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Thursday, 20 November 2014 09:35

Council Approves $249k Visitors Bureau Budget Without Report of Results, Stats, Data

Written by  Janie Costa
Council Approves $249k Visitors Bureau Budget Without Report of Results, Stats, Data TurlockCityNews.com
The Turlock City Council met Tuesday accepting, on a 4-1 vote, the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) 2014-15 Budget, per City staff’s recommendation, to allocate $249,253 on the basis that it encourages economic development in the City.

The adoption of the budget devotes Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) dollars, the additional tax on hotel and lodging services, to CVB services and activities.

CVB is charged with marketing for the community with the goal of making the City a more attractive place for potential visitors as a means of bringing in outside dollars. Per the City, the goal of the program is increased convention sales, tourism marketing and services.

The approved $249,253 budget is comprised of $138,000 administrative allowance with the balance of funds allocated to other projects and programs specific to the plan. The allowance includes a new event planner position, which would be shared between the City, Chamber, CVB and Turlock Downtown Association. A $111,253 budget for various elements relating to the promotion of tourism is also included.

The Council approved the $111,253 allotment, which includes $10,000 for Directory and Visitors’ Guides, $45,000 for community funding, $10,000 for official city maps, $4,000 for media tourism advertising, $1,200 for web hosting and domain fees, $1,000 for smart phone technology, $5,000 for new and upgraded equipment, $2,000 for conferences, $2,000 for event hosting and receptions, $1,000 for travel, and $3,000 for the Carnegie Weekend Visitors Center.

During the Meeting, Turlock's Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development Maryn Pitt noted benefits derived by the City from the CVB and Chamber while also mentioning that the program budget is a work in progress.

“The City actually benefits from a great deal of the economic development materials that are printed as a result of the efforts of the CVB that we include in many of our outreaches to potential employers and companies and organizations who are looking to come to Turlock,” said Pitt.

During the Council’s discussion on the matter, many concerns were raised regarding the effectiveness of the CVB and logistically, how it might improve.

Councilmember Amy Bublak inquired to CVB representatives present at the meeting regarding past effectiveness; she inquired regarding the number of downloads of the CVB app, popular devices used to access the website, most searched terms on the CVB website, and social media presence.

“As I’m reading this looking and looking for results, and data and statistical analysis, all I have is expenditure stuff, I don’t have any projections of revenue what you did in the last couple years, what worked, what didn’t work...what we can anticipate in six months, what we can anticipate in a year. And with $250,000...I think we should just have that,” said Bublak.

“And I’m not saying that you guys aren’t the people who should have this [the contract], I’m just saying we should have this information.”

TurlockCityNews.com sent an email to Turlock Chamber CEO Sharon Silva, CVB Director Desa Cammack, and City of Turlock Economic Development's Mayrn Pitt on Nov. 14 requesting stats and data but did not receive a response from any of them.

Cammack did not have the number of app downloads on hand at the meeting, noted that most traffic does come from PC users, and stated the most common search terms include “ag,” “Turlock” and “dining.”

“Facebook is growing, we could definitely be doing some paid advertising to encourage the likes, shares and comments, but it has continued to grow, it has continued to go forward,” said Cammack in response to Bublak’s questions regarding social media presence.

As of Wednesday night, the Turlock Convention & Visitors Bureau Facebook had 858 likes.

Bublak, the lone dissenting vote, favored waiting to vote on the matter until the CVB and Chamber could provide statistics, data, and a plan of action before allocating the funds; she also called for a business plan preceding a decision.

Noting the $3,000 allotment for the Carnegie Weekend Visitors Center, Bublak mentioned the California State University, Stanislaus Art Space on Main as a potential place to serve in the interim of the CVB during weekends and extended hours instead of the Carnegie Center. The CSU gallery is open Monday 12- 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 9 p.m., and is closed Sunday.

Bublak proposed splitting the $3,000 allotment in half to share between the Carnegie Center and the gallery.

“I’d rather us like slow it down for just a second and wait and vote on it when we get the statistics...Right now it’s predicated on emotion, it’s not on factual data, and that’s a little bit tough for me.”

Bublak also questioned the printed maps and directories, which are provided to local hotels and the CVB, and the $20,000 that is designated toward those materials in the budget.

“When we’re handing out a bunch of paper, and people are far more inclined to use apps, and we can force that...we can probably force the hotels to [use the apps and print]...we can save money there,” said Bublak concerning the $10,000 allotment budgeted toward maps.

However, members of the CVB said that maps and directors remain popular.

“They’re a hot commodity, especially with our hoteliers, with our visitors that come in...so much so that we came out with a separate map called the Attraction Map,” said Cammack.

“I thought about two years ago we would quit printing the maps...literally, I’m not exaggerating...there’s two to three every day [that come in for the map],” Sharon Silva, Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO.

Councilmember Bill DeHart, though ultimately voting to approve the budget, voiced concern regarding the fact that no statistics or data on the current effectiveness of the services offered by the CVB were presented.

“While I understand the concerns about having background information and statistics, i think that one of the things that we do need to keep in mind is that the effort we are expending at this particular point is evolving, it’s a working document, it’s a spending plan.”

DeHart commended the groups for their vision and willingness to adapt going forward for the Council’s need for additional information.

“I can, without reservation, wholeheartedly endorse and support this plan [without the] need for scientific empirical, voluminous data.”

“I’d just as soon not see us stop dead in the water...We gotta keep moving forward,” said DeHart.

DeHart noted the “Mayor’s Select Task Force on Economic Development,” stating that the Chamber and CVB’s goals are all similarly aligned.

“Therefore I would support the plan before us,” concluded DeHart.

Councilmember Steven Nascimento spoke on the role of the Convention and Visitors Bureau as a whole.

“You have to pursue activities to get people to stay in the community,” said Nascimento. “That’s part of the goal here, to get people to stay in hotels, not just visit and then go home.”

Noting the progress of the City in the past 12 to 13 years, former City Council candidate Donald Babadalir spoke regarding the matter during the public comments section with questions regarding the brief plan offered in the Council Agenda.

“I’m very happy that the Chamber is pushing, in terms of marketing...we need to attract more business over here,” said Babadalir.

“I was just somewhat curious as to why there was only a two page summary...that kind of raises some questions,” added Babadalir, also stating that he wished to see more of how money is being distributed and allocated.

Sergio Alvarado, former City Council candidate and Parks, Art, and Recreation Commissioner, also spoke regarding the budget.

“Half of this money won’t even be seen by taxpayers because it’s going to be held up in administrative costs,” said Alvarado concerning the $138,000 associated with administrative costs.

“$250,000 is quite a bit of money,” said Alvarado. “That was five times the amount of money that was budgeted for roads last year.”

“It’s just a major concern of mine that that much money is [going to] administrative costs.”

Bublak again raised concerns with the project.

“If I’m supposed to represent the public at large, I need to let them know that I wouldn’t spend $250,000 of my own personal money, or theirs, without knowing what I’m getting for it,” said Bublak. “I’m sure that they can give us that information...but it’s not here...that’s my only concern.”

Nascimento moved to approve with condition that CVB and Chamber comes before the Council again with an action plan, with cost assessments to review and a proposal to shift their budget in line with the City’s.

Roy Wasden, City Manager, had conversations with the groups regarding the possibility and feasibility of aligning the CVB and Chamber’s fiscal year with the City’s fiscal year.

Councilmember Forrest White was in favor of the project overall, calling the administrative budget cheap, and necessary if Turlock wanted to be competitive in the CVB world.

“If the hoteliers aren’t making money, the TOT doesn’t exist,” said White. “We can talk all we want about tourism, but what’s our occupancy rate? And if we’re filling the hotels and motels, and doing well, then we’re a successful CVB.”

“I don’t care how many hits are on the computer, if they’re not renting a room over night, we’re in trouble, because they’re the ones paying the bill,” said White. 


Related Article:
Mayor Lazar Votes to Give Chamber $249,000 Before Leaving Office, Now on Chamber Board

Comments (43)

  1. It's clear as day

Does nobody see that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed Bill Dehart and Forrest White? The Chamber also endorsed Steven Nascimento last election. Now John Lazar and Forrest White are leaving because people are tired of this ballroom handout of tax...

Does nobody see that the Chamber of Commerce endorsed Bill Dehart and Forrest White? The Chamber also endorsed Steven Nascimento last election. Now John Lazar and Forrest White are leaving because people are tired of this ballroom handout of tax payer money.

Of course a quarter million dollars was going to be handed to them with no demand for tax payer spending accountability.

Can the new Council put a stop to this scandal?

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  1. BS!

This is such BS! The commerce doesn't promote my business because I'm not a member so the city isn't helping me! I don't sign my name because the city and commerce will blacklist me even more. I hate this kind of politics!

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  1. Call Curtis TV news

Someone should call the TV stations and get this investigated. This has to be a misuse of funds and probably illegal.

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  1. Bublak Out!

Looks like the Chamber hasn't liked Bublak's questioning for a while now. The even endorsed whack job Mary Jackson when they endorsed Steven Nascimento too. Thanks for bringing that up.

Looks like the Chamber hasn't liked Bublak's questioning for a while now. The even endorsed whack job Mary Jackson when they endorsed Steven Nascimento too. Thanks for bringing that up.
https://www.turlockcitynews.com/component/content/article?id=2445

Nascimento is showing his two face a lot more. So now we know Nascimento teamed up with the Chamber to promote the Measure B road tax and Mike Brem for Mayor and both failed. Both campaigns were illegal too. That tells me Nascimento is probably doing some questionable stuff that needs to be investigated.

Bublak did her job and is probably waiting for the new Council elected people to be seated and start fixing what people like Lazar, Nascimento and White have lied about and wasted money on.

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  1. Still confused

I am still confused about is this the Convention and Visitor Bureau or the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. I think some of these conspiracy theorists don't get that the money does not go to the Chamber of Commerce at all. It is totally separate. It...

I am still confused about is this the Convention and Visitor Bureau or the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. I think some of these conspiracy theorists don't get that the money does not go to the Chamber of Commerce at all. It is totally separate. It doesn't matter if the Chamber endorsed anyone because it's not like the money goes to the Chamber.

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  1. Re: Forest

Forest argument that the TOT tax is paying the bill therefore let the money flow to whoever is currently getting that money is flawed logic. Correlation does not imply causation. Thank goodness that was his last council meeting! Why don't...

Forest argument that the TOT tax is paying the bill therefore let the money flow to whoever is currently getting that money is flawed logic. Correlation does not imply causation. Thank goodness that was his last council meeting! Why don't politicians spend public money the same way they would spend their own money. Do they all feel they owe the chamber political favors? Is anyone else concered that the chamber receives public funds and also operates a political action committee that donates to candidates? So much corruption in such plain sight. Props to Amy for being a voice of reason. Keep that lady in office!

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  1. PF Flyer

I agree: Bublak is on the outs. She will stand on her head if that's what it takes to win her next election. In which case the voters will see her for the desperate person that she is.

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  1. Turlocker

The biggest question I have is who comes to Turlock as a tourist? We have nothing to offer sure we have a few historic buildings but other than that what do we really have to offer nothing this is a pit stop. Most of the people who stay at the...

The biggest question I have is who comes to Turlock as a tourist? We have nothing to offer sure we have a few historic buildings but other than that what do we really have to offer nothing this is a pit stop. Most of the people who stay at the hotels are staying the night or are in town on business. they did not say lets go to Turlock for a visit it is so fun. This whole thing sounds like someone is going to profit and I doubt it will be Turlock.

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  1. Dehart not conservative

Councilman Bill DeHart is not a true conservative nor a fiscally responsible representative of the tax payers when spending money like this. He questioned the city manager and city attorney about 2 illegal investigations Councilwoman Bublak...

Councilman Bill DeHart is not a true conservative nor a fiscally responsible representative of the tax payers when spending money like this. He questioned the city manager and city attorney about 2 illegal investigations Councilwoman Bublak requested and that the Turlock Police union asked for his help on dealing with manager Roy Wasden and attorney Phaedra Norton but then voted to give them a pay raise and 5 year contracts totaling over a MILLION dollars. Now DeHart questioned the Chamber like Bublak asked but then voted to give the a quarter of a MILLION dollars without showing him any information on return on investment or any information on spending plans.

We knew Councilman Forrest White and Mayor John Lazar would make a back room deal like this but that's why the people booted them out. We also know Councilman Steven Nascimento lies and goes where the breeze blows him and it's always against the tax payers. But DeHart has let us all down at the police department because of a few rich people. Twice now. Maybe he should step down before an investigation shows he is corrupt?

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This is totally a payoff to Sharon Silva and the Chamber. If you want to see the underbelly of Turlock corrupt politics - look no further than Silva and the Chamber. Glad we as the residents are cleaning house - two more years Nasimiento - the...

This is totally a payoff to Sharon Silva and the Chamber. If you want to see the underbelly of Turlock corrupt politics - look no further than Silva and the Chamber. Glad we as the residents are cleaning house - two more years Nasimiento - the want-to-be carrier politician will be voted out and hopeful Sharon Silva sees the writing on the wall also.

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0 #43 Now we know why 2015-01-28 08:50
Turlock Chamber of Commerce and the City of Turlock for marketing and promoting our city. This is what you voted for Soiseth cult members and Fransen brainwashed sheeple. Mayor John Lazar kept Turlock's leadership funded and together to accomplish so much during the recession. Now Soiseth is tearing it all apart.
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0 #42 Truth? 2015-01-14 13:22
Is it true now that John Lazar is on the Board he and Sharon Silva are firing people who don't agree with them and who wanted to turn over the meager "results" to the city that Council Member Amy Bublak requested over a month and a half ago?
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0 #41 Is change happening? 2015-01-09 13:39
I heard the Chamber CEO made Desa Cammak resign or quit because Councilwoman Bublak was demanding results and they couldn't show any. Is it true?

Is it true the Chamber board is going to be investigated for misuse of funds and owes the City of Turlock money and has to send a refund check to all citizens of Turlock for money they took from the city and didn't work for?

Turlock news please find out!

Thank you Councilwoman Bublak!
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0 #40 Clarify Chamber 2014-12-13 16:52
Can anyone clarify if this is the Turlock Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitors Bureau? It is not clearly explained here in relation to who is the contract with from the City of Turlock.

There also seems to be a connection to the City of Turlock giving government tax dollars collected to a politically active Turlock Chamber of Commerce's Turlock Action for Business Political Action Committee. The TABPAC endorsed incumbents Forrest White and Bill DeHart in the last election. Could this be said to have happened because those sitting on the Council gave the TABPAC funding through the Chamber of Commerce.
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0 #39 LOL 2014-12-10 11:44
Turlock chamber of commerce does so much for the community?! Like what? Creating some made up job "event coordinator" with funds stolen from already struggling people for some connected club member that's not skilled enough to find a real job on his/her own? Lol congrats, you decreased unemployment by one person while robbing thousands to do so!
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0 #38 More? 2014-12-10 09:31
We already do more than any other non profit group so what more do you want? Do you want us to take time of ours that is worth way more than yours to show our work? Move on and do something for the community like all of us at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce.
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0 #37 Now we know why 2014-12-09 18:44
No wonder why the chamber of commerce didn't need to give the council results or the stats councilwoman Amy Bublak asked for. This was already a done deal people. Money in the bank thanks to the chamber's own board member with the inside persuasion!

Mayor Lazar Votes to Give Chamber $249,000 Before Leaving Office, Now on Chamber Board
https://www.turlockcitynews.com/news/item/4317-mayor-lazar-votes-to-give-chamber-249-000-before-leaving-office-now-on-chamber-board
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0 #36 Well said. 2014-11-26 08:55
Speaking on the "level of frustration" in Turlock, add to that a failing Common Core implementation in education, unreal rise in homelessness, rise in crime and low morale in general. Clearly, we are being punished for something. I wish I knew why?
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0 #35 PUH-leeeeeez 2014-11-25 20:34
Hey Name Dropper (aka DJ hates the Chamber), last time I checked no one but you named any names in association with the mismanagement of funds other than those folks who were part of the "marketing plan" for the Chamber and CVB. Why are you dragging all these other people into it? Is there something else we should know about? Or do you just like stroking your own ego because you rattle off a half dozen names of people who do business here in town? If they're such awesome leaders and pillars of the community then why aren't they demanding accountability from our local government? Or, like most top-feeders, maybe they just don't care as long as they're getting theirs. Would they approve a $250,000 budget in their businesses without an outline, statistical data or ROI? Thank God someone has the b*lls to point out the total b.s. that is happening in this town. If you read these posts, you can hear the level of frustration in our community. Road funds/taxes totally mismanaged, fewer cops on the street, a new mayor who has hidden himself in the interim, and yet the Chamber, CVB, City and Downtown Assoc can just merrily skip along spending hundreds of thousands without having to answer to their constituents. Where are the Turlock Elite now?!
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0 #34 What is the truth? 2014-11-25 16:56
I do not believe for a second that the city does not have money for road repair.
How did the $ 150,000 magically appear for the cost overrun for the Monte Vista Repaving.
See the excerpt from a previous T.C.N. article.

Additionally the Council unanimously approved the appropriation of an additional $150,000 for the Monte Vista Avenue Rehabilitation Project from the City’s Gas Tax Fund.
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