A resolution to approve the 2017 motorcycle rally contract between the city of Hollister and Roadshows Inc. for $180,000 was delayed until the Dec. 5 meeting because the Reno-based promoter had not yet signed it, according to City Manager Bill Avera. He recommended that the city council add the item to its Nov. 28 meeting agenda in order to discuss some terms the promoter had added to the contract. Avera said he had not, as yet, given the contract to the city attorney.
Avera said he thought it was important to get input from council members prior to him talking to Randy Burke, president of Roadshows, before Burke comes to Hollister on Dec. 2. Councilwoman Mickie Luna asked Avera if there would be any documents beyond a one-page profit-loss statement that he had provided to the council. Avera said Burke had sent the statement to him over the weekend and he forwarded it to the council without studying it thoroughly. He said he would be speaking to Burke the next day, Nov. 22, and would ask if there are any additional statements coming.
Tim Burns, who unsuccessfully ran for the council seat being vacated by Councilman Victor Gomez, said he hoped the council would not decide to move forward with the rally. He presented a number of facts, as he understood them, including that the city had lost $90,000 in the 2014 rally, an amount currently being negotiated through non-binding arbitration. He said it was also his understanding that the city still does not know if the 2015 rally made or lost money.
“One thing that came up that was concerning to me,” Burns said, “is something the Councilman (Karson) Klauer brought up the last time this was discussed, and had to do with the retirement of an officer or public safety person as a result of an incident at the rally, and how the city may have to burden the cost of that.”
As Burns brought up the last point, Klauer appeared to nod in agreement.
“That’s a huge red flag,” Burns continued. “And somebody indicated there’s no clearly indicated budget on this matter. I struggle with what it is the city is trying to do. Clearly, it’s not the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but I’ve not heard of any real significant donations made from the hosts of the event to nonprofits or charities.”
He went on to say the rally is obviously not a family event and should not be considered a signature event representing “who Hollister is.” He suggested that if the city is going to underwrite an event, then why not do so for the Olive Festival, Farmers’ Market or the Hollister Airshow.
“It (rally) doesn’t define the community and seems to put the community at risk,” Burns said. “It’s an event that hasn’t had any good reviews, as far as what I’ve heard or seen over the years. It’s stopped and started a number of times. It troubles me that you’re attempting to move forward with it. To move forward with the information you now have would be crazy.”
Hollister resident Marty Richman, who has been a staunch supporter of the rally in the past, said he could no longer advocate for it because of what he perceived as a lack of a clear understanding of the budget.
“I don’t understand why we can’t do this (say what the budget is),” he said. “We want to start with a meeting and say we think we spend 100 hours administration getting ready. There’s the stake in the ground. When it’s over, we want to know how many (hours) we really spent. The fact that the numbers come out at the end doesn’t make any difference. You need to know where it goes. If you don’t, you can’t manage it. You won’t know what affect it has on the budget if you don’t do that.”
If the city were an entrepreneur operating an entertainment event, Richman said, it would want to know how much it spent on everything from paper cups to security.
“I’m not going to stand here and demand this thing makes money,” he said. “That would be foolish, because there are other benefits we get from the rally that we can’t measure, like how many people come back to Hollister and how much free advertising we get, which was done by the promoter. We should figure that out. It’s not all about dollars and cents.”
Richman challenged the city to come up with at least an estimated budget.
“You would not run a household like that. You would not run a basic business like that,” he said. “This is a business. What are we trying to hide? It might be cheaper to wrap up hundred dollar bills and walk down the street and hand them out to people who keep voting for it.”
Avera said he wanted to address some of Richman’s assertions. First, he said he struggles with the concept that the city does not have a budget.
“We’ve operated the rally for the last four years and it cost us $180,000,” he said. “I don’t know what anybody else wants us to say, but that’s about what it costs. It does change a little bit from year to year, and $180,000 is what we expect to get from the promoter to break even or cover our costs. It’s as simple as that.”
Avera said he has given the council spreadsheets that prove out those figures.
“We’re getting used to running it,” he said. “We’re actually becoming more efficient. The more years that we do this the better we are getting at it.”
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez told Avera that he understood Richman’s concerns and said he would meet with Avera and Councilman Ray Friend, who is on the rally committee, to go over the numbers. Luna challenged the $180,000 figure, saying she believed it was more because of her experience in working on the rally years ago as an employee of the city. She said she had provided a spreadsheet to the city and said the rally was a line item on it.
“I think that’s what Marty is looking for,” Luna said, and he agreed with her. “It’s a line-item cost, by department with all expenditures in hours. This is something that maybe the public needs to see, so you can have an idea of what costs are involved.”
Brett Miller, the city’s administrative services director, told Luna that the city does, in fact, break down line-item costs, except for exempt employees, which is considered a minor piece of the operation. The main fluctuation in costs, he said, comes from the number and types of law enforcement personnel brought in from other cities. Avera added that every two weeks, paid bills are submitted and the council can see who was paid and what accounts were used.
“It’s not a false number,” he said.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick said the cost of security fluctuates several thousand dollars based on the date of the rally.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “We can get cheaper officers if it’s during the week and off the Fourth of July weekend. But the closer to the weekend we have to pay premium. We shop this around statewide. The first rally, we put together a budget that was around $140,000. It was a good rally and everybody liked it, but, internally, there was a lot of inadequacies. Now, he’s (Avera) right. It’s about $180,000, but we’re going to have to do some inflation adjustments over the next few years.”
The mayor said it was the consensus of the council to continue the discussion to Nov. 28, and then take a final vote on Dec. 5.