all, has made their presence, along with the pocket-raiding, possible. Hey, it worked here in Laramie County! Is this a great country, or what?
And, in their spare time, when Visit Cheyenne’s not cajoling visitors into showing up in late February, we can all rest assured that it’s diligently “working with the city of Cheyenne and other economic development partners.”
Which means: “Partnering” up with Cheyenne LEADS, the Cheyenne Greater Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Authority. Now that’s a lot of bureaucrats who will never produce even one single tourist attraction — but who HAVE proven themselves adept at carving out secure jobs and guaranteed rewards. “Hi! Welcome to Wyoming! Now gimme your money!”
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.