Dear City Council:
The City provides $47,500 annually to Main Street Martinez (MSM) to promote the downtown. Or -- is it just to promote only those businesses who are members of MSM?
We all pay our business license fees and taxes to the City. We are all merchants.
MSM is currently discriminating against those who are not members of MSM and this is not fair.
Recently, all the merchants on the 500 block of Main Street got together to create a coupon to be inserted in the weekly juror packets that say, “Worth the Walk to the 500 Block” and lists our offers to the jurors, in an effort to bring jurors to sample our food, retail, and service establishments. This is one piece of paper approximately 8.5 inches by 3.75 inches all inclusive of the 500 block merchants, not 12 separate coupons.
MSM has volunteers stuff the juror packets with various coupons to support the downtown merchants once a week. There was never a fee for this service. There is absolutely no cost to MSM. Merchants pay for providing copies of the documents and volunteers handle insertion.
Two thirds of all of the 500 block merchants are members of MSM. When we presented our coupon to MSM, we were told to be included, all businesses had to pay $300/year (or $25/month) to be included. It was only free for members.
Our assumption was that the majority were members and there should not have been an issue. I wonder if this would have been an issue had one of the MSM members on our block presented this to MSM, as the creator of this coupon was Pat Nelson of Haute Stuff Bistro instead of me, a non-member of MSM.
MSM is out of touch with merchant concerns and needs. We are all struggling and barely surviving. I am not sure if your $47,500 is being misspent by giving City money to this organization when it may be better spent with some true marketing program that would certainly increase your sales tax revenue in the downtown area.
MSM Executive Director provided a copy of the Juror Packet Criteria to me which had a revision date of March 22, 2o11. The first one, sent mistakenly, clearly showed that the paragraph referring to multiple businesses on one coupon and the requirement for all merchants to be members was being drafted and was incomplete. Interestingly enough, this policy was apparently revised without board approval and after my initial e-mails to her. Hmmm…
Merchants should not be held hostage when trying to help promote their businesses especially when the City Council gives MSM a hefty sum of money annually to promote ALL downtown businesses and not just a few who elect to pay membership dues. A few short years ago, the membership dues were only $25 for years, and affordable. It is now $100 which is a large amount of money for the struggling retailers in your downtown. For most of us, it is a vendor bill, a PG&E bill, an insurance bill, something that clearly shows an ROI or is a utility and a necessary expense.
If you look at the downtown directory prepared by MSM, you will see that a considerable amount of downtown businesses are not members of MSM. Clearly, there is a reason for that.
MSM is out of touch with what merchants go through on a daily basis. They meet relatively in secret, as no minutes are ever posted on their website, so citizens of Martinez can never see what they are doing with money from the city coffers or what they are planning for our downtown with that money. Many cannot take the time to attend their meetings. Minutes are taken but not posted. Interesting...
Please review the reason you provide money to this organization and direct them to cease their discriminatory methods of operation, especially when it does not incur any costs to their organization.
Anne Mobley, Owner White Rabbit Boutique 529 Main Street, Martinez, CA 94553 www.whiterabbitboutique.net 925-229-1900 Proud Member of the 3/50 Project