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Has Downtown Madera Grown Apart From Downtown Association? Print E-mail
News - Opinion
Written by B|V|N Newsroom   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 21:31

Another Big Valley News Exclusive Editorial

Madera
- Thursday night folks who would never think of venturing past the railroad tracks into Downtown Madera after dark will stroll around with wine glasses or cider mugs filling maps with rubber stamps to win a $500 shopping spree at stores they’ve never shopped at before. Yes its time for the annual Madera Downtown Association’s “Candlelight Christmas Parade & Wine Stroll”.

Once the “Tractor Parade of Lights” is over, the wine bottles are opened and the hot cider or chocolate will start pouring. Folks will be given paper maps and told they have to visit certain downtown and near downtown businesses where their maps will be marked with a rubber stamp.

And of course everyone will then go to the soon to be out of business Pete’s Sport Shop to turn in their maps. Isn’t it funny how that has never changed? Every year Pete’s Sport Shop hosts the conclusion of the event. I guess that is fair. I mean who would want to rotate the hosting duties of the final destination of the event to other merchants in the downtown area?

The Madera Kiwanis Club will do a great job of organizing the event just like they do with the Old Timers Day Parade. The men and women of this service club are very dedicated to our community and should be applauded for their efforts. But what does the Madera Downtown Association do to support this event?

While everyone that attends this event will have a great time, the parade is awesome and the wines will be great, who knows what the Madera Downtown Association is or what it really does?

The downtown association is a non profit organization of the City of Madera funded through a portion of a special tax levied on businesses within the downtown area for parking facilities. They are governed by a president and board, and advise the Madera City Council on issues related to the downtown merchants and parking. In 2010 they reported $31k in revenue and $28k in assets. However in 2009 they reported $40k in assets.

The association is charged with marketing the downtown area to the general public and putting on events to attract folks to the area. Today these events include the Old Timers Day Parade in September, the Halloween Parade in October and the Wine Stroll in December. All of these events are also sponsored and organized by the Madera Kiwanis Club.

In the past the association has sponsored farmers markets, basketball tournaments, sidewalk sales, Christmas decorations, homecoming window displays and other events. The association used to maintain an office staffed with a person who would actively promote the area and be a face for the organization. That office would be responsible for ordering t-shirts and wine glasses, setting up parades or other events and the general work of promoting the area. Now the association is housed in one business: a business that prints t-shirts and wine glasses.

Anyone that has parked in one of the many parking lots downtown may wonder where the parking tax dollars are being spent. Brick planters on the corner of D Street and 6th Street have been damaged by grinding skateboards and bicycles for years without repairs. Other lots have weeds in the planters and hasn’t had anyone attempt to clean up the bird crap that can be seen every where. In fact in some lots the bird crap has bird crap on it. So what evidence is there to demonstrate what the parking taxes are paying for?

With all of the downtown events being sponsored and staffed by the Madera Kiwanis Club, where is the marketing money’s being spent? The wine glasses and coffee cups are being sold for tonight’s event which I would hope covers the costs of the wine and supplies. The City of Madera has waved the costs of the police force being used to provide security to attendees. The Madera Downtown Association doesn’t even have a website, a Facebook page, Twitter or domained email account. What does the association spend their $31k of revenue on and is there any proof of positive results from their marketing plan for the downtown area?

Many merchants in the downtown area have called for an end to parking taxes. Many merchants do not want to be a part of the downtown association. Only 15 of the over 100 merchants and property owners participated in the wine stroll.

In establishing the downtown parking special tax district the city conducted a vote of merchants and property owners. The vote was close but the city claimed they were also property owners and with the weight of their votes in favor of the special tax district, it’s creation was pretty much assured. Maybe its time for the city of Madera to conduct another vote in which the city has no vote. They don’t pay the special tax, why should they vote on a special tax?

There was a time the Madera Downtown Association served a purpose. There was a time when the merchants of the downtown area benefited from the association. Now only a few people benefit. Actually maybe only one business really benefits from the downtown association and they are closing their doors. Maybe its time for the Madera Downtown Association to close their doors too?

 

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