December 1, 2010 12:07:00 PM
The all-out war that erupted several weeks ago between the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link and the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau appears to have moved into a period of cold war. The latest war-by-proxy appears to be over maneuvering to replace Lowndes County-appointed board members with new members friendly to the Link.
The CVB, which is the second-largest contributor to the Link, gave the industrial development organization $178,500 in its latest budget, a $18,500 cut from what the Link was expecting.
The CVB has no obligation to give the Link any of the 2 percent restaurant tax money it manages. But it does so, out of a "handshake" agreement made years ago that few remember today.
And although the CVB budget is approved, the Link and the CVB are still talking about boosting Link funding. A meeting was held Monday between board members of the two organizations for that purpose.
Some are accusing Supervisors President Harry Sanders, who is a champion of the Link, of "stacking the deck," of putting new members on the CVB board who are more Link-friendly and who presumably would direct more of its funds to industrial development and less to festivals and tourism.
The primary critics of Sanders are District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem. Both are heavily involved in projects the CVB helps fund and promote, including the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival and the Juneteenth celebration.
Ironically, one of the board members that Sanders wants to sack is his own brother, David Sanders. Names floated to replace Sanders and CVB board member Cindy Putnam are Bart Wise, of Trustmark Bank, and Mark Castleberry, the developer behind retail projects around town, including the new hotels on 18th Avenue North.
Supervisor Sanders also wants to change out two more board members'' seats. (Four members of the eight-member board are appointed by the city, four by the county.)
More than once in this space we''ve opined that both the CVB and the Link are ably managed and both serve worthy purposes. Both agencies have much to show for their efforts.
Harry Sanders says his intentions are innocent. But this political maneuvering is ugly.
Supervisors still have to vote on Sanders'' plan to wipe out the current appointees and vote in four new ones. Some of the current CVB board members could end up reappointed. Some could be new ones, sympathetic to the Link''s wishes for additional funding.
In the end, these decisions are up to the Board of Supervisors.
We think whomever ends up on the CVB board should objectively and independently arrive at decisions that are in the best interests of the CVB, rather than do the bidding of another agency or a particular elected official.
That said, we think the names floated to replace CVB board members are able to think independently, and could be effective members.
The CVB isn''t an arm of the Link, and shouldn''t become one.
nofanofthelink commented at 12/1/2010 10:59:00 PM:
I am so sick and tired of that arrogant, obnoxious, loudmouth Joe Higgins that I could scream! He thinks that he runs Columbus, when in actuality he is nothing more than an embarrassment!
His sense of entitlement is astounding! THE CVB DOES NOT OWE THE LINK ONE RED CENT! The restaurant tax is dedicated to the CVB for the purpose of furthering its mission, which is to attract VISITORS to Columbus (hence the "V" in CVB, Joe), not to fund the Link! I can't find any evidence of another CVB funding an economic development organization. Yes, the CVB does help fund events like Juneteenth, the 7th Avenue Festival, the Tennessee Williams Tribute, etc., but those events help attract VISITORS (there's that pesky word, again). As far as I can tell, nothing the Link does is designed to attract visitors to Columbus. That's o.k. - that's not the Link's mission. However, that's also why they do not deserve funding from the CVB. (Isn't logic a wonderful thing?)
The one aspect of this editorial that I disagree with is the reference to Bart Wise and Mark Castleberry being independent. Everyone knows that they are Joe Higgins' boys!
The Link should stop their vindictive, money-grubbing backroom maneuvering and, instead, focus their energies on something productive, like, maybe, economic development. Perhaps, they could actually do something to promote small businesses (which employ 80% of Americans), instead of focusing exclusively on the "big fish". Wouldn't that be a novel idea?
Of course the Link, in this despicable coup attempt, IS pursuing economic development, ITS OWN.