Council eyes new role for BTAC
By Meg Olson
council is looking to decommission, or at least declaw,
the Blaine tourism advisory commission (BTAC).
After discussing the future of the group in a study session before the regular February 25 city council meeting, council members agreed they wanted more input from local groups that depend on funding from hotel/motel tax before changing how and who allocates those funds. City staff are proposing taking the responsibility for awarding the funds out of BTACs hands and putting it in their own, making BTAC an advisory committee to the process rather than the final decision makers. The are also proposing that the group meet monthly rather than quarterly and that the visitors information center representative on the board, now a city staff member, be replaced with a citizen.
One of the reasons for changing the roles and duties of BTAC is, if you look at their role in 1997 then and their role now, its a very different group, said city manager Gary Tomsic. Then, BTAC was established primarily as a granting agency to pass through hotel/motel tax funding. Since then, city council and staff and BTAC have developed a tourism plan which serves as a road map, establishing the visions and goals of our community. The priorities in that document do not support BTACs role as a granting agency.
The Blaine tourism plan, adopted last year, initially directs funds away from events and into public infrastructure, Tomsic said. With most of the funds flowing through the city to build a boardwalk and a new visitor information center, BTACs role handing out events funding has become obsolete.
Bonnie Onyon asked whether the proposed change in the groups name from commission to committee denoted a reduction in their authority. Yes, Tomsic said. A commission would be acting fairly autonomously on a lot of issues, like the airport commission. BTAC is acting more in an advisory capacity.
John Choulochas, representing the Pacific Arts Association and the U.S/Canada Peace Anniversary organization, both of which have used hotel/motel dollars to fund their programs, asked that council get input from affected groups before approving the changes. We may be in a situation of worrying about our futures, he said. It looks like events will be a thing of the past.
Tomsic said that cutbacks for events would be temporary until needed tourism infrastructure was built. In the long run events and activities are a very important part of the program, he said.
Council will hold a public meeting on the proposed changes at their March 25 meeting..