At its Nov. 21 public meeting, board members of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority responded to criticisms of how the BCTDA funnels millions of dollars from the occupancy tax into advertising [“On the Defensive: TDA Board Members React to Criticism,” Nov. 27, Xpress]. They compared this negative criticism to a “slow beating” and said they did not get enough credit for all the positive effects of tourism, citing the same statistics that have been trotted out by the BCTDA at every opportunity.
I ask these same hoteliers and board members to take a look at how much they pay people working at the hotels and businesses they own and manage. Are low wages themselves not “slow beatings”? When they pat themselves on the back for the higher property values the TDA purports to create, do they also imagine what it is like for their own workers to try to afford these higher prices resulting from the tourism boom and from “elite empty nesters” they have specifically targeted coming to Asheville and driving up housing prices? Who sees those tourism dollars?
We do not need tens of millions of dollars of advertising to make Asheville attractive. We do, however, need to take a good, hard look at an outdated state law and ask our county commissioners to refuse to collect the occupancy tax until this law (put in place in 1983) is restructured or repealed to give our communities control of the resources we desperately need.
If hoteliers and small-business owners want to show they care about the future of our city, they can raise wages above a living wage, provide health care for employees and offer paid time off for all workers. The people of Asheville have had enough of being exploited, and it is time to abolish the Buncombe County TDA.
— Camille McCarthy
WNC Green Party co-chair