Chesterton Tribune

 

 

LaPorte County tourism fights back against Lake County takeover efforts

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a response from the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau to the comments made by Lake County tourism director Speros Batistatos to members of the Gary Chamber of Commerce on July 9, 2013. The response is from LaPorte County CVB President Patricia Harris. It is printed because Porter County is also a target of the Lake County takeover efforts.

Dear Mr. Hughes:

As president of the board of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, I feel I must clear up some misconceptions and outright untruths that were conveyed to your group during the recent presentation made on June 9, 2013, by Lake County CVA Director Speros Batistatos. Mr. Batistatos continues a pattern of outright hostility and threats to neighboring convention and visitors bureaus that is completely at odds with his stated claim of being interested in regional cooperation.

I was particularly upset to read quotes attributed to Mr. Batistatos in the June 10 edition of the Times of Northwest Indiana in which he absurdly claimed that “I think consolidation’s (of the various CVB’s in Porter and LaPorte counties) done, short of a couple of jobs that need to be eliminated and probably will.” This is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy for Mr. Batistatos to so bluntly predict that he will take over these neighboring bureaus and then have their directors’ jobs eliminated.

Last time I checked, the only regional organization empowered to speak for the various bureaus on matters of regional tourism is the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission (NITDC), a solid, seven-county effort that Mr. Batistatos withdrew his membership from because he can’t control the organization. Furthermore, he refuses to join the statewide tourism entity, as well.

I would strongly direct your attention to a May 15, 2013 op/ed in The Times of Northwest Indiana by LaPorte County CVB Executive Director Jack Arnett, who wrote quite accurately that if “Speros can’t control the sandbox, he doesn’t want to play in it. He has no interest in real regional cooperation, but only wants to acquire or merge the LaPorte County visitor bureau into a larger entity he can control.”

I cannot say with more vehemence just how committed LaPorte County and our county elected officials are to maintaining our own bureau here that works cooperatively with other bureaus. It is outrageous that Mr. Batistatos continues to make these self-serving and confrontational statements that do not serve the cause of regional cooperation, but only hinder that mutual assistance. Furthermore, there is no legal authority for him to spend Lake County CVB money outside of Lake County for anything other than promotional booklets and I suspect many of your members would be indignant were they to learn that CVB money meant for Lake County is being diverted from worthwhile projects or events in Gary to Mr. Batistatos’ chosen events or functions in other counties. I hope you will request a detailed list of his expenditures for the past five years and then you and your board determine if Gary is truthfully getting its “fair share” of CVB funds.

There is no hue and cry from either LaPorte or Porter counties to be represented by the Lake County CVA. He is misleading your members to say that a “fair amount of hotels in LaPorte County are writing a membership check,” when all they do is purchase ad space in his booklets.

Legislators from both Porter County and LaPorte County remain heavily committed to the bureaus in both counties. His empty threats of securing legislation to accomplish a forced merger or takeover are meaningless and should be dismissed for the confrontational rhetoric they represent.

I trust at the end of the day you and other recognized leaders in Lake County will prevail upon Mr. Batistatos to lay down the rhetorical sword he is so fond of using against his neighboring bureaus and that you will encourage him to join a regional organization such as NITDC and really start undertaking a genuine effort at regional cooperation rather than continuing to utter threats of a hostile takeover.

Patricia A. Harris

President, Board of Managers

LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

 

Posted 7/24/2013