By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“Taxpayer money should not be used for the direct subsidy of special events,” Councilman Ted Miller said.
“It's unfair to use taxpayer money to manipulate the taxpayers into going downtown. That's not our job.”
Miller's was one of five votes against the proposed contract with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce to fund promotion and improvements for three chamber-sponsored events that are staged downtown throughout the year.
Miller voted with council members Laura Dubois, Erik Erichsen, Dennis Smith and Genaveve Starr against the contract. Mayor Candace Pratt and Councilman Ken Hays voted to approve it.
The request was proposed by the Merchants Group, an association of downtown business owners affiliated with the chamber.
Most of the money would have been used for advertising, but Joe Irvin, the city's special projects manager, said some of it could be used by the Merchants Group during its winter festival by offering pony rides or hot cider or cocoa to those waiting to see Santa Claus.
'Next to nothing'
“Five thousand dollars is next to nothing,” Pratt said in support of the proposal.
“They have been coughing up this money out of their pockets all this time, and it's time that we shared with them.”
That prompted an out-loud laugh from Erichsen, who said funding events like this should be covered by the city's lodging tax revenue, which is allotted to projects after funding requests have been reviewed by a citizen committee.
“We're not doing that with this money,” he said.
Miller worried the chamber and Merchants Group would come back for more money in the future.
“I assume this is just the first of several annual installments the city will be asked to pay,” he said.
Dubois noted the city last year bought new street furniture and put up new wayfinding signs downtown to make it more appealing, and added that the funding request fell outside the city's role.
Hays said the “modest request” was an investment in the economic vitality of downtown Sequim.
“To maintain the aura that has come to be cast over it of vibrancy and excitement is absolutely critical to the long-term prosperity and success of the city,” he said.
“To deny that would be being in denial, quite honestly.”
“Well, I deny that,” Miller said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.