by John E. Moore Jr.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Springfield voters will make an important decision about the future direction of this city when we vote on a 2 1/2 percent increase in the hotel/motel tax.
The proceeds would be used to support the development of a center city civic park, build a recreational ice skating complex, contribute to the construction of the American National Fish and Wildlife Living Museum and Aquarium, and support four not-for-profit attractions in the city, including the Landers Theatre, The Discovery Center, the Gillioz Theater and Dickerson Park Zoo.
These projects will contribute to the economic vitality of our city, attract travel and tourism to Springfield, provide new tax revenues and jobs, and contribute to a healthy business climate. The new facilities and attractions will also provide a richer community for those of us who live here.
The new civic park will give a focal point to the center of the city. The Gillioz and Landers theaters, The Discovery Center and Dickerson Park Zoo add to the variety of attractions we enjoy.
A municipal ice rink has been ranked a top need. The American National Fish
and Wildlife Museum will be a national attraction, raising Springfield's reputa-
tion and offering entertainment and educational benefits for residents and visitors alike.
The hotel/motel tax will increase by 2 1/2 percent, but as a practical matter, few Springfield residents will pay this tax because we live in this community. Visitors to our city will pay this tax, which will provide attractions and benefits for them, even as it provides benefits for those of us living here.
The hotel/motel tax in Springfield is now 2 percent. The increase of 2 1/2 percent to a total of 4 1/2 percent would still place our hotel/motel tax at a level lower than most other communities. In St. Louis and Kansas City, comparable rates are 7.25 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.
The projects funded by the hotel/motel tax will attract further significant investments in our city.
The Conservation Commission and prospectively the Missouri General Assembly will commit significant funds for construction of the fish and wildlife museum.
John Q. Hammons has committed to construct a center city exposition hall, which will help attract future business and trade shows to Springfield. The cost of this capital project will be borne by the private developer.
The tax contributions in support of the theaters, The Discovery Center and the zoo will be matched by private contributions, again leveraging significant additional investments in our city.
The recommendations for the projects have come from broad-based citizen study groups and commissions, and have been endorsed unanimously by our mayor and City Council. We have a significant opportunity as we approach the Feb. 3 ballot.
I believe the projects included in the hotel/motel tax offer a balanced package to promote travel and tourism in Springfield. They also provide significant benefits and advantages for Springfield residents.
A fundamental challenge for us all involves the kind of future we want for our city. What kind of vision do we have? What plan can we realize?
Springfield is a wonderful community with many strengths and qualities to recommend it. Many of us make our living and home here, and we want good things for our community in the years to come.
There has been considerable discussion in the last several years about what constitutes a "good community."
At its heart, such a community has a healthy, vigorous economy. It offers good services, facilities and attractions. It also has a healthy community spirit and sense of pride.
The measures proposed on the February ballot will contribute significantly to our economic vitality, create outstanding facilities and attractions, and promote this sense of civic identity and pride.
What do you want for Springfield in the years ahead? I hope you will join me in voting "yes" Feb. 3 for these significant initiatives, which will shape Springfield's future in positive ways.
(John E. Moore Jr. is president of the board of the American National Fish and Wildlife Living Museum and Aquarium.)
General aviation terminal expansion is set to wrap by August.