The proposed Cannon Beach Food and Beverage Tax really comes down to improving the collective health, safety and well being of the people who live, work and vacation in Cannon Beach.
Fire Chief Marc Reckmann has sounded the alarm about the need for increased funding for the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District. Currently, there are no ambulances or paramedics in Cannon Beach. Medical Advanced Life Support response times are at potentially dangerous levels. Visitors comprise 77% of Fire Department responses, with a 40% increase in calls since the beginning of 2021. Cannon Beach Fire Department currently operates with just three paid employees supplemented by 15 dedicated volunteers.
During a heart attack or stroke, minutes can mean the difference between life or disability and death. In cardiac arrest, the chances of successful defibrillation decline 10% per minute. A structure fire doubles in size every few minutes. Our emergency dispatch and communication systems are antiquated and haphazard.
The Cannon Beach Police Department has just one officer on duty per shift. They are stretched thin with the increasing number of visitors, putting them at unnecessary risk. It’s unconscionable to put our Police officers and Fire Department personnel in potentially dangerous situations due to a lack of adequate funding.
The Food and Beverage Tax is a 5% pass-through tax collected from customers; the restaurants do not pay this tax! Research with 16 restaurants in Ashland and Yachats, as well as the Mayor of Yachats, found that citizens, visitors and restaurants have accepted the Food and Beverage Tax because it helped improve their city and ultimately benefited the restaurants. It has enabled Ashland and Yachats to pay for much needed infrastructure improvements and thrive. Complaints from restaurant staff are a non-issue, as their tips have increased with the total bill. Many of the restaurants reported it was easy to adjust to the tax using “Square” as it calculates the tax for them. Or, “you could just use a calculator” as one restaurant owner reported.
Will people stop coming to Cannon Beach and eating at local restaurants because of this tax? Not likely. Cannon Beach is a beautiful and very popular tourist destination, and visitor numbers are only going to increase in the future. On a $30 dinner the tax amounts to $1.50, and most customers will likely be OK paying that small amount for their own safety while visiting Cannon Beach. The increase in tourism is stressing and overloading local infrastructure and negatively impacting emergency response. It is the responsibility of the City Council to look out for the safety and well being of employees, residents, and visitors to Cannon Beach.
We need more funding for our Fire Department, our Police Department, our Water and Sewage systems, as well as for a multitude of other badly need upgrades and improvements to our city. With an untapped potential source of revenue, we should never hear “we don’t have money for that”. For the residents of Cannon Beach, would you like to have visitors help pay for these badly needed upgrades to public safety and infrastructure, or would you prefer to see your property taxes increase?
We can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and bury our heads in the sand.
Deb and Bob Atiyeh