The distribution of Columbia hospitality tax dollars is up for review. The process has become cumbersome, inefficient and in some minds, inequitable. Historically, the largest producers of h-tax revenues such as Five Points, City Center and The Vista have fostered arts and organizations within their neighborhoods, resulting in kind of a "pay as you play" situation. Also tainting the water is an 11-member citizens panel formed about 2 years ago by City Council to oversee spending of about a third of the H-Tx revenues to foster smaller start-up organizations.
Some are now suggesting that there should be more rhyme and reason to this process. I endorse Councilman Newman's proposal, which calls for dividing the recipient pool into two groups: one he refers to as H-tax institutions, large organizations representing those big tax bases; the other being performing arts organizations. Both pots of money would be controlled by City Council. Whether the Council goes with Newman's idea or undertakes a cost/benefit analysis, they need to pay close attention to which institutions and performing arts organizations provide the biggest bang for the City's buck in terms of improving livability and economic development for Columbia. Spreading these H-tax dollars too thin will only weaken the big draws and be insufficient to sustain the start-ups.