City Council and Love Catalina meet

File photo

Inaugural joint meeting looks at Love Catalina Tourism Authority funding, other issues

Part one of two: funding and trust.

Love Catalina Tourism Authority board members talked about feeling defensive at the first joint meeting of the Avalon City Council and the business group. This discussion dominated roughly the first half of the almost two-hour meeting held early afternoon, Thursday, April 20.

In addition to issues of mistrust, the two groups discussed sustainability. The facilitator also touched briefly on such issues as housing.

In this installment, we’ll look at concerns the business group had over funding from the city.

Consultant Myles Rademan facilitated the meeting. Rademan, of Park City, Utah. According to Rademan, Park City went from being a silver mining town to a tourist town. Rademan suggested quarterly or semi-annual meetings between the council and Love Catalina.

Mayor Anni Marshall said she didn’t know if there were any elephants in the room that needed to be dealt with. “Is there any feeling that there is a lack of respect or communication?”

Love Catalina Chair Bryce Noll spoke up. According to Noll said around election time there’s a segment of the community that wants to reduce the percentage of the transient occupancy tax that Love Catalina receives or to defund the group.

He said if the council and the chamber are working independently and at odds with each other, they will get a whole lot less done than if they work together. According to Noll, you don’t get a lot done when you’re in a defensive position.

“If we were to defund you, that just hurts us,” said Councilmember Michael Ponce. He said he has seen both sides as a council member and a Love Catalina board member.

“If you guys don’t exist, we’re not going to be able to sell this Island,” Ponce said.

Ponce said the public needs to understand that its not the chamber, it’s the city’s tourism organization. “It’s the tourism authority bringing people here,” Ponce said.

Noll said the city doesn’t produce anything else.

Marshall said she personally was not in favor of defunding the chamber.

According to City Manager David Maistros, when he joined Love Catalina, there seemed to be a large degree of defensiveness. In his view, the city and Love Catalina share the same dollar, apparently a reference to the percentage of the city’s transient occupancy tax that goes to the group.

Maistros said that since he came to Catalina, no member of the council has come to him and suggested reducing the TOT.

Maistros said the council couldn’t do that anyway. They would have to go back to the ballot.

Noll said it came up during COVID when they wondered if Love Catalina could keep President and CEO Jim Luttjohann.

Nicole Hohenstein, a Love Catalina director, said it started during the last election.

“We have to act against threats,” Noll said.

Business owner Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy said that when she was on the council, it was ugly. (She served eight years.) She said she was glad to hear that Marshall didn’t want to take Love Catalina’s money away since this was the first time she had heard Marshall say so.

Marshall said she didn’t think that Cassidy had heard her say she wanted to take their money.

“No, I haven’t heard it,” Cassidy said. But Cassidy said she was just calling out that this is a beautiful moment for the two groups.

Cassidy said businesses rely heavily on the chamber for marketing.

Councilmember Mary Schickling said she assumed Cassidy was referring to when she was running for council. Schickling said the issue was a huge thing for a lot of people. “So I was like, ‘Yeah, I will look into this for you.’” She said when she was elected, she learned that Love Catalina had to spend the money on marketing.

Hohenstein said she appreciated that Schickling had learned what the chamber does for the city. Hohenstein said when Schickling raised the issue (apparently the night before the election), a lot of people were upset because they had already voted. “I’m really glad we got to have this conversation,” she said.