Editorial: Revisit the Visit Bend board

When the Bend City Council approved putting an increase in the hotel tax on the November ballot, Councilor Victor Chudowsky raised a concern about the diversity of interests on the Visit Bend board.

Visit Bend, Bend’s tourism agency, solidly backed the tax increase. Within the tourism community, there was a broader reaction.

Some supported it. Some wondered whether it would help them, and why the tourism tax targets only hotels, and some had doubts about the advertising and visitor data presented by supporters.

The diversity on the Visit Bend board should be an easy fix. Visit Bend is very much the city’s creature.

The city controls it to a large extent. The city contracts with Visit Bend. The city gives Visit Bend the money and the authority to build Bend’s tourism. Visit Bend develops marketing and sales campaigns to bring in visitors and events. Visit Bend’s board is appointed by councilors. Councilor Jodie Barram also sits on the board as the council’s representative.

It should also not be a problem, because Visit Bend is welcome to change.

“We are excited to expand Visit Bend’s board and initiate a review process of Visit Bend’s current bylaws,” Doug La Placa, Visit Bend’s president and CEO, wrote in an email.

Visit Bend is establishing an advisory council to build on the discussions in the tourism tax debate.

But the council should also be careful about how the board is modified. Boards that oversee public money do need a good balance of representation. They need other things, too.

They need talent. Board members need to be aligned with the goals of the organization. Yes, they need to have meaningful debates. They also shouldn’t be consumed by fighting among themselves.

That said, when we listened to the debates about the tax, Visit Bend’s board looked lopsided.

But as the city thinks about Visit Bend’s structure, it should also look at the length of the city contract with Visit Bend. Now, Visit Bend gets a one-year contract.

That’s become an issue when the lawyers look at long-term agreements for events, such as with USA Cycling. How can Visit Bend make commitments when its existence is debatable from year to year?

There may be a way to write around that in contract language, but the council should look at that issue, too.