We won't go so far as to predict that it's the start of a trend, but the Bend City Council made a startling move last week: It voted for the public interest over the interest of a few well-connected local businessmen.
The issue was a loophole written into the city's transient room tax law six years ago that allowed hoteliers to take a $10-per-person exemption if they offered complimentary breakfasts to guests. There was no rational reason for the exemption; the argument that it made Bend hotels more competitive was patently ridiculous: The "savings" to a guest was, on average, 90 cents a night - if the guest even got it.
The vote to repeal the exemption should have been 7-0. Instead, it was a squeaker - 4-3. Loyally sticking with the handful of good old hotel owners who wanted the exemption were Councilors Oran Teater, Tom Greene and Jeff Eager. Breaking ranks with the GOB faction was Mayor Kathie Eckman, joined by Councilors Jodie Barram, Jim Clinton and Mark Capell.
Teater, Greene and Eager offered a "compromise": Instead of $10 per person, make the breakfast exemption $10 per room. But even at that rate the loophole would have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in room tax revenue.
The GOB Bloc also wanted the exemption retained for two years until the economy improved. In the first place, there's no guarantee the economy will improve in two years. In the second place, with the city going broke, this is precisely the time when you DON'T want to chop revenue.
So here's the GLASS SLIPPER for all four of the councilors who voted to kill this abomination, especially Eckman, who stood up to what must have been incredible pressure to cave in to the hotel interests. And here's THE BOOT for Messrs. Greene, Teater and Eager, for all too predictably folding under the pressure like a cheap lawn chair.
Speaking of folding, we also want to pass out a special gold-plated BOOT to The Bulletin's editorial page for its amazing double-reverse twisting one-and-a-half jacknife back flip (degree of difficulty 27.8) on this issue.
Here's The Bulletin on June 27: "What do you call a tax loophole that the city considers unnecessarily complex, that Bend's tourism agency considers harmful, and that some local hotel operators like and others hate? We'd call it a real dog's breakfast, and we hope Bend's city councilors come to the same conclusion" and repeal it.
But by July 2, The Bulletin was finding the dog's breakfast much more appetizing. It called for the council to pass the Greene/Eager/Teater "compromise." The logic, as best we could figure out, was along the lines of: "This exemption was dumb, but we've had it for years, so if we repeal it now it will amount to a tax increase, and we just CAN'T have a tax increase, gosh darn it!"
If The Bulletin editorial board can be persuaded to enter the 2012 Olympics, the era of Chinese dominance of the diving competition will be over.