Aspen marketing officials prepare for bed tax ballot question
July 31, 2009
ASPEN – The campaign to convince roughly 800 people to pass a 1 percent bed tax on the November ballot has formally been launched, with chamber of commerce officials leading the effort.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday discussed the merits and challenges of getting a Local Marketing District (LMD) passed by Aspen voters who live within dedicated boundaries where the tax would be applied to nightly room rates.
Warren Klug, ACRA’s board chairman and general manager of Aspen Square Condominiums, said while the LMD should be an easy sell because the resort needs additional marketing dollars to promote tourism in a down economy, the challenge of getting it passed shouldn’t be underestimated.
“We all recognize the electorate in Aspen is fickle, and some vote ‘no’ no matter what the question is,” he told the ACRA board. “We do need to campaign.”
Board members have been asked to participate in educating voters and lobbying them to pass the tax. A list of 800 registered voters – both inactive and active – has been assembled by ACRA. Those people will be asked in the coming months to vote “yes” on the LMD.
Voter education will be key, said ACRA board member Bobbie Burkley, who is leading the campaign’s marketing and public relations effort.
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ACRA officials will meet Tuesday for a campaign kick-off session that will go over the details of the proposal, who is allowed to vote and the nuances of this fall’s mail-in-only ballot election.
Pitkin County residents can only mail in their ballots, which will require a specific postage rate and a restrictive timeline for them to be received by the county clerk and recorder.
That creates several issues, said Mayor Mick Ireland, adding he is not a fan of mail-in ballot elections because people who move a lot become disenfranchised and not all of them will receive their ballots at the correct addresses.
Others caught unaware won’t realize that they can’t vote at their normal polling places.
“I bet anyone $1,000 more than one person comes to the clerk’s office asking ‘where’s my polling place?'” Ireland told the ACRA board.
Burkley said it’s imperative that the board is prepared for those issues and has a comprehensive campaign that addresses the inertia of this year’s unique election.
“I urge you to start working on this right away,” Ireland said, if ACRA wants to ensure the passage of the new tax.
Before the LMD is placed on the ballot, which will be decided by the Aspen City Council, two public hearings will be held to debate the issue. Those hearings are scheduled for Aug. 10 and Aug. 24 – the deadline to place a measure on the ballot.
There already is a 0.5 percent lodging tax in Aspen that’s dedicated to summer marketing and raises about $600,000 annually. The additional 1 percent tax would raise an estimated $1 million a year and would be used to promote Aspen year-round.