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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tourist taxes may be used to promote Hillsborough during RNC



Hillsborough County commissioners are looking into spending tourist tax dollars on promotion and marketing during the Republican National Convention.

As has been done in the past during the Super Bowl, commissioners are looking to use the tax dollars to promote Hillsborough County as tourist destination to what will be a captive audience.

The proposal from Commission Chairman Ken Hagan asks county administration to evaluate what if any money is available from tourist tax dollars for marketing. He also wants the report to set parameters for how the money can be spent.

"Under no circumstances will it be used for partisan political activity," Hagan said.

As part of the bid to land the RNC next year, the private groups soliciting on behalf of Tampa said no local public money would be sought to put on the event. Hagan said this money, if available, would be used strictly to market Hillsborough, inviting people who visit for the convention to come back. He said the RNC will be the largest convention of any sort to ever visit Tampa and so the county ought to take advantage of that to promote itself.

The board voted 7-0 to solicit information on what they can do and what money is available, including the board's two Democrats.

Democrat Kevin Beckner said he expects to see plans for how the money will specifically be used and that there are transparent safeguards put in place to ensure it is spent as billed. He also said he would not expect to see expenditures on things like food or drink for select groups of convention visitors.

That said, he said it's worth capitalizing on the crowds expected.

"I think this is a grand opportunity for us to shine," Beckner said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 4:23pm]


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