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December 8, 2003, 1:50 P.M.

Laconia Rally and Race officials are of the opinion that the current vendor fee structure for Bike Week should not be modified this year because vendors have already made plans based on the existing fee structure (see Laconia Daily Sun article dated December 1, 2003). Rally and Race has apparently also been promoting the event based on the existing fee structure, although vendor packets are not due to be mailed until after the first of the year.

Charlie St. Clair does a great job promoting this event, and he would know what the effect of changing the fees at this time would be. Frankly, Charlie would also have to take most of the heat over any changes implemented with respect to the event, whether they are effective in 2004 or not. For that reason, his input should be valued and considered. It should not, however, be the final word.

The final word on Bike Week belongs to the people of the City. That is why I have supported and continued to support a broad-based committee to take input and make recommendations to the Council regarding the event. That process is ongoing, and the Motorcycle Week Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the Council should not be dismissed out of hand because of possible vendor reactions. After all, no one is saying that the event won’t take place if licensing fees are changed or if the City adopts a plan to assist in paying for the event.

Everyone involved in this discussion knew at this time last year that potential change was being considered. We dragged our feet through the 2003 event because of the difficulty in expanding the committee, problems with the scope of its mission and the mechanism by which it would conduct its affairs. These discussions were akin to the arguments over the shape of the table at the Paris peace talks: any excuse to avoid action can and will be used.

It has become clear enough through the course of these discussions that a majority of people in the city want the event to stop costing us money, and to begin making the city money. It is also clear that in this respect the tail is wagging the dog. If Rally and Race is concerned about the backlash from vendors over changes the city is proposing to make in the current year, it should be working with the city to ensure that it is done in the most beneficial way to all parties, rather than advocating the status quo, which is not what most people want. As the city’s unofficial ambassador to the event, Rally and Race should be advocating the city’s position with potential participants.

I further believe that the role of Rally and Race needs to be defined. If Rally and Race is the “promoter” of the event, there needs to be an agreement that spells out the parameters of that promotion. Right now there is no definition to the relationship between the Rally and Race organization and the City of Laconia. Someone needs to take ownership of the event. If that is the city, then Rally and Race is working for us and should promote the event according to an agreement with the city. If Rally and Race owns the event, they need to get a permit, show proof of insurance and pay the city’s expenses. Either way, this needs to get sorted out.

It has also been reported that the city is considering rejoining the Rally and Race board. You will recall that the city left the board due to concerns about accounting practices. Not that this implies any wrongdoing, it’s just that the city has different accounting standards than a corporation does. The city should not rejoin the board until it is confirmed that any problems that caused the split have been rectified and the books have been properly audited. This relationship has been too loose and ill-defined for too long. It’s time for the city to take a leadership role in taming the 600 pound gorilla that is Bike Month. The mayor and council need to demonstrate that leadership here and now, and they need to take control of this issue before another year goes by and it is once again “too late” to change.


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