Geary County Commission Chairperson Keith Ascher called a reporter from the Junction City Union in August to express his opinion on a recent Union article concerning the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The call took place the evening of Aug. 24 after the reporter interviewed Ascher about a county commission meeting which had taken place earlier that day.
The article, published Aug. 9, called into question the CVB's oversight by the county and its spending patterns. The day after the article went into print, the commission held a regular meeting, where several members of the public in attendance questioned the county about what was said in the article.
The Commission did not have a response at the time of the meeting, but Commissioner Charles Stimatze has since written a letter to the editor, which was published in the Sept. 3 edition of the Union alongside a response from the editor.
This article contains Ascher's response to the Aug. 9 article.
Commission Chairman Keith Ascher said that he has had people indicate that they thought the article was not a fair and objective article.
“In the journalism world there is a term of yellow journalism,” he said. “The definition of yellow journalism is journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration. That’s kind of the case in this instance.”
Ascher would, in a followup interview, say he felt these words were a gut response. He offered to retract them. However, in the interest of allowing Ascher's voice to be heard, Union staff has chosen to print his words as they were spoken in the Aug. 24 interview.
Ascher said in the followup interview that he felt the most important thing was to educate the public on what the CVB does in the community.
He said what he thinks needs to be done is some CVB 101 education for the public.
“And what I mean by that is the CVB is a self-sustaining entity based off of transient guest tax,” he said. “And this dates way back to 1978 when the county commission adopted a resolution to go with a transient guest tax. At that time, the city did not want to tackle that, so the county took it on.”
The most important thing to get out to the public though, Ascher said, is that there are no levied local tax dollars that are used for the operation of the CVB.
“Now, one can argue,” he continued. “Yes, there are tax dollars involved, but they come from the people outside our community that stay in our community. So yes, there are technically tax dollars, but the local community does not directly pay that.”
He said the purpose of the CVB is to promote and showcase Geary County and the community.
“And in reference to that,” he said. “You have to spend money to bring in money. And the article pointed that out. If you really look at it, the $20,000 on food expenses, coupled with other advertising expenses brought $1.7 million in return over the two and a half years. Now, I would say that is a pretty good investment.”
He said concerning advertising expenses, for example, the current contract with Kansas State University Sports Properties, was signed in 2017 when the CVB was still under the Chamber consolidation.
Ascher praised the CVB for doing their job in the community.
“The CVB’s job is to bring people to town, spend the night or nights and have a good experience,” he said. “And I don't see anything wrong with that. That is the whole purpose of any CVB across the state.”