Council engages in potty talk

Published on Thu, Sep 12, 2002
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Council engages in potty talk

Blaine city council appointed a traditionalist and an innovator to round out the newly revamped Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC). John Choulochas is an old hand at local cultural events and a strong supporter of the city’s arts community and turn-of-the-century design theme. Donna-Lee Elke thinks better bathrooms are the key to Blaine’s economic renaissance.

“What struck me in reading the city’s tourism plan was the 65,000 people who cross the border every day,” she told city council at their September 9 meeting. “How do we get their money? I don’t want to get off the freeway to buy art. I want to eat and pee.” Elke suggested the city buy the building that now houses Subway restaurant and build a bathroom to remember, with toilets shaped like dolphins, or perhaps a sweeping seal-shaped counter. “You want something unique, something that will make the kids want to go there,” she said. “You meet the need, then you create the desire. Grab them first by giving them what they need, then they’re here and they can see the downtown, the boardwalk, an art gallery.” Elke said bathrooms could become Blaine’s trademark if businesses followed suit and spiffed up their own. “We could even have a bathroom tour,” she said. “It makes the city laugh which gives it a kind of joie de vivre.”

While council members were surprised by Elke’s suggestion, they were impressed, and amused. “We’ll have to change our slogan to ‘Blaine – a nice place to pee’,” laughed Ken Ely, while city community and economic development director Terry Galvin suggested, “you’re in Blaine.”

Choulochas and the two other candidates for the at-large positions on the BTAC had more traditional visions. “I see Blaine with a Fairhaven kind of feel,” said David Baily. “A destination,” was Connie Orgonas’ vision, “but we need to have more things to do here, more places of interest.”

Choulochas said in ten years the city could go a long way towards developing the turn-of-the-century theme for the city and work with neighboring communities on the “northwest necklace” concept – a string of attractions from White Rock to Birch Bay. “Blaine could be the jewel in that necklace.”

Council member Ken Ely asked how the candidates would handle potential conflicts of interest, which dogged previous boards. “Everyone wanting to secure a piece of the pie for their idea – at times it hamstrung the committee,” he said. All four said they felt they could keep pet projects from interfering in their objectivity. “I’m more interested in Blaine and its growth than in any particular group’s growth,” Choulochas said.

Overall candidates agreed money collected through the city’s lodging tax, for which BTAC recommends uses to city council, should be directed more towards capital projects to boost tourism rather than events, as laid out in the city’s new tourism plan. However, Elke said she’d like to look more closely at the budget before committing herself and Baily said other things could be cut before events funding. “One of the concerns I have is the amount going to publicity. That has to come when you know more what you’re marketing,” he said. .
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