Only four of the eight members of the Tourism Board were present at last night's meeting (Chris McManus, Kate Treacy, Ivy Dane, and Selha Graham), but some interesting information emerged. First, Ryan Wallace, who replaced Calvin Lewis as Third Ward alderman, has also replaced Lewis as chair of the Tourism Board.
Also of interest was the proposed Tourism Board budget for 2022, presented by Chris McManus. The proposal is that $209,845 be allocated in the 2022 city budget for distribution by the Tourism Board.
Of that amount, $42,000 is to be used to repeat Warren Street Shared Usage in 2022, $28,345 for Waterfront Wednesdays, and $60,000 to support four BIPOC events in Hudson--$15,000 each for Operation Unite Black Arts & Culture Festival, Juneteenth Festival, Bangladeshi Cultural Festival, and Latinx Festival, which is happening for the first time this weekend. Lesser amounts are being proposed for such events as Winter Walk ($7,500), Flag Day ($2,000), and Hudson Pride Parade ($2,000).
Responding to the proposed budget, Wallace suggested, "Let's pull together and get feedback from the community." McManus assured him, "This is a list for us to start a discussion. This is not an ask."
In considering this proposal, a little history is in order. For many years, the City of Hudson allocated $20,000 annually to support events and festivals determined to enhance the quality of life for Hudson residents and attract visitors to Hudson. That money was divvied up among organizations planning qualifying events by the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee, a standing committee of the Common Council created in 2000. At the beginning of 2018, Council president Tom DePietro did away with the Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee and in April of that year assigned the task of meting out the $20,000 to the Finance Committee. During the budget process at the end of that year, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA) decided to eliminate the $20,000 from the next year's budget, so in 2019, the $20,000 for festivals and events was provided by the Tourism Board, taken from its budget which that year amounted to about $140,000. The money was divided among eleven groups. The list of events funded in 2019 can be found here.
The Tourism Board was created in 2018 by the lodging tax law, Section 275 Article VIII of the city code. The law originally gave the Tourism Board a percentage of the revenue from the lodging tax, never to exceed $250,000 a year. Early in 2020, the Council voted to amend Section 275 Article VIII to eliminate the Tourism Board's funding and to direct all the revenue from the lodging tax into the general fund. It's interesting that some of the loudest voices calling for defunding the Tourism Board back in 2019 are now members of the Tourism Board and seeking funding from the City. Of course, the only thing some recall about the original Tourism Board is the proposal to hire a consultant to help craft a strategic plan to market Hudson in a way that respected the integrity and character of the city, didn't relinquish telling Hudson's story to the whims of travel writers, and made Hudson's popularity as a destination more dependable and sustainable. That effort was reduced by critics to the notion of branding, and so it is remembered by at least one member of the current Tourism Board.
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