Lake and Main has been providing information to the public about the Town of Lexington’s proposed plans for traffic improvements and the “hospitality tax” to fund those projects. In addition to explaining the plans (here and here), L&M has also exposed the misrepresentations and tactics used by opponents (here, here and here). Just when we thought opponents could go no lower, they go lower.
Following the latest (second) public information session held by the Town on 24 August, The Lexington County Citizen’s Watch (LCCW) started a telephone campaign against council members who recognize the need for the tax. This follows a pamphlet drop in select neighborhoods. Six of the town’s seven council members support the tax as the only means to pay for desperately needed traffic improvements within the town limits. The single opposing member is restauranteur Ted Stambolitis. Stambolitis had been a supporter of the tax until the council rejected his idea to spend only 80% of the tax revenue on roads. Ten percent of the remaining monies he wanted to go to a hospitality committee run by – restaurant owners! That 10% would amount to approximately $1.5 million. For Stambolitis and his industry colleagues. One and a half MILLION dollars.
According to sources, the phone call campaign – telling people to call council members to protest the tax and suggesting they vote the members out in the next election – was carried out by volunteers recruited by LCCW and made from the Comfort Inn on West Main Street. Their compensation was free food. Interestingly, the Comfort Inn is about 400 yards from Mr. Stambolitis’ restaurant, The Flight Deck. Coincidence, I’m sure.
The effort had some effect as council members have been getting calls from people who are not only uninformed, but also rude and even vulgar. One council member was cursed at and a female member had two men call her and tell her that she has no business being in government because she is a woman and women have no place making decisions.
The Lexington County Citizen’s Watch is a rabid anti-tax group that is, according to several state-level sources, funded by out-of-state interests. The head of the group is not a Lexington town resident, nor are several of its members/supporters. (It is not a large organization. L&M has heard only 7-8 regulars, but can’t confirm.) It was active in last year’s drive to defeat the county penny tax and claimed to be the reason for that defeat. As county residents know, no organized protests were needed to kill that tax.
It is an open secret in state and county political circles that the LCCW also gets occasional funding/support from American’s for Prosperity, a far, far right organization operating out of Arlington, Virginia. A major source of AFP funding is said to come from Texas.
Why, then is LCCW (and AFP) trying to tell the Town of Lexington and her citizens what to do?
They see the word “TAX” and they jump. They don’t care about anything but doing away with taxes. They would make lousy surgeons because they would kill a patient to extract a cancerous cell. And that’s what’s happening in Lexington.
The LCCW doesn’t care about Lexington’s infrastructure, progress, economy, safety, traffic, schools or citizens. They want to be able to say they defeated the tax so they can put a notch in their belt. It’s about their ego, not what the citizens want or need. For what other reason would this outside-influenced/resourced special interest oppose a piddly 2%, limited application, non-permanent tax in Lexington, South Carolina?
A prominent state official told Lake and Main that people want a house on the lake, but want to only pay for a cottage on the edge of a cotton field.
Apparently it can’t be said often enough: the hospitality tax is the only revenue source available now or in the foreseeable (and beyond) future. The state does NOT “owe” the town money from gas taxes. The county does not “owe” the town sales tax monies. No matter how much we think they should or even believe they could, nope and nope.
The argument that the roads “don’t belong to the town,” is immaterial. For one thing, the town is improving intersections, not building roads and second – so what?
Non-South Carolinians are crossing those lines to go to retail venues, the beach, Lake Murray, etc. And here’s the rub. They are using South Carolina roads. When the state legislature debated raising the gas tax to pay for highway improvements, forcing users of the roads to help pay for them, what would have been the reaction if groups from North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio or Canada lobbied the General Assembly to NOT raise that tax? What would be your reaction? Should they have a say? They want to use our facilities but don’t want to pay for them.
That is, in fact, what one of the LCCW members said on WLTX TV: “I want our roads fixed. I don’t want our taxes raised…”
Rather than see Lexington improve and progress, LCCW would rather the town devolve to a welfare colony.
Isn’t that special?