Checking Back on Lexington
Today is the Friday before the third Monday in January, and that means it’s Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia. This seems like an opportune time to check in on Lexington, and see how the Virginia Flaggers’ boycott of the city is going.
Long-time readers here will recall that, as part of their campaign to force the city council to reverse its September 2011 flag ordinance, Confederate Heritage™ advocates urged area residents and visitors to boycott city businesses as a means of putting pressure on the council.
When we last checked, the city had released its comprehensive financial report for FY2012 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012), that covered a period for about ten months after the council vote and the initiation of the boycott. The results were pretty good for the citizens of Lexington, but not so good for those actively working to harm that city’s tourist economy — business activity as measured by sales tax revenue, restaurant food tax revenue and hotel/motel tax revenue all improved substantially over FY2011.
So how did things go in FY2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)? As it turns out, by those same measures, FY2013 was another good year for tourism-related business in Lexington. Here are the numbers from the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2013 (p. 91):
Note that in each of those tourism-related categories, actual revenues exceeded the city’s own budget projections by several thousand dollars (last column).
So after nearly two years of a tourism boycott led by local SCV leader Brandon Dorsey and promoted by the Virginia Flaggers, what’s been the effect on revenues for the city? An increase of nearly $340K over FY2011 levels, led by a whopping 25.5% boost in restaurant food tax revenue in the past year alone:
I know Dorsey and the Virginia Flaggers want folks to believe that Lexington has turned its back on Lee and Jackson — a claim that seems ludicrous, given those mens’ prominence in local tourism literature (above) — but their boycott doesn’t seem to be having any more more effect than the”Boot Elrod” campaign did in 2012, when the Lexington mayor was re-elected with a larger share of the vote than in 2008. Unemployment in Lexington remains higher than the national average, but it has been for a long time, since well before the flag ordinance, and is substantially lower than in September 2011. The reality is that Lexington’s tourism-related business numbers are strong, and that part of the local economy is doing better than the U.S. national economy overall.
I sure hope Brandon Dorsey and the Virginia Flaggers decide to organize a boycott of tourism in my town; we could use the boost!