By Will Shonbrun
It seems that those in the “No on Measure B” camp have primarily one argument, which is: If Measure B passes there will be an economic and financial crisis in the city. Has anyone noticed that such predictions of economic doom were precisely what were claimed if the Rosewood hillside hotel/resort wasn’t built, and similar fiscal scare-mongering tactics were used to oppose Sonoma adopting an urban growth boundary?
It was also the same cast of characters making these same dire predictions: some members on the City Council, city staff, the Chamber of Commerce and the wine industry. Yes, some of the names and faces have changed, but the song of fiscal doom is the same old tune.
And you know what happened when the hotel was voted down and the UGB was passed? Nothing. Nothing happened. The city didn’t go bankrupt, the services it performs continued as always, and all the hyperbolic fuming and warning amounted to nothing, zero, nada.
Why do think that was? How could council members, city managers and leaders in the business community have been so completely wrong? And remember, what they said then is exactly what’s being said now. The answer is easy: Sonoma is a tourist destination. It has been so for many decades and it will continue that way for many more.
And we all know the reasons why it has been that way. Sonoma has great climate, it’s in a beautiful valley that produces good wines and good food, and it still has a friendly, small-town character and charm that is increasingly disappearing in our country. And that has happened because more and more once-wonderful and unique towns and cities have fallen to corporate commercial development, ubiquitous chain stores and businesses that cater to tourist dollars.
There’s nothing wrong with tourism, its money is needed and appreciated, but when that becomes what a place is all about, when that supersedes what residents want from their town and why they chose to live here in the first place, then those qualities get lost and can never be regained.
I believe that most of us who have lived here for a time, raised families here and participate in our community’s needs intrinsically know this.
But the developers and investors and business people who only want to serve their own interests, knowingly and cynically try to use economic scare tactics, again and again, because they think we’ll fall for it.
And here’s the truth and it’s verifiable: If the city really needed more money it could have it tomorrow. It could: 1. Rescind the ridiculous subsidy handout to the hotel/motel-owners known as the TID (Tourisim Improvement District) and keep that money; 2. It could add an additional 2 percent to the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax), bringing the total to 14 percent; 3. It could get after the deadbeat, under-the-radar vacation rental cottage industry. Those three simple things alone would add at least $1 million to city coffers, and best of all it wouldn’t require building one more large hotel.
So remember to vote “yes” on Measure B, keep new hotels small, and preserve those qualities that make Sonoma,