|Photo: Bruce Gilbert|Newsday|
The board then turned its attention to financial support for community events. It will be remembered that for years the City, in its annual budget, allocated $20,000 to support festivals and events in Hudson. Recipients of a share of the money have in the past been, among others, Flag Day, Winter Walk, the Hudson Pride Parade, the Black Arts and Culture Festival, the Bangladeshi Festival, and the Halloween Parade. For more than a decade, the money was distributed by the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee. Last year, after Council president Tom DePietro abolished the AET Committee at the beginning of 2018, the money was distributed by the Finance Committee. This year, the $20,000 was not included in the city budget. This was done, apparently, with the hope that the Tourism Board would provide money out of its budget.
Last night, when Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Tourism Board, presented the possibility, board member Jamie Smith Quinn responded, "The budget we have now is not adequate." (The Tourism Board currently has $140,000.) She then said, "It's our mandate to market, right?"
Dillon argued that funding events was worthy discussion. "As a Tourism Board, we need to open it up to anything that attracts people to Hudson." Board member Ted Gramkow concurred. "It's the duty of the board to have a parallel initiative for spending dollars. Can we create more festivals and make festivals better?"
Quinn suggested there were other places for events to get money, naming as one Columbia County Tourism, and expressed the opinion that the Tourism Board should not be giving out grants. Dillon had argued that some events relied on support from the City, noting that if the Halloween Parade didn't get funding, it wouldn't happen. Responding to this, Quinn asked, "If it's so important, why didn't [the City] fund it?" Board member Jeff Hunt wondered too why the City had dropped the $20,000 from the budget.
Hunt said if the board were to use $20,000 of its budget to fund events, there needed to be established procedures. Volo said he would investigate the procedures that had been put in place by the now defunct Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee. Board member Ellen Thurston offered her assistance in reviewing and establishing procedures.
On the topic of the Tourism Board's mandate, the law that created the board is the same law that established a lodging tax in Hudson: Chapter 275, Article VIII of the City Code, enacted in March 2017. According to the law, the board is "empowered to take all reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and daytrip visitors by making use of the funds set aside by the City Treasurer." The problem may with the language of the law or with now the term market is defined--narrowly or broadly.
In an interview on WGXC last week, Council president Tom DePietro talked about the Tourism Board and its mandate. He told of a meeting he and Mayor Rick Rector had with two representatives of the lodging group early on in 2018. As DePietro tells the story, "We asked them what they were hoping for [from the lodging tax]. They did not talk about branding or marketing. They said create more amenities and a friendly, a better city that people are going to want to do things in." (The interview can be heard here. The comments quoted begin at 13:00.)
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