The following is an Op-Ed written Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth.
Over the last few weeks, this Council has started a 100-day process of establishing a renewed strategic plan and reviewing our department budgets line-by-line. It is my firm belief that we, as a Council, have a responsibility to boldly state that every planned expenditure in every department will be analyzed for effectiveness and efficiency. This includes some of Turlock's contracts for outside services, and one such contract had been awarded without competition since 1991.
It is because of this lack of competition over the Convention and Visitors Bureau funds that I added two action items to last night's agenda: the first motion was to initiate a 90-day termination of the current CVB contract with the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. After a frank and productive conversation with Chamber of Commerce leadership, the Chairman of the Board and CEO submitted a letter of termination of their CVB contract, which made a Council vote unnecessary.
The second motion was to create a process for all qualified parties interested in performing CVB services. This vote directs staff (with Council oversight) to create and solicit a Request for Proposals (RFP), review all proposals equally, and determine which proposal gives Turlock's residents and businesses the best option for CVB services into the future. Our city deserves to have a solicitation process that results in clear expectations for both the City and those executing CVB services, and the Council confirmed this expectation.
Last night's vote was not a vote of approval or disapproval of the CVB services rendered by the Chamber of Commerce up to this point. Last night's vote was not a vote about whether Turlock should have a CVB that delivers marketing, branding, and tourism services (which it should). Instead, this vote was an opportunity for this Council to state that we stand for transparency, competition, and accountability when it comes to all expenses, both small and large.
Choosing to reject the status quo, in every department, as we make these difficult decisions is what Turlock's residents expect from their leaders. I wholeheartedly believe Turlock will benefit from this Council’s choice to move away from any perception of protectionist practices.
Each Council meeting is another chance to send a message that we place a serious value on every dollar spent and every service rendered. Each vote is a chance to demonstrate accountability and transparency at City Hall.
I look forward to continuing a strong partnership with the Chamber of Commerce to better our community, and I look forward to the candid dialogue that will result from placing the contract for CVB services on a course toward open competition.