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Marching madness

Posted on March 31, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun

As they work together to find a new producer of Sonoma’s Fourth of July Parade, the City and Sonoma Community Center shouldn’t forget the Tourism Improvement District as a possible funding partner. The entity, funded by a two percent hotel room tax, was created in 2012 to market Sonoma as a prime tourist destination. (More heads in beds means more revenue for the city, both in its own share of the 12 percent room tax and the boost in visitor-related sales tax.) The bulk of the TID’s $700,000-plus budget goes to advertising and promotional campaigns to lure tourists here, and the Visitors Bureau, to take care of them after they arrive. But $50k is reserved for Promotional Event Grants, the cash doled out locally to applicants such as the Film Festival, Vintage Festival, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market and so on. The reasoning: they draw people who need a place to sleep. Like out-of-town folks that come for a parade? Why not? Waving the flag in the hot sun is tiring business… The main requisite for this kind of grant has been that any special event be “off season” – November through April. Still, a July event is permissible under the guidelines. Then again, as an independent body, the TID, administered by a seven-person board, can write its own rules.

The fireworks show itself, which is not part of the Parade event, needs help, too. It seems the Volunteer Firefighters Association is always hustling to find the $45,000 or so it takes to produce the extravaganza. Why not fold that in to the parade pitch? The thought here is the formation of a new nonprofit board, modeled on the Vintage Festival group that revitalized an event teetering on oblivion several years ago, to produce the parade and fireworks show. The event would showcase the traits that made this country great: community spirit, hard work, and major corporate sponsorships.

Beware the latest twist on an age-old grift. City Hall heard reports of water customers who received a call stating that the routing number for their on-line water bill payment was wrong, so their water was about to be shut off.  The caller said that to keep service going, the homeowner would need to go to CVS and get a money order. Like the fake IRS guy and the grandson in a Canadian jail, any request for a money order or transfer is a complete scam.

Both sides of Sonoma’s First Street East hotel/housing/restaurant/swim club project are taking a deep breath after a long study session with the Sonoma Planning Commission. An updated proposal increased the number of homes, decreased the number of hotel rooms, made the cafe smaller and reduced building heights. The next step would seem to be a formal presentation and commission vote… Developer Ed Routhier has said the hotel will be of 5-star quality with rates on par with the Carneros Inn. Right now, a basic room there tops out at $750, with a Garden Suite at $1,550. What does it mean? If neighbors’ worries about extra traffic come true, at least they’ll be stuck behind some very nice cars…

Elizabeth Monnet has a deeper concern: Why are there no women on the Sonoma Planning Commission? “I’m delighted that we have three women serving on the City Council. However, the lack of any women serving on the (seven-person) City Planning Commission sets the wrong tone for the 21st Century. How about some outreach to recruit more women on this important commission?” Second the motion… Combining City issues, Joe Herrschaft weighs in on the project. “Hey, at least it will be silent of leaf blowers.”

— Val Robichaud

 

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