Is the city spending too much on downtown group?

Sprucing up

The Gilroy Downtown Business Association found itself in the crosshairs at the City Council meeting on Monday, after its annual funding from the city was pulled from the consent agenda and brought forward for discussion.
The amount of $23,750 would normally have passed en masse like the rest of the consent agenda, except for a petition from a member of the public who asked for greater scrutiny in how the agency spends the funds.
“We should have a better idea as to where the money goes,” said Gilroyan Joey Weitz, member of the Facebook group, Gilroy Community for a Better Downtown, which has risen as a grassroots antidote to the group largely comprised of downtown merchants and property owners. Members of the virtual group organized a downtown First Friday event Jan. 6, the first ever for the city.
Weitz was soon joined by councilman Fred Tovar who expressed concern over the lack of information regarding agency expenditures, holding up a single sheet of paper, and role of its only paid member of staff, a part-time administrator.
Harvey Blodgett, treasurer of the GDBA responded to the enquiry, listing events the GDBA puts on, like the summer Fifth Street Live concert series and Holiday Parade, and Beer and Wine crawls. The administrator, Melanie Corona, also organizes the Board’s monthly meetings.
Member of the GDBA Board and downtown property owner, Jose Montes, said the $23,750 is small considering what is done with the funds and is smaller than what the city used to give the association, citing $50,000.
“We support the downtown,” said Montes. “We have thousands of volunteer hours given to our downtown; we try to provide the best we can.” He also called on members of the council and public to attend the GDBA meetings on the first Tuesday of the month.
Councilman Dan Harney questioned the costs of banner change-outs the GDBA pays for while councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz said he sees work being done, but would suggest the agency employ better metrics for success and funding breakdown.
Calling Leroe-Munoz “spot on,” Mayor Roland Velasco said staff were in the process of identifying and contacting other organizations that receive funding from the city — like the GDBA — to put together and require better metrics.
“The city should have some sort of return on their investment,” said Velasco. The GDBA monies are drawn from the Downtown Improvement Fund, which was created when the city of Gilroy sold the Monterey/Lewis Parking Lot to the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, according to the city staff report. There is about $56,000 in the fund.
In the end, the council approved the GDBA funding, 6-1, with Tovar dissenting.