By Trudy Wischemann
There’s a phrase from one of Aesop’s Fables that has become part of our American lexicon, shorthand for making a really big, stupid mistake, one motivated by greed. The phrase warns against killing the goose that laid the golden egg. I’m afraid the City of Lindsay is about to make that mistake.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lindsay City Council, under the influence of our resolute city manager Bill Zigler, voted to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for running the Friday Night Market. The RFP states that the reason for this search is that the old contract with the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce had expired. It does not say why they did not simply renew or renegotiate that contract.
In my mind, this amounts to an out-and-out take-over bid for a project which originated with the chamber of commerce under its dedicated director, Virginia Loya, who developed it over the years into a successful enterprise as well as community resource. What this looks like to me is that the City is trying to wrap their hands around the one thing in town that makes money—a golden egg, for sure—without acknowledging they’re strangling the goose.
There are other things not said in the RFP, primarily the purpose or purposes of the Market itself, which is a typical omission for Zigler’s crowd. It also fails to mention that the City staff is considering relocating the market from downtown to the borders of our city parks, either the Olive Bowl and Kaku Park, or along Ono City Parkway and the Wellness Center parking lot. The purposes and location are intimately connected: for instance, if the purpose of the market was to support downtown businesses by bringing people there once a week, then only the downtown location will do. The proposal to relocate the market away from downtown only indicates that this purpose is not high on the City’s agenda.
What is the purpose of the Friday Night Market? Is it to generate revenues for the City’s General Fund? Is it to provide a place for vendors—those independent, non-rent-paying entrepreneurs with trailers full of goods and pop-up canopies—to have a place to sell their wares? Is it to generate a social environment, even if temporary, for local residents to come feel part of the community? Is it a way to get outsiders to come spend dollars inside the City’s sales tax revenue boundary? Is it a way to generate interest in potential customers, both local and from beyond, to patronize our local businesses?
It could be all of the above, but without a stated priority system, the danger of killing off the purpose that has emerged through time and effort is huge. The Friday Night Market has become a much-needed social environment for residents of this community, a location for independent entrepreneurs to sell wares and an attraction for outsiders to visit our downtown. This take-over bid by the City is implying that the primary purpose should be, rather, to generate money for the general fund.
I have written before, and I will write again, that one purpose of city government is to support economic activity in a community, not become the boss-man. The disaster to Lindsay’s finances from trying to build and run McDermont Field House is just one red flag that should be waved over this polite-looking takeover.
The Friday Night Market belongs to the chamber and all the people who benefit from it. The Lindsay City Council should vote to return that project to the chamber, approve a contract to cover services and expenses from the resulting wear-and-tear to the city’s infrastructure, then see that those funds are used for that purpose. That’s their real job.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural community researcher who writes. You can send her your community development ideas c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.