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A Panjandrum’s Panglossian Proposition

By JJ Gasparotti

There are movies about some catastrophic disaster impending and the people in charge aren’t telling the common folks. There’s the risk of panic and lamentations that common folks can’t handle the truth. This makes for great fiction. But it is a font of poor public policy.

Were you surprised to learn that each and every tourist that visits Laguna Beach costs us $4? Or that there are almost seven million of them, costing us nearly $28 million annually? Most folks have been led to believe tourists are an economic benefit for Laguna.

Recent columns and letters to the editor revealed tourists actually pose an existential economic threat to Laguna. The panjandrums in charge said nothing about it. They kept telling us, “Tourists are good,” and spent money to attract more tourists.

Way back in May 2017, the City Council formed a sub-committee, consisting of Mayor Bob and ex-council member Rob, to hear a free report from a panel of experts about the economic impact of tourism on Laguna Beach. They received that 17-page report on July 6, 2017—22 months ago. It detailed how each tourist costs the city of Laguna Beach $4.

And, that was it, off to staff for review. Like it never happened. Money kept being spent on attracting tourists and the annual council giveaway of hundreds of thousands of dollars of “surplus funds” to organizations who attract more tourists continued. No meaningful action about our big financial leak nor any thoughts on how to fix it.

Bob and Rob were on another mission. One to peddle ballot Proposition P, a 1 percent sales tax to fund squandering $250 million to underground the utilities along Laguna Canyon Road. Their biggest selling pitch was, “The tourists will pay for it.” One could reason that their argument about tourists paying for P and the sad fact that each tourist already costs us four bucks are anathema.

Suspicious minds could have concluded that Bob and Rob colluded and deluded us on Proposition P’s promotion when they failed to share the facts of life about how much tourists already cost us. Just like movies where the smart people think they know better than anybody else and conspire to save us from ourselves.

Without this suppression of vital facts, Proposition P should have garnered less than a quarter of the votes. If you get that out of touch with the real ambitions of your constituents, might it be time to quit your office and find another village to torment?

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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  1. Thank you for your column JJ. Agree that the Bob and Rob show need to take it on the road to another city and leave Laguna alone. Along with squelshing important facts, the Yes on P folks blatantly lied about fire facts in order to generate even greater fear to pass their poorly written tax measure.

    I do take issue with the Visit Laguna Beach tourist study done by Destinattion Analysts. Several of us actually spoke to the analysts. If you actually look through the glossy report and dig into the the basis for the facts, you will find they are nothing more than extreme guestimates based on a very small sampling. A huge amount of assumtions are made, not unlike the sort of analysis that local John Thomas continues to peddle around City Hall. So whereas tourists may cost us more money than then spend and we receive in revenue, I’m not sure I buy the numbers in that report. I certainly don’t support funding a visitor center to bring even more people to Laguna. In this age of the internet and social media, its known well enough.


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