What the candidates say about: The Collingwood Elvis Festival – Part One

I asked some of the candidates for Collingwood Town Council 2014 Election the following question:

Do you think that the tax payers of Collingwood should continue to subsidize financially and support with towns labour and resources the Collingwood Elvis Festival?

(Answers are in chronological order that I received them.)

Kathy Jeffery
As long as the event can break even financially it should be considered to continue. The economic spin off is significant to support many food, beverage, accommodation, support services and retail businesses in Collingwood, which translates into more disposable income to be spent after the event at the other businesses who may not benefit as greatly specifically from the Festival.
I believe that it is important to assess the Festival on an ongoing basis to ensure the benefits still outweigh the investment by the taxpayers. When they don’t, well the decision is obvious.

Steve Berman
My answer is no. You know I can rant about pretty much anything, but this one is such a no brainer. Also, until we can open the Elvis books, it just speculation about how much tax $$ are going into it.

Councillor Joe Gardhouse (Candidate for Mayor)
Yes… The goal of the festival has always been to Financially “Break Even” while offering a first class entertainment package to the locals and visitors. If you study the budgets over the recent past you’ll find the Elvis organizers have done a very good job balancing financial restraint with Promotional investment. The province recognizes this Festival as a significant event and contributes heavily. WE also attract various corporate sponsorships who use this event to showcase their Products and services.
Elvis is the biggest weekend of the year for our hotels, restaurants & bars… & with The town of Blue Mountain and Wasaga joining in with various supplementary events … it makes this a truly regional party.
Is the investment/risk worth the reward ? Yes.
Is it a pain in the butt to some residents? Yes.
Does the majority just dawn their sunglasses, swivel their hips and have some fun? Yes.
I’ve got to go now , as my wife and I have a date with Priscilla … I’m all shook up..

Rick Crouch
I think you have summed up the Elvis Festival rather succinctly in your previous posts. So I will refrain from commenting on the festival itself. First, I am of the opinion that there has never been a detailed and accurate accounting of this event that fully accounts for the countless hours expended by Town staff that goes into pulling this venue off. The word “accountability” gets thrown around a lot these days but here is yet another example where it is lacking. Regardless of that fact however, I am absolutely against the expenditure of municipal resources to subsidize financially or otherwise support this event.

Those of us that earn the respect and votes of our constituents this fall will no doubt have some tough decisions to make in the next four years. Political agendas need to be put aside in order for us to collectively manage our community for what it is, a multi-million dollar a year corporation. First, we need to focus on deploying the Town’s human and other assets in such a manner as to cost effectively deliver the “essential services” that taxpayers depend on and acting as a concert promoter is not one of them. Secondly, among the many challenges facing the next Council is the need to commence building a strong economic base by attracting some meaningful long term employment opportunities. We must start what will be a challenging and lengthy process to replace the hundreds of jobs lost from our once strong manufacturing sector thus strengthening all facets of the local economy beyond the hospitality sector and for more than just one weekend a year via Elvis.

Deb Doherty
I disagree that the vast majority of Collingwood residents dislike or disapprove of the Elvis Festival. Many folks I know find it to be a fun and entertaining event, whether they are Elvis fans or not, and very, very good for many businesses. The fact is that the festival has provided the Town of Collingwood with international profile, and brings thousands of visitors with money in their pockets and the intention to spend it. Hundreds of small Ontario communities would fall all over themselves for such an opportunity.
I believe that some level of funding for the event can be rationalized; however I believe that the funding should be in the form of a Sponsorship, not a donation. A sponsorship agreement carries with it deliverables for both sides – the organization receives a cash and/or in-kind injection and the sponsor (should) receive in exchange a guaranteed minimum number of impressions – on-site, on-air, and online. The sponsorship recognition should foster and reinforce the appropriate imaging for the Town. The sponsor should be permitted to establish an on-site presence for self-promotion and dissemination of information and/or promotional materials. This is an area that the Town could take advantage of and, to my knowledge, never has – to set up a staffed information kiosk and disseminate materials and information on community profile, forms, and services and that would be of interest to potential new businesses or new residents. If in-kind services are part of the sponsorship package, focus on creating legacy benefits – like planting and beautifying the flower beds in the parking lots (many of which are not planted this year and look terrible, in my opinion) or permanent fixtures that can be used for other events and activities, just as an example, collapsible bleachers.
A sponsorship package creates accountability. If the sponsored event declines in deliverables like attendance, average expenditure per visitor and/or reduced media exposure, or if the event begins to have a negative impact on the image of the town, then the expenditure is no longer warranted, and the Town has a business case for declining the sponsorship.

Brian Saunderson (Candidate for Deputy Mayor)
The real question for me is what is the return on investment the Town gets for the money and manpower it contributes to the Elvis Festival. It is not clear to me that this has been properly assessed to date, but I think any meaningful discussion about the future of the Festival should start with a cost – benefit analysis to show what the economic impact is for our community.
I think that there are other less tangible but important considerations such as ‎community building and civic pride that hosting these events can bring to the community.
At the end of the day, if the Festival brings tourism dollars to our community, supports our service and retail sector, shows off our community and generates a sense of civic pride for our community then the Festival is a good investment.
‎I think this is a discussion that the next Council should have with the proper information and data at hand.

(Second part will be published tomorrow.)


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