Letter from the Editor

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Checking into a motel tax

The proposed hotel/motel tax for Storm Lake should pass easily in November. After all, it's one of those no-harm-no-foul, everybody-else-is-doing-it kind of things. All taxes look better when they apply to "the other guy."

It would be foolish to vote down an opportunity to get perhaps as much as $100,000 a year for good community projects without any pain to local pockets. Sure, we might blush a bit on the way to the polls, as we stick it to our visitors for a few coins more a night in our city. We might balk a bit at voting in favor of anything containing the "t-word" - heck, we're taxed on everything but the air we breathe, and there's probably a legislative blue-ribbon committee working on that.

If it eases your conscience any, consider that our tourism visitors do use our streets, parks, cultural services, public protection and so on. And remember that when you travel to their town, you probably pay the tax without even noticing it.

I'm a bit surprised, though, that the Storm Lake chamber didn't get a bite of the pie.

As I recall, it was the chamber that first took on the burden of proposing the tax, and it has supported the city in the process of bringing it to a vote. The chamber's idea of the tax was to split revenue - 25 percent to the city, 25 percent to the chamber for Convention and Visitors Bureau efforts, and the rest to be allocated as grants to local projects by an advisory board.

The city council apparently had other ideas, and is keeping control of all the revenue.

That doesn't mean that the chamber won't get a cut - the proposal allows the city the option of allocating up to 20 percent of revenue to the Convention and Visitors Bureau annually if it sees fit.

Seems fair. The revenue only exists because of the business community, and since hotels and motels will be the only ones carrying the burden of collecting this tax, a portion should go to efforts to benefit them - tourism, in other words.

There are scads of positive projects on the boards to which the revenue could contribute - from a community and aquatic center to environmental work on the lake.

I'd like to see a few bucks spent on advertising Storm Lake, too.

You can mark this date on a calendar. It won't be often I encourage you to vote in favor of new taxes. But, I hope the city also listens closely to how the public wants to spend this windfall.

The immigrant license

Am I the only one wondering what all the fuss is about with the new so-called "foreigner" drivers license rules in Iowa? Non-citizens now have their licenses stamped with a red "non-renewable - documentation required" mark.

A well-known Iowa immigration attorney compares the license to the Star of David that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. Sandra Sanchez, director of the Immigrant Rights Project in Des Moines, said it "creates a group of second- and third-class citizens..."

What a bunch of foolishness. Foreign nationals who are in our country and state as our guests should be identifiable. In getting a license, they should be asked to present the INS papers that show they are in the country legally and how long they have a right to stay. And their driving rights should only be valid as long as their immigration status remains legal. What's so wrong with that?

There is nothing racist about it. It's foolish to think that a license should show your eye color, but not your citizenship status. In these times, it is reasonable and prudent action.

Now, if the legislature could only do something about that gooney mug shot photo on my license...