Community Board: Rally stalling reflects on leadership

Riders make their way down San Benito Street on the last day of the rally. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

With Hollister officials once again haggling with a promoter over the motorcycle rally contractual arrangement, and again putting the signature event in doubt, it’s time for city leaders to look in the mirror.

This habitual on-again, off-again planning for the Hollister motorcycle rally, held over Independence Day weekend or close to it on the calendar, points to mishandled leadership at the top of city government causing continued disarray. Since some sort of potentially dire problem happens to crop up every year under the current organizational setup, in which the city hires a promoter to oversee the event and reap benefits (for a fee to cover costs such as police protection), it’s time to reconsider the way things are done from a government perspective and stop merely blaming the hired promoters.

This year, council members recently broached concerns, prompted by City Manager Bill Avera, over vendor fees and whether they adequately cover city costs. It spurred conversation casting doubts on the future of the rally, promoted by Reno-based Roadshows in 2016. Roadshows was the city’s third rally promoter in three years.

Clearly from a city perspective, there needs to be more of an organized and transparent plan in regard to who does what and how much time it takes. Avera mentioned how officials may go each day of the rally and then come back Sunday. But why, specifically, are said officials roaming the grounds? Do they have specific duties? Are they checking on specific vendors or other rally functions? And are they being managed and spending their time as efficiently as possible?

Who in the city is overseeing all of the government employees’ duties, outside of security handled by the police department, to ensure it’s all work and no play? After all, it is a festival we’re talking about, so it isn’t unheard of to walk around basically doing nothing productive.

Even though there is a hired promoter, the city still must have workers at the rally doing some duties. It would be nice if the Hollister City Council and public had a chart explaining who does what and why, rather than hearing about the problem anecdotally months after the event while trying to secure plans for a 2017 rally.

This, however, is simply symptomatic of a larger problem with the city’s involvement and government leaders’ belief that this event is somehow meant as a cash cow for their own coffers. If the city government can break even or come close to it, that’s great for the community as a whole. That should be the only concern.

In the end, the primary benefit gained from the rally comes with broader economic improvements, not a small surplus for City Hall. The dollar amounts broached by city officials are meager at best compared with gains to the economy, and in turn government coffers, when more cash registers are ringing over the July 4 weekend and, ideally, throughout the year due to the motorcycle tradition here.

After all, why are city leaders so passive toward tens of thousands of dollars lost every year by the city-organized Hollister Airshow? And nobody’s barking over countless hours put in organizing the event, without those costs accounted for, by a high-paid city department director overseeing the event.

When it comes to these factors, city officials need a better handle on reality. They also need a better plan to define their own staff’s involvement and costs to provide full transparency so a community can finally stop going through this painful, unnecessary anxiety year after year after year after year.

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