Through the looking glass
I’ve been asked why I’ve been so mild-mannered lately. Well, it ended last Thursday morning. I’m holding the column planned for today until next week because something lacking in rational thought took precedence.Where to start. I guess you need to know the topic. The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council (aka, VLDMAC) meeting at the Cascade last Thursday. The meeting started with the usual approval of minutes and financial update. My main reason for being there was item 2, “2005 Summer Collateral Piece.” The discussion was to center on what “lure” piece the VLMDAC was going to use for next year’s marketing program. It has changed almost annually (I’ll come back to that) with last year’s being the Vail Guide, produced by the Vail Chamber and Business Association (aka, VCBA).First addressed was the misinformation presented by the chairman. Item 1: The Vail Guide lost money last year and had to be subsidized by the publisher. Correction: The Vail Guide actually showed a profit of $17,000 – but what’s that got to do with the price of beans?Item 2: the VLMDAC was the largest cash contributor. Correction: The VLMDAC wrote the biggest check, but it was to pay for design changes that they requested and to cover the increase in printing that was required for their mailings. Hardly a “contribution.”Item 3: The VCBA uses tax dollars to subsidize advertising rates. This came from a VLMDAC member who owns an advertising company – funny, that. Correction: The VCBA contributes $10,000 to cover the cost of nonrevenue generating pages – somebody has to pay for them. They include things like maps, photos and event schedules. The reason the rates are significantly lower than any other publication in the valley is that the motivation for producing the piece has been to provide information. It has never been viewed as a means of generating revenue.So that was over. And here’s where all logic went out the window if in fact it was ever in the room to begin with. A member of the VLMDAC who also is a part owner of a lodge explained that she really couldn’t justify putting the Vail Guide in her rooms because it had ads for other lodges. I was totally struck by the self-serving mentality that put a lodge owner and voting member’s needs above what is good for the community and our guests. Yet bear with me for a moment as I extrapolate this thought. So is that to mean that for 15 years at the Daily Grind, no publication with advertising in it should have been allowed to cross the threshold for fear that some competing business might be offering coffee?Or let’s try this one. As another lodging manager said to me: “Wait a second. By the time they start looking at the Vail Guide, they’re already in one of my rooms. Are they going to come downstairs, check out and move across town just because of some other lodge’s ad? Give me a break!”No. Self-serving, narrow-minded and downright stupid is the only explanation. But the end result was that they decided by a 5-2 vote not to use the Vail Guide as the VLMDAC’s summer lure piece. (Isn’t that what is used to fish? Rightly so, because that’s what it smelled like in there.) They want an “advertising-free” brochure. Why? Somebody saw a St. Moritz brochure while they were travelling. That’s all it took. So let’s change again even though the research hasn’t been completed on the current publication to measure its effectiveness. Oh, by the way, never mind that St. Moritz’s business is down. As one of the sane members said: “Maybe they’re looking at us to see what works.”And never mind that the VLMDAC’s $100,000-year consultants, Longwoods International, have recommended keeping the Vail Guide. I have their June 25 letter on my desk. Never mind LI says research “indicates a strong visitor preference of advertising listings, destination activities, events and maps. I would strongly recommend against eliminating such items.” How much clearer could it be?And what was the final information that sealed that decision? They couldn’t justify spending $13,500 for 2,500 pieces. No one seems to know where the number 13,500 came from, but at least we finally agreed. Who in their right mind would spend $5.40 + $1.25 postage to get a simple guide to a prospective guest? If they’d started there, who could have argued? Certainly not anyone running their own business. But here’s another fallacy. Whoever said that spending government money has to pass the same test you would apply when spending your own? Certainly not anybody in that room. And it gets better.Because if you were dumbfounded so far, hold on. They decided to spend $22,900 for 2,500 pieces. Oh, they’re going to print 25,000, but they’re not sure what they’ll use the other 22,500 for.Even I was speechless. And don’t forget. This is the thought process on less than $25,000. Aren’t you scared of what they’re doing with the rest of the $1.5 million budget?But never fear. There is recourse. Don’t like the decisions of the VLMDAC? Bring it to the attention of the VLMD. What’s the difference? The VLMDAC is the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council. That means they act as advisers to the VLMD – the Vail Local Marketing District. And who might that be? The Vail Town Council.Now follow closely. If you don’t like the decisions of the VLMDAC, take your complaints to the VLMD. So how would that work? You appeal the decisions being engineered by Mrs. Slifer, chairwoman of the VLMDAC, to Mr. Slifer, mayor and presiding officer of the VLMD. Who said incest isn’t wonderful? Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.