Though the San Clemente City Council Tuesday approved tens of thousands of 2013 budget dollars for the town's Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association, some members said they want to wean the groups off city funds.
and were firmly in favor of allocating the money to the organizations, which use it to put on many community-wide events. Evert said the organizations provide vital community services, and Donchak said she saw the allocations as "an investment in branding" for the city.
"These events kindle our city," Donchak said.
was strongly against both allocations—$31,000 for the Chamber to print its visitor's guide and operate the banner program throughout the city and $44,000 for the Downtown Business Association for various events it sponsors along Avenida Del Mar and the alley improvement program.
Baker argued that the taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing private business groups.
"I understand that the Chamber and the DBA do good work in the city -- I get that," Baker said. "I think the taxpayers are tired of funding business organizations with their tax dollars."
Evert countered: "On the contrary, I think most of the citizens would be upset if we pulled funding from these events."
The Downtown Business Association uses the $44,000 to help pay for the , and other Avenida Del Mar parades and events.
Michael Kaupp, who heads the DBA, argued that the events have become so ensconsed in community life that they had a larger purpose than just bringing in business downtown; they make San Clemente a destination, bringing tax revenue.
He compared the downtown area to a park rather than a street full of businesses.
"It's hundreds of thousands of people per year, and it's a destination," Kaupp argued. "As I said, it's probably the most used park in the city, and if you look at what it takes to run a park, you're probably getting off cheap."
Councilmen and took a middle road. Brown agreed to the DBA allocation, but suggested a broader strategic plan to wean the group off city funds.
"I think there needs to be some point in there where the business community says, 'We got this,'" Brown said.
"I agree with Tim and Bob," he said. "We spent $413,000 over the past nine years...It's a big chunk of money. I think, like Tim said, there should be a way for reducing this amount."
Both allocations were approved 4-1 with Baker dissenting.