Commentary: No better time than now to heal festering wounds of Thunder Valley Rally
Now that the dust has settled on the 2017 Thunder Valley Rally decision, the city council, TVR Committee and Old Town merchants should focus on things they can do to keep this from being such a contentious and divisive issue next year.
• The TVR Committee should open its ranks to more Old Town merchants, and specifically those business owners who oppose the rally in its current form. Yes, the TVR Committee currently has three Old Town business owners among its 20 members, but let’s expand that to merchants who are not motorcycle enthusiasts. Dissent is healthy, and aids in the process of compromise
• The manner in which Trevor Gottschalk’s alternate proposal was summarily dismissed Tuesday is not going to help build bridges between rally advocates and the folks in Old Town. The better political tactic would have been to thank Gottschalk and credit him with creating awareness of the option of using Riverfront Park as a partial rally venue
• Because the TVR planning group is not an official arm of the city government, it is not subject to open meeting and public record laws. But, because the event is partially subsidized by city tax dollars, the city council should demand more transparency from the organization. Council Member Tosca Henry was absolutely right Tuesday; it was bad form for the TVR Committee to not provide anything to the council in writing prior to the meeting. To simply show up with a verbal proposal and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude is unprofessional. Going forward, the City Council should require the TVR Committee to provide all council members with minutes of their meetings within three working days of the meeting. That’s what the law requires of the city council. The TVR Committee should play by the same rules.
• If that is not going to fly, then Council Member Deb Althouse should provide her council colleagues with a written summary of all TVR meetings within three working days of the meetings. As a member of both the council and TVR Committee, she is the perfect person to be the liaison between the council and TVR planning group.
• Further, as Althouse is a member of the TVR planning group -- as were her council predecessors Randy Garrison and Terence Pratt -- she should have been the first to alert her council colleagues to the forthcoming recommendation of the TVR Planning Committee. As it was, she was armed with more information before the fact than were other members of the council. That’s not going to win trust between Althouse and the other members of the council.
• The city council needs to establish a timetable for when TVR is to become a fiscally self-sufficient operation instead of a taxpayer-subsidized event. Mayor Tim Elinski was right Tuesday when he described the event as a community argument being financed by local taxpayers. TVR currently has closed the city’s cost-recovery gap on the event to between 60 and 70 percent. Council members need to decide if and when the event will pay for itself.
• There is a school of thought that TVR one day will outgrow Old Town Cottonwood. Some contend it already has. Again, the city council needs to be decisive on this issue and establish limits. If indeed TVR is showing that it will outgrow the realistic confines of Old Town Main Street, the council needs to set some firm deadlines on when TVR moves to a new venue.
• Finally, last year was an election year. The city had too many people preoccupied with getting elected instead of tending to the festering wounds of what TVR has become. We do not have that political distraction this year. There is no better time to firmly address the many problems plaguing Thunder Valley Rally than now.