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Sunnyside Lions Club never has sought lodging tax monies

I know how hard it is to make long term decisions in a vacuum. Having little or no real concrete information on a topic can create cloudiness surrounding what should be a simple solution. Case in point - the odd reasoning and misinformation used to deny the Sunnyside Lions Club a funding recommendation from LTAC (Lodging Tax Advisory Commission).

First let me say- the Sunnyside Lions made their request for Community Fourth of July Celebration funding from the Sunnyside City Council as we have since 1995. It was City Councilman Don Vlieger who asked whether or not the community event funding might come from lodging tax funds, and the Lions' original letter asking for funding from the city council was forwarded to the LTAC. The Lions appreciate his and the entire Council's interest in finding a way to fund the event; although it has been my experience the funds have generally come from the general fund.

The Lions never formally requested any funding from the LTAC, as the front page story of the Daily Sun News on June 8 might have led some to believe.

The June 8 article in the Daily Sun News makes it appear as though the Lions were asking directly for lodging tax dollars and had repeatedly done so in the past, as if that was the only funding source in town. That is not the case.

The Council's support is of great importance to this event as it signifies recognition of the value of community spirit and pride in celebrating our nation's independence.

The lodging tax commissioners were given misinformation regarding how the event is funded and who the funding partners of the community Independence Day event are.

What bothers me most is the Lions fireworks chairperson was never called to offer that information which might have helped the commissioners in their decision. I am not saying the decision would have been different, but perhaps the black eye given to the Lions would not have occurred. The remarks in the article made the Lions appear lazy and greedy...two things the Lions are definitely not.

All of these thoughts now bring me to this past Monday night, June 13, when I attended the Sunnyside City Council meeting to get a bit of clarification before submitting this letter to the DSN editor. I decided I would write a letter originally in response to that article in the June 8 Daily Sun News, which reported that the city LTAC had granted partial funding for a kiosk and no funding for the Community Fourth of July Celebration. But, I had a chance to talk to Councilwoman Theresa Hancock and City Clerk Deborah Estrada regarding the impact of the lodging tax commission's recent recommendation. Hancock and Estrada were helpful in letting me be on the podium to speak to the council - if only to again thank the council for its continued support of the community event. The council has approved the funding.

I also talked with Sunnyside Port Director Amber Hansen regarding the kiosk funding that was addressed at last week's LTAC meeting.. As a side note, the Council voted this past Monday night to override the LTAC's kiosk recommendation and voted to give the Port its $15,000 request.

The Council also reassured the Lions that while lodging tax funds may not be a perfect way to fund the fireworks show, this Council feels it is necessary to continue supporting the event.

I understand if I want the Fourth of July celebration funded by lodging taxes I may have to conduct my own survey of local lodging facilities to see if people are here on purpose to see the fireworks, parade, talent show, car and tractor show, and assorted other Fourth of July events. So be it.

I will say this in defense of the Sunnyside Lions, who again have been the planner and lead sponsor of the Community's Fourth of July celebration since 1995; we do have corporate sponsors, business sponsors and private partners.

I am sorry that Lodging Tax Advisory Commissioners Tom Denlea, Peggy Beeler and Chris Gardner, who were quoted in the June 8 story, were only given a tiny piece of the information on which they were able to make their recommendation. I question whether or not local motels have been surveyed to see if indeed the Fourth of July event does put heads in beds. All those out of town friends and family attending the parade and fireworks "gotta sleep somewhere." And as for the event being only a "family" event, what is wrong with that? We have never had any security issues at our events -before or after. And we do our own clean-up.

I do pray that the city will continue to see its way clear to help in celebrating the Fourth of July with financial backing. We the citizens of this community appreciate your support of the Fourth of July celebration. Do please come to the fireworks show this year, the parade and enjoy yourselves. Know that our city celebrates the Fourth and the Sunnyside Lions love throwing the party with the full backing of the community's support.

The event is open to the public free of charge and donations are taken at the gate following the event.

- Julia Hart is the co-chair of the 2011 Sunnyside Community Fourth of July Celebration.

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