Contributed by Jackie Hai:
WBZ interviewed City Councilor Michael Flaherty recently (thanks for the non-existent date-stamp, 'BZ!) about the local option meals and hotels tax proposed by Mayor Thomas Menino on July 22. The increase would hike taxes on meals at local restaurants up to 7% and hotel room-rates up to 14.45% effective Oct. 1.
Flaherty vehemently opposes the proposal, which he likens to "dropping an anvil on small local businesses."
WBZ's automated transcript is a little wonky. For those who'd prefer to read the interview, I've typed up full transcript below:
JM: This is John McClain in the WBZ newsroom. I'm speaking to Councilor Michael Flaherty in regard to the local options issue, a plan to potentially raise meals and lodging taxes. Councilor, what is your stance on this issue?
MF: Sure -- couldn't disagree more with our mayor's proposal to impose a local meals and hotels tax. As I get across the city, I'm speaking to small business owners, restaurants, coffee shops, cafes and diners. They're struggling right now. They're struggling to keep their business afloat, struggling to pay their employees, to pay their rent and insurance, and so the last thing we should be doing is to impose something that potentially would further burden their potential customers.
I equate what our mayor's doing to dropping an anvil on small local businesses, at a time when many of them are contemplating closing their doors.
JM: How would you, then, propose to raise some of the revenue that's needed here?
MF: The issue here is this administration is taxing before managing. We need to identify wasteful government spending, we need to collect the money that's owed to our city -- for example the $66 million that's outstanding in parking fines that has gone uncollected over the last five years. We need to put pressure on colleges and universities to pay their fair share, by revisiting the pilot payment system. So there are a lot of things that we can do to get a predictable revenue stream.
The fact of the matter is that it's more the need to eliminate wasteful spending ... as well as the need to be more efficient. So those are my suggestions, but the last thing we should be doing is further burdening residents that like to dine at their local residents.
JM: So when you sit there at this meeting today, what will you say and what will your vote be?
MF: Well, I'm not voting for the local meals and hotel tax -- I think it's a bad idea -- and I'll be saying just what I had mentioned to you, which is before we start further burdening residents and tax-payers, visitors and tourists, we should take look at ourselves first, take our own inventory. Let's eliminate the wasteful spending, let's eliminate the overpaid consultants that permeate city hall and many departments throughout our city that we can no longer afford. Let's go after the $66 million that's owed in unpaid parking fines.
It's things like that, it's putting pressure on colleges and universities to pay their fair share -- the city currently gets pennies on the dollar for the services that we provide these institutions. At the same time recognizing the value that they add to the city and to the number of employees that they employ, the fact of the matter is that they can do better, just like our city can do better. So that's what I'll be saying when I oppose the mayor's anvil.