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Tourism Commission, April 23

Looking to review the Tourism Ordinance
Tree roots, gum studded poles and Xmas lights

Warwick Jones

On the recommendation of the Chair, Cathy Forrester, the Tourism Commission agreed to take the first steps in reviewing the City's Tourism Ordinance. The Chair noted that the ordinance is 10 to 20 years old and in need of review. The review would take some time but she wanted the Commission to approve the intent. A number of subcommittees needed to be formed to deal with various aspects of the ordinance. Each subcommittee should consist of some Commissioners and experts in the particular provenance. We hope that representatives of downtown neighborhoods most affected by tourists also be included.

Commissioners seemed surprised
We suspect that some of the Commissioners were surprised by the request. Nothing publicly had heralded the need for revision. Notwithstanding, there was little discussion about the need, but unanimous support for the review. Ms. Forrester planned to report back to the Commission with some recommendations as to the structure and nature of the subcommittees.

We wonder whether the Mayor Riley knew of the intent to review the ordinance. We hope that it has his blessing. A major review of an important ordinance such as relating to Tourism ought to have his approval. And indeed, we suspect he probably would have preferred to announce the intent himself. He probably would have given a fuller explanation for the need than that given at last night’s meeting.

Duties of the Commission
Although tourism may be the most important industry of the Peninsula, the power of the Commission is not all-embracing. The present ordinance defines the duties of the Commission as follows;

• Oversee the broad range of tourism related matters that affect the economic and general welfare of the citizens of the city in order to ensure that visitors can enjoy the historic and cultural aspects of the city's heritage, consistent with the maintenance of the environmental quality of life of its citizens

• To make such policy recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council, as will further the goals of tourism management, particularly in the areas of parking and routing of tourism related traffic activities, the qualification and licensing of tour guides, the determination of vehicle appropriateness, and the enforcement of tourism management regulation.

Some of the other matters discussed
The other subjects discussed last night ranged from the absurd to the arcane.

• Some roots of trees should be removed at White Point Gardens, because tourists might trip on them and sustain injury. The Commissioner was frustrated that the City had taken no action on a previous request and she threatened to take an axe to them. She seemed to have no regard for the health of the tree.

• There was the telegraph pole in the market area to which people were fixing chewing gum. It was unsightly and the City needed to do something about it.

• Christmas lights on Broad Street are still burning. They needed to be removed. Why were they still there? Commissioner White, who is also a member of City Council, said they were there because the businesses requested their retention. The street was not well lit and the Xmas lights made some difference. However, street work was about to begin and the lights would be removed at that time.

The Commission agreed that a letter would be sent to City Council requesting action in relation to the lights, the gums studded pole and the offending tree roots.

A limit to the Commission’s jurisdiction
And then the discussion ranged from golf carts, to jet skis and pedestrian walks. Some of the Commissioners objected to golf carts on the streets and jet skis on the waterways. They wanted them off. We share their feelings but as they were told by the Chair and staff, these things were not the provenance of the Tourism Commission. Golf carts and jet skis were regulated by Traffic and Transportation, or the Police Department. Only if they were rented to tourists specifically would their regulation fall under the authority of the Commission.

And likewise pedestrian crossings. It may well be that some crossings are not well illuminated and needed repainting or traffic lights. But the Tourism Commission could only draw the City's attention to these deficiencies. It did not have authority to do more.

More about licenses for tour guides
And then there was the arcane. It related to oral tests given to those seeking licensing as a tour guide. One of the Commissioners felt uncomfortable about the test in its present form. The assessment of the individual was too subjective. Some more formal rules need to be applied. Perhaps the Commission needed to approach a professional to better define the rules for oral exams

The discussion then went along a road already well traveled, about temporary licenses for tour guides, their need, and the abuse of the system. The destination was as ill defined this month as the last discussion and probably will be the starting point for another discussion.