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BBB Taxes to Chamber of Commerce?

Updated February 14, 2008: The February 19, 2008 Town Council Meeting will discuss and approve the granting of our tax dollars to multiple private organizations. Is this what Wickenburg residents want? If not, attend the meeting at Town Hall at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, February 19 and make your voice heard. Stop letting our tax dollars benefit a few private organizations and their private agendas.

I don’t know how many Wickenburg residents realize this, but the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, which supposedly exists to support its paying members, regularly gets funding from the BBB taxes collected at Wickenburg restaurants, bars, and hotels.

How do I know this? I read the Agendas for upcoming BBB Oversight Committee Meetings. Here’s the January 30th meeting agenda:

The BBB Committee will meet on January 30, 2008 at 4:00 in the Council Chambers. Discussion will follow the agenda below:



Approval of Minutes of Meeting on October 5, 2007



1. Reports On Funds In The BBB Account



1. Discussion / Possible Action Regarding The Request Of The Chamber For $25,000 For Marketing From The BBB Funds
2. Discussion / Possible Action Regarding The Request Of The Wickenburg Arts Organizations For $20,000 For Arts From The BBB Funds




Wickenburg’s BBB tax is one of the highest in the state. Every time you eat in a Wickenburg restaurant, stay in a Wickenburg hotel, or have a drink in a Wickenburg bar, you’ll pay up to 11.5% in taxes.

When this tax was approved by our Town Council, the people were told it would be used for downtown improvements. The goal was supposedly to make Wickenburg’s downtown area more appealing to visitors, so they’d stop and spend money there. This generated a huge outcry from restaurant owners who are not in the downtown area — after all, why should their overall prices be affected to benefit their downtown competition? But all of this was ignored and the tax continues to be collected.

But where does that tax money go? Apparently, quite a bit of it goes to the Chamber of Commerce, a private organization that is supposed to exist solely to benefit its members.

So not only has the town instituted a tax that increases consumer costs and potentially reduces business, but it funnels the tax money to a private organization.

How do you feel about this? Don’t tell me. Tell the BBB Committee during Wednesday’s meeting. It’s open to the public and it’s your opportunity to make your opinion heard.

Last 5 posts by Maria Langer

12 comments to BBB Taxes to Chamber of Commerce?

  • Allan Hall

    It might be worthy to note that the Chamber of Commerce just recognized Mayor Badowski as Man of the Year for 2007. Does that stretch the reasonable expectations of an “arm’s length” relationship between the mayor and the Chamber’s request for BBB funds?

    Could businesses that are paying BBB taxes – but which are not located in the “downtown” corridor – also seek funding for marketing purposes?

    How many member of the BBB Oversight Committee are also members of the Chamber of Commerce?
    Just curious…

  • James Ferman

    This is exactly what I was trying to point out to you when I attempted to explain why i was going to the council meeting last month where they were voting to give that BBB money to the Chamber of Commerce. i tried to stand up and explain why I was disturbed by their actions and why I trhought there was a conflict of interest because of the 7 council members, 3 are either on the Board of Directers of the Chamber or in Mayor Badowski’s case, the ex-officio director of the Chamber. I, at the least, thought those 3 members should abstain from voting, but they did anyway and ofcourse the chamber received the money. I was also upset that noone else was there to speak up. The apathy in this community will reach up and bite us in the butt unless people become involved!

  • Sorry, Jim. I should have listened. I knew this nonsense was going on, but didn’t realize that the town was giving away its tax revenue to the Chamber on such a regular basis.

    I don’t understand the justification for it. The Chamber is a private organization that exists to serve its members. And it barely does that! Where does the money go? Who is accountable for it? These are the questions the townspeople should be asking.

    But, as you said, Wickenburg is full of apathetic voters. It’s easier not to care than to try to stop the Good Old Boy network from sharing their spoils.

  • James Ferman

    That’s alright, Maria. It’s all so unbelievable, who would think that an organization like the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce would wield such power in our small town? But, it’s certainly understandable when you consider that it’s the very people who run the Chamber who are voting to give itself money! Imagine, a fellow like me is considered by them to be a minor irritant when I dare to stand up and try to point out that we need to adopt an Ethics Policy to prevent such apparent conflicts of interest. EVERYONE I discuss this with can clearly see that this stuff is an obvious conflict of interest, but the Town Council can’t seem to grasp this concept.
    I can clearly understand your frustration and can see why you want to separate yourself from the town and it’s highjinks. After all you’ve been through in your dealings with the town, when you offer such a valuable service, is amazing. You have been met with obstruction in most dealings you’ve had. Unfortunately you are a concerned citizen who deeply cares about our town and you are unafraid to speak out against the powers that be and for your efforts you have been black-balled and stone-walled.
    If I were you, I, too, would want to separate myself from the town, even though you are a source of valuable income for it. Like you, I moved here because I wanted to retire and live in one area of the world which was untouched by alot of what occurs in big cities. We have both found that small town politics is just as nasty, if not more so, than what goes on in areas that we thought we were leaving behind.
    The good that you perform on your websites is what we need more of. Your ability to communicate and beautifully describe the lifestyle we live here is priceless. The Chamber, on one hand, says it needs all this money to promote Wickenburg’s heritage and laid-back lifestyle. Yet, on the other hand, it uses some of the money it receives to back Town Council candidates who want to accelerate the downfall of our town. These same candidates who receive money from and the backing of the Chamber also receive money from developers who will later approach them for approval of their projects and rezonings of land they want to build on when they are elected to the Town Council. It’s the blanket approvals of any and all projects presented to them that will accelerate the degradation and eventual downfall of our town here.
    I applaud you for your efforts to promote our town and bring to the attention of our citizens just what is going on here. Keep up the great work!

  • Daryl

    Is this all a result of AZ cities and towns being so dependent on sales tax revenue? I’ve watched Valley cities stabbing each other in the back, vying for new sales tax sources.

    Is there a better way to promote Wickenburg than the Chamber? If so, why hasn’t that entity stepped forward for funding in lieu of the Chamber?

    Jim, you’ve been painted as a NIMBY by your opposition, what do you think Wickenburg should do?

  • Daryl, are you kidding? What does the Chamber do to support ALL of its members? The events it pushes generate revenue for local lodging and a handful of downtown restaurants. Billboards and advertisements pushing Wickenburg as a “western town” are a lot of bull when our Western heritage is being overrun by higher density housing that is SUPPORTED by the Chamber and quickly overrunning the horse property and trails that made Wickenburg special. Clearly the Chamber supports only a handful of its favorites in town. Talk to local business owners and see what they think of the Chamber. I bet 4 out of 5 will admit that they only reason they belong is because they don’t want to be blacklisted. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that.

    Why doesn’t another organization replace the Chamber? How could it? When the Chamber has the Mayor and Council in its back pocket, it’s tough for the apathetic population of Wickenburg to make ANY changes in the way the town grows or is promoted.

    And what’s wrong with being NIMBY? I came to Wickenburg 11 years ago because I didn’t want to live in a place like the suburbs of Phoenix. Yet that’s what Wickenburg is quickly becoming. I don’t want high density housing in my backyard. I don’t want to lose what’s special about Wickenburg. Yet greedy developers and their friends at Town Hall and the Chamber are quickly turning Wickenburg into something as generic and unattractive as Surprise and Buckeye.

    What should Wickenburg do? Vote out the good old boys in the next election. Put in people who care more about the town than financial rewards they can get for themselves, their friends, and their families by selling out the town. Put restrictions on new development. Increase the fees for building new homes. Make those fees even higher for homes built in developments of less than 2 houses per acre. Work hard to get some new businesses and quality employers in town. Stop promoting Wickenburg as seasonal resort/retirement town so we can have a community where the year-round residents actually outnumber the snowbirds.

    It’s not enough for the Chamber to have an old, rundown sign on Route 60 inviting people to move their businesses into town. The Chamber should be actively looking for new businesses and helping them relocate. And the town should look at each new business for what it brings in terms of employment — not just sales tax revenue — and help new employers build quality businesses in town — instead of putting up barriers that no other town seems to erect.

  • Daryl

    I’m just trying to learn. I try and listen to both sides, ask questions, and, in most things socio-political, make a decision favoring the lesser evil. Dogcatcher or President.

    In my experience, NIMBY is applied to individuals who have theirs and don’t want to share. In other words, elitist. It’s a slur usually slung by the oppostion.

    In your view, should I have paid a penalty fee to the Town because I couldn’t afford a home on half an acre or more? I like to be able to walk to shopping, events and City Hall, as well as reach trailheads within a mile.

    I know you are much more involved with Wickenburg than I, my being a relatively new resident. That’s why I seek out your site on a regular basis.
    I haven’t attended any C of C events and don’t know the local business community much beyond Jorja, Brett, Toni and you.

    So, while I am often clueless, I’m not kidding.
    Thanks again for this forum.

  • NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard. I don’t think of it as a slur, although many people seem to use it that way. I worked my ass off to get where I am in life and I paid for everything I own with my hard-earned money. I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a NIMBY attitude. I came to Wickenburg for what it offered when I arrived, not for what the Good Old Boys are doing to it to suck money out for their own pockets.

    I don’t know where you home is or when you bought it, so I can’t make any judgments about it. But the town is annexing county land zoned for 1 house per 5 acres and turning it into 2 or 4 or more houses per acre. THOSE are the properties I’m worried about. Those are the properties that developers should pay an additional fee to develop on. They’re taking beautiful horse properties and turning them into snowbird subdivisions. How is that helping Wickenburg?

    I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and I quit when I saw the Chamber’s favoritism in action. I will not rejoin until its management changes.

    I urge people to speak up for what they think is right and wrong, but the people in Wickenburg would prefer to take the lazy way out and keep quiet while their town is turned into something they no longer recognize. I wanted to make a life here when I came 11 years ago — now I don’t. It breaks my heart to see the way they’re selling off the town, cramming in the homes, discouraging new businesses, failing to attract good employers, putting a highway right next to the downtown area. But who am I? One squeaky wheel can’t make a difference alone.

    You want to learn more about the town? Attend a few Town Council meetings. That’ll discourage you.

  • James Ferman

    Thanks for being interested in Wickenburg’s future! I don’t know how long you have been here, but allow me to introduce myself. I moved here in 1989, having lived in Washington, DC for 35 years previously. I am a captain for a major airline and have the ability to live almost anywhere in the country and commute to work once a week. I chose WIckenburg for probably most of the same reasons as anyone- open space, nice home with a little property, clean air, etc.
    I became interested in Wickenburg’s political scene a few years back when developer Richard Ringwood was proposing the building of a large number of lots in an area previously zoned as low density. I have been labeled by the good old boy network as a NIMBY, when in reality I don’t live anywhere close to where Mr. Ringwood is building. I probably am within 1/4 mile at the closest, and my home doesn’t face the area in question. This is a really stale old tactic used by the “network”- they will throw out demeaning terms even though they don’t know what they’re talking about. I became concerned when I saw our town government bend over backward to approve high density housing in this area, even though the majority of the local homeowners were against it.
    As I became more involved, I began to see just how “cleverly creative” this group was and the back room politics they used to achieve their goals was appalling. I do not have children, but I was concerned about what we here are going to leave the next generation of Wickenburg residents. I met with a large number of like-minded individuals here in town and we formed a group that attempted to initiate change; utilizing every legitimate, legal method we had available. After attempting to submit 2 separate referendums (which involved a lot of effort and legwork to collect) the town refused to accept them because of minor technicalities, never once willing to work with and assist us in correcting these minor errors. As a matter of fact, one referendum initiator even followed the town’s advice and assistance and was subsequently told he had an extremely minor clerical error by a high priced lawyer for the developer. The Town Council refused to assist him in reapplying- they threw the matter out. Here I am confused as I thought a town’s representatives were there to help their constituency.
    At any rate, I decided to run for council myself as I was tired of hearing from people that they were concerned, but none of them were willing to get actively involved themselves. I was told going in by a former council member that, if I was making a dent, to prepare myself for the inevitable smear campaign. This, ofcourse, is what happened, so I knew I was making inroads. Also during this process I had the town stage a “surprise” inspection of my new guest house as someone claimed I had a stove built in, but in actuality I never did. (I think this had something to do with the tax rate placed on a structure). (The inspector himself told me he thought this was harassment tactic).
    One of the things I was very interested in initiating was establishing and adopting an Ethics Policy for the town of Wickenburg. I have seen many examples of conflicts of interest and I think we have to have an established policy to prevent stuff like what is currently occurring with the Chamber of Commerce and the BBB tax. I think it is interesting to note that Alan pointed out that Mayor Badowski was honored as the “Man of the Year”. Does he realize that the previous “Man of the Year” was indeed Richard Ringwood? The year before that it was Jim Hartman who I believe was on the Chamber Board of Directors. The publisher of the Wickenburg Sun, Kevin Cloe, has been steadfast in his support of the Chamber and the candidates supported by the Chamber. Is it any wonder to note that he is on the Board of Directors as well? There are just too many coincidences occurring here.
    You asked what I would do. Well, apart from establishing the Ethics policy, I think we need to carefully examine a number of policies. Right now we need to increase the developer fees as our mayor has done everything he can lately to keep them low. We need to take a look at our Planning and Zoning commissioners, as most of them have been appointed. There seems to be an inordinate number of builders/developers, and realtors on it. For example, a candidate in last year’s council election, who was strongly supported by the Chamber through paid advertising and other support, came in dead last in the voting. Subsequently Mayor Badowski appointed him to the P&Z commission. A little favoritism? Apparently not as Badowski had appointed the same gentleman to the Town Council a couple of years earlier to fill a vacated seat. By the way, this candidate runs one of the larger Realty companies in town. Interesting, huh?
    We need qualified people to educate themselves and involve themselves. We need diversity in our government, not just the good old boys who do everything to line their pockets. What are we going to leave the next generation? If we continue as we are it won’t be pretty.
    I was labelled as a guy who was against all growth. In reality I am a person who believes in careful, studied growth. Do you realize that in the last few years here there has not been one proposed development in Wickenburg that has been turned down?
    I hope you continue to look into what is really going on here as we do need intelligent, educated people who will decide to get involved and possibly run to represent us. We need people who are not necessarily connected to business here who aren’t looking for ways to collect from any actions they may approve or dissapprove.

  • Daryl

    Thanks for your informative answer, Jim.

  • James Ferman

    Maria, thanks for bringing this issue and the impending meeting back to the front burner. I did some investigating of my own and asked the Town staff for a copy of the original resolution establishing the BBB tax. If you read the original resolution it is very clear and concise as to HOW the town is to set up the tax and which businesses were to be affected by it, but nowhere in this resolution is it stated WHAT the money will be used for. Who proposes a resolution which establishes a tax and purposely does not mention what the money is to be used for? In the original council meetings where this tax was discussed, there was discussion on why this was not to be mentioned in the original resolution. There was concern and yet nothing was done. It appears on the outside as if it was purposely left ambiguous so as to allow the powers-that-be to use the money as they wanted. NOWHERE in the resolution is it mentioned that some of the money is to be funneled to the Chamber of Commerce and Arts Foundation.
    I strongly urge anyone who is interested to go to Town Hall and request a copy of this resolution. See for yourself why I question this whole issue.

  • pipelineaudio

    If I didn’t love this town so much I’d be laughing.

    I’m waiting for Boss Hawg and Roscoe P. Coultrane to come around the corner. How much apparent corruption can people here stomach?

    It seems to me that this place is ripe for the taking for any crooks who would see it that way. Since so much of the population is not even in the state at any given time, its probably pretty hard to get a good chunk of voters together to get rid of hucksters.