A mud fence
With all due respect to Rep. Janet Maratita, her idea to choke another 5% out of tourists at a time when we desperately need them to come here is not her finest thinking. There are two major problems with this ill-conceived bit of chicanery:
First, HB 21-67 deincentivizes visitors from coming here. Most of them compare prices online before deciding where to book their vacation and a 20% tax on their hotel room is a big turn-off.
Second, the 15% hotel tax already in place has been subverted from its original intent and much of the money has finally gotten into the hands of the Legislature and, ultimately, will fund all kinds of boondoggle projects, thanks to that same Legislature giving full reprogramming power to the Executive Branch. Somebody’s driveway will get paved instead of an ad running in Japan, Korea, or China to draw more visitors to come here and leave their money behind.
In fact, it could be said that the promises made to HANMI member-hotels, and many others, that by law 80% of the Public Law 18-1 hotel tax would go to MVA for destination promotional programs has been broken. The money has been diverted to 50 other, far less important, projects so political favors can be repaid instead of going to promote our islands in order to bring visitors here to spend their money. Remember that tourism is still the only substantial source of income the CNMI has. Stealing the MVA promotional money is like a thirsty man drinking the priming water for his pump now instead of pouring it into the pump so he can have all the water he wants later. Short sighted? Like Mr. Magoo.
Stealing the hotel tax money and claiming “it is for the children” (via funding to the Public School System and Northern Marianas College) is still stealing and is still incredibly unproductive. Legislators, please don’t fall for this inane piece of “I-made-a-D-in math” legislation. Please vote this down. I hope you are reading this, Rep. Ivan Blanco. I know you can both add and multiply, unlike some of your colleagues. You asked for comments; the above is mine.
In short, the amount of respect due Janet for this idea approaches zero. Implementing her idea is like shooting yourself in the foot, then shooting yourself in the stomach to help cure the foot wound.
Bless Lee Pan’s little heart. He’s at it again, texting while walking is now going to be a crime, thanks to his House Bill 21-51. I’m guessing that the new legislation he should be promoting has something to do with chewing gum and walking at the same time. That would certainly generate more money for crosswalk maintenance at $25 a pop than criminalizing a Facebook entry.
If I could make a suggestion. One of the key areas of Lee Pan’s constituency is San Antonio village, a place that looked terrible before Super Typhoon Yutu gave it a savage blow. Now some parts of the main road look like a war zone. The suggestion is, come up with some legislation that takes many of these abandoned buildings off the eyesore list. Work up a law that makes someone be actually responsible for the slovenly mess. The real owner of the underlying ground should be responsible if no one in the lease/sublease chain can be found and made to pay for repairs or demolition. Now that is something that would really make a difference in San Antonio and all across Saipan. Think big, Lee Pan. Do something worthwhile for your constituents and for the island of Saipan.
The CNMI government buys something, lets it rot, and it become a liability instead of an asset. The MV Challenger is a prime example and the La Fiesta Mall is the poster child for this pitiful and criminal result of no one in government being responsible for their actions. No one’s head rolled for the huge La Fiesta boondoggle that still sits there looking horrible, smelling worse and losing money every day. Now we are about to come up with the NextGen version—Ugly Cubed. That is what the quickly rotting Mariana Resort will become. The pool and golf course are already well on their way. The hotel and villas will not be far behind. Rats are going to love their new home.
Please note that Rep. Lee Pan has made a preliminary report about this coming debacle. This is the same Lee Pan that has allowed his home precinct to fester and abet eyesores far worse for the entire time he has been in office. Lee Pan, please see the suggestion above for a possible solution. Pot calling the kettle black?
Now to cases. Why is this money-making asset not making money but losing it day by day? Because the Department of Public Lands has sat on this for several years without taking action. The only respondent to the request for proposals has waited for years for a land lease and DPL under at least two different department secretaries has been unwilling or unable to write an acceptable lease. A high school freshman with access to Google Search could write a lease in less time than that. What is really going on? I’m sure those department secretaries are getting their marching orders from someone very high in the Executive Branch, so it is tough to blame them directly…but someone needs to be held responsible. Someone needs to get off their respective butts and do the job. It smacks of collusion and self-serving government malfeasance at its worst or an unbelievable level of incompetence on the other. I really don’t care which, but as a taxpayer I would sure like to see somebody get off their ass and resolve this issue before another month goes by. Wouldn’t you?
No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
Can a people tax themselves into prosperity? Can a man stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle?
Bruce Bateman (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Bruce A. Bateman resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.