For the week of August 19 thru August 25, 1998  

Give it back

The Sun Valley Ketchum Chamber of Commerce should refuse to accept $12,500 of local option tax money from Ketchum because of the strings attached.

The city council voted last week to give the chamber the money on the condition that it be used to create downtown events to attract people in the evening in the summer and to encourage retail shops to stay open.

The chamber had asked for additional money for out-of-area marketing, not for more local events.

More events would be a fine idea if the chamber had the staff to do it. As it is, the chamber just added two major events to its list last year and is straining to pay for the marketing necessary to keep visitors coming, especially in the winter.

In addition to operating the Visitors Center and a reservations service, promoting visitation and transportation solutions, the chamber organizes and promotes Wagon Days and the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour. Together, these two events attract thousands of people and take hundreds of man hours to organize and execute. The events survive because of the efforts of overworked staff and dedicated volunteers.

Last year, the chamber took on two new events, the Health and Wellness Festival in the spring and the Running of the Sheep in the fall. The chamber’s staff did not increase, but the events they handle increased by 100%. As the new events grow, so will the burden on the chamber.

The city’s desire for more summer events is fascinating considering the negative feedback it gets from residents about too much downtown traffic and too many people in the summer. It’s also ironic because the city has refused to experiment with trying to close streets that could become walking malls and events centers. Where will the new "events" be held?

For the city council to allocate funds for downtown events based on one council member’s single night on the town is ludicrous. If the chamber had asked for funds on that basis, it would have been hooted out of City Hall and told to come back when it had some real research to support its proposal.

The chamber should say, "Thanks, but no thanks."


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