GUEST OPINION: Council should quit blaming BCU, SIC
By JIM VAN DUYN
Statements by some members of the Baker City Council portraying Baker County Unlimited (BCU) as a bumbling ineffective organization and the Sidway Investment Corporation (SIC) as a litigious unscrupulous developer have no basis in fact and have absolutely no beneficial effect in promoting progress and good will in the community or assisting each of those groups in conducting their business.
Six months ago, the City Council negotiated an operating agreement with BCU and, separately, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with SIC. Now it appears that a majority of the Council wants to renege on the BCU agreement and "tear up" the Memorandum of Understanding. What happened? It's apparent now that the Council didn't understand its responsibilities or thought it could dictate, delegate or otherwise lay off its responsibilities to others. The Council is now faced with the consequences.
How has the Council responded? First, by attacking the performance of BCU and SIC an effort that yielded no results, since both BCU and SIC are performing according to their agreements. That effort having failed, the Council is now proposing to reduce the funds that BCU receives to market Baker County and operate the Visitors' Center. This approach that someone has to lose or be punished is simply another way for the Council to avoid its responsibilities.
What is not being discussed is the fact that the City takes 30 percent of the TRT revenue that is generated by the lodging community, including SIC and BCU. The Council has spent countless hours questioning the performance of others but has never evaluated or questioned how effectively it spends that 30 percent. God forbid that the City might have to contribute from its share of the TRT funds when they can just take it out of someone else's hide regardless of the consequences.
BCU and SIC are doing what they agreed to do and, after a contentious period, I've been told that each acknowledges the other's position. If the BCU board is to be accountable for its use of TRT funds, it must have control of its resources and activities. If the Conference Center project is to be successful, SIC must be able to control the marketing of that facility and rely on the presence of a predictable, sustained, continuing marketing program. There's no disagreement that there must be clear, direct and frequent oversight because public funds in the form of the TRT revenues are involved. Neither BCU nor SIC are being unreasonable in pursuing their respective goals and, if the Council wasn't pitting one against the other, they could actually work cooperatively.
What has the Council done in the last six months to move the Conference Center project forward? Other than meetings and talking, the answer is "not a lot." Let's hope that six months from now the question can be answered in the affirmative. Rather than bashing an effective volunteer organization or slandering a local business with a proven track record and the willingness to make a significant investment, the Council should recognize the contributions of these community members and focus on its own responsibilities: financially contributing to an effective marketing program, planning and providing parking, and pursuing public and private grants available to public entities. It's time for the Council to perform without penalizing others. Put the 30 percent on the table.
About the writer
Jim Van Duyn is a former member of the Baker County Unlimited board and was president in 2004. He is presently a consultant as a professional architect for Sidway Investment Corp.