When it comes to fairness and consistency, the city missed the mark in its recent handling of how to allocate lodgers tax proceeds.
In July, the council approved a request to give $15,000 to Albuquerque company Fresquez Productions to promote a boxing fight featuring Holly Holm in Las Vegas. The firm’s owner, Lenny Fresquez, didn’t have to show up to answer any questions.
At the meeting, council members touted the local boxing tradition and approved the request — without nearly any questions. Councilwoman Diane Moore wisely dissented, saying she didn’t believe that the state constitution allowed public money to go toward private purposes.
However, others said the city’s logo would appear on all of the event’s advertising and the city would be included as a sponsor in all radio and TV spots. In other words, the city was getting something for the $15,000 (although it could be argued that the city wasn’t getting much for its donation).
While Fresquez enjoyed a cakewalk, Kenny Zamora, owner of the Santa Fe Trail Events Center, got treated quite differently from the council. His roping events bring in thousands annually, and the participants stay for days at a time, helping the local economy. For years, Zamora has requested money to help with promotions, but the city has routinely rejected him. The reason? The state constitution’s prohibition on giving money to private causes.
And that’s a good reason, as long as the city applies it consistently.
But that’s obviously not the case. Last month, Zamora appeared before the council to seek money to help advertise his roping events in June 2010. Councilman Morris Madrid, who led the cheering section for the boxing event, asked Zamora tough questions about how the event would benefit Las Vegas: Where would the event be advertised? How many people would stay in their trailers rather that local motels?
The councilman was right to ask these questions; after all, public money is at stake. But why didn’t he pose similar queries to Fresquez Productions?
Another slap in the face for Zamora was when the council, just before his presentation, enacted greater restrictions on the city’s allocation of lodgers tax funds. The council is limiting appropriations from its pot of lodgers tax funds to $2,500 each and requiring that funded events be inside city limits (Zamora’s arena is just outside). In other words, the council killed the chances for Zamora to get lodgers tax money. Previously, he had gone to the city’s lodgers tax board, which rejected him based on the state constitution.
Where is the fairness? We hate to see a big-city boxing promoter easily grab city money, while a local businessman committed to our community get the shaft.
Some may counter that boxing is part of Las Vegas’ culture. True enough. Then again, so are rodeos and roping.
However, in our view, the greater issue is fairness — or the lack thereof. Let’s apply the law consistently.