Chamber, council in heated discussion
In an unusually heated Goldendale City Council meeting Monday night, Chamber of Commerce president Tom Ireland told Mayor Clint Baze and the council that the Chamber had been “verbally attacked” by the mayor in a prior meeting.
“I had an appointment with the city administrator on July 16,” Ireland told the council. “Larry and I usually meet several times during the year to talk about various projects and things that are going on between the Chamber and the city. Our purpose was mostly to discuss plans for the bluegrass festival. Instead of having our meeting, we went into the mayor’s office, at which time the Chamber was verbally attacked with denigrating remarks by Mayor Baze.”
Ireland said the mayor cited a number of issues with the Chamber and spoke to him with raised voice. “The Chamber and myself were accused of being greedy for not acknowledging the city as a sponsor of the event,” he said. “We were threatened with termination of the contractual agreement we have with the city for putting on the events. There was a demand for another meeting with a review of the Chamber’s tourism record with the mayor, Larry, and myself. The administrator and I did not get a chance to talk about the bluegrass festival and the things we normally talk about during the year.”
Ireland’s remarks were part of his second-quarter report to the council and included a notice that there were 90 days remaining to conclude and proceed with a new agreement between the city and the Chamber. Ireland said the Chamber had been faithfully fulfilling its contractual obligations to the city, which hired the Chamber to promote tourism in Goldendale. The funds paid to the Chamber come from state lodging and hotel/motel taxes, which are specified to be used for tourism promotion. Ireland told the council Chamber events were drawing tourists to Goldendale.
“We are proud of what we have accomplished on behalf of our community,” Ireland said, “and we will continue to strive to improve our efforts towards creating a strong tourism industry for Goldendale. The Chamber is entering an annual planning and advertising cycle, part of which is event and budget planning. That was one of my concerns with trying to meet with Larry. Given the uncertain environment created by the mayor, I am asking that the city council give assurance to the Chamber that we will have a continuing relationship.”
Ireland addressed a suggestion that the city might hire an independent professional event organizer to conduct tourism promotion. “Should the council decide to hire a professional promoter, a salary will probably be paid for out of the lodging tax,” he said. “Will event and tourism funding then come from the city budget? The Chamber has performed the duties of an events promoter within the budget allotment and dictates of their agreement under the most scrutiny of the board planning of 10 board members and over 1,000 volunteer hours. Can you find an events promoter or manager who would do the same?”
Baze then responded to Ireland’s comments. “You say that you were verbally attacked,” he said. “Well, you know I didn’t verbally attack you. I just told you how I felt. And the other part is, we feel that the city should be listed as a sponsor on these events. You say you contracted with the city to promote these events, but yet if it weren’t for the city, you wouldn’t have the contract. And then you can put yourself on as a sponsor, but where did you get the money that you used to do the sponsorship? Did you take it out of city funds? Where did that come from, to say you know that you actually sponsored the event, when you actually using the same state motel/hotel tax that the city gave to you under contract to put on events. That I take offense to, and I think everybody else in here takes offense to the same thing, Tom.”
Ireland reiterated that Baze had raised his voice and threatened to cancel the Chamber contract.
“It’s because I care about this city,” Baze responded, “and I care about what happens to it, and I care about what direction it’s going. And I think that as far as the events that are put on, some of them are OK and some of them need a little work. But when there’s all the confrontation and just like right now, what’s going on, you come in here you say I verbally attack you, you say I do this, do that, you know it’s politics. People are going to say anything they want, it doesn’t really matter. But I look out for the city’s best interest, and I think things should change, and there will be a change.”
Every member of the city council joined in during the approximately 65 minutes that were occupied with discussion about the city’s relationship with the Chamber. Most the remaining time was focused on getting back on track to a constructive resolution. “Emotions are running high,” council member Len Crawford, also a former Chamber president, stated. “We need to take a fresh look.”
By the end of the meeting, the beginnings of a rapprochement were in place, with a committee of three council members assigned to liaise with the Chamber and an agreement that another meeting between representatives of the city and Chamber would take place as soon as possible.
“We can all talk as ladies and gentlemen about this,” said council member Lucille Bevis.