Voice of the people: Julie Baca




Takes issue with story 


While I was pleased to see The Dispatch chose to cover the Airbnb issues faced by my community, I was concerned about the reporting. The article published on May 11, 2019, "Starkville weighing regulations for Airbnb properties," gives the impression that you interviewed me. In fact, you did not. Instead you chose to interview an out-of-town, non-resident owner of the Airbnb operated now on a full-time, year-round basis directly across the street from my home. You referred to me as a "nearby neighbor," when in fact, my home is a stone's throw from what is now functionally a motel.  


Because you did not interview me (or, to my knowledge, any other actual resident of the street) you failed to verify any of her claims. For example, she claims to have notified neighbors of her intent. That is false. She did not at any point in time ever communicate to me that she would be placing a listing on Airbnb much less as a year-round rental.  


Nor did you verify Ms. Arnold's claim to have been here for several spring games, which I contest. I have not seen their vehicle, or her or her husband or family anywhere near the residence any time this spring, and please remember I and my family actually live here, again a stone's throw away. 


Instead, you reported her need for money for renovations of the house--a statement that is not only self-serving but also unverified. You also reported her self-serving anecdote of a mother cooking home-cooked meals in the Airbnb, significantly altering the true character of the situation. You failed to mention the rough, loud partying well into the night, or the "guests" who damaged my property and gravely alarmed my children, whom I have raised to be gracious to neighbors, just as I was to people I thought would actually be neighbors and not motel-owners.  


And you closed on her comment about seeing the "big picture." Her financial picture is undoubtedly brighter now that she has a steady year-round income advertising my "family friendly neighborhood" as a selling point while compromising neighborhood safety and security even as she does. And as for the true big picture, I am disappointed you chose to pluck only a few of my comments but did not access in full my public statement before the Board of Aldermen on May 7.  


I am encouraged by the responses of Mayor Spruill and Ward 2 Alderman Sistrunk, who clearly listened to and understand the important points of the arguments that I researched and presented at the Board meeting, which did actually examine the "big picture" of the problems created by a completely unregulated, unsupervised Airbnb industry in other cities across the country, and how, if not addressed in Starkville can bring significant economic and cultural harm to the city as a whole. My research presented a wide range of options with varying degrees of restrictions that cities across the country have chosen to address the problems. I invite you and the rest of the public to read my full report on public record at Starkville City Hall https://www.cityofstarkville.org/285/City-Hall. It is currently available upon request and will soon be available on their website at https://www.cityofstarkville.org/agendacenter. 


Julie Baca 




Editor's note: Our reporting used some of Ms. Baca's statements from a public meeting and we identified those statements as coming from that meeting. We didn't intend to imply we interviewed her. To present both sides of the issue, we also spoke to an Airbnb operator.



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