Our view: In this game of Chicken, we all lose

February 2, 2011 10:32:00 AM



People don''t play Chicken much. The classic game involves two drivers, barreling toward each other in speeding cars. The loser is the person who swerves, avoiding the collision. 


So, the person with the most reckless behavior is the winner. The loser is the more sane of the two. 


Chicken is a game that can''t have two winners -- but it can have two losers. 


The city and county are playing a game of chicken, with the city Convention and Visitors Bureau at the point of impact.  


Lowndes board president Harry Sanders hit the gas on his hot rod this week, voting to fire the county''s CVB board members without hiring replacements. Supervisors Frank Ferguson and John Holliman, always passengers in Harry''s car and never drivers, voted to ride along with him. We still wonder if they understand what they were voting for. 


Some background on this tale: The county and the city are replacing eight board members with six new ones on a leaner CVB board, one that follows state guidelines.  


Sanders wants the county''s seats, as well as the city''s, broken down by specified industry, with a Link representative, a hotel representative, and an at-large appointment. 


Sanders appears to have his feathers ruffled over the city''s decision to make all of its appointments to the CVB at-large, rather than industry-specific. A joint committee of city and county members had talked about the city making industry-specific restaurant and historic-home appointees. The City Council throttled up its own hot rod when it shot that plan down. 


Sanders'' move to fire the county''s board members renders the CVB, which manages $1.2 million in 2 percent annual restaurant tax revenue, impotent. The board no longer has a quorum to conduct business. 


This clearly delights the confrontational Sanders, who has had the CVB in his sights ever since the tourism board threatened to reduce funding to the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link. Sanders has also lashed out at the CVB''s grants for local projects run by his political opponents. Among those 2010 grants are $13,000 to the Juneteenth Festival, which Supervisor Leroy Brooks organizes, and $12,000 for the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival, organized by Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, another critic of Sanders. The Southside-Townsend Park Blues Festival, organized by Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, received an $8,000 grant in 2010.  


We agree with Sanders that these politicians, all of whom are supposed to have financial oversight of the CVB, shouldn''t be withdrawing thousands of dollars in tax money for their neighborhood festivals. A new ordinance should address these conflicts. 


Of course, Sanders won''t stop with an impotent CVB board. He''s speeding on toward the "nuclear option," threatening to cancel the tax all together if he doesn''t get his way. "If they don''t watch it there won''t be no money," he said after Monday''s supervisor meeting. "They" meaning city leaders who dared hold a vote at odds with the county leader''s wishes. 


Sanders might just be crazy enough to kill the CVB -- the goose that laid the golden egg -- and destroy the 2 percent tax and all the good that it brings (including the lion''s share of the Link''s funding). 


We''ll see if the city swerves, or if it barrels into Sanders'' hot rod. We don''t expect Sanders to budge. Like we said, in a game of chicken, the craziest person always wins. Until he loses.