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A common refrain about the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for shuttle service for the private Unruly Country Brew N Cue is if organizer Doug Kennedy has $250,000 to spend on planning, marketing and staging, why can’t he come up with $3,000 to run the buses?
The answer is he probably can.
The real question is, should he?
And, for our money, that answer is no.
There is not a single city in this country that has revitalized its downtown without contributing tax dollars to a private event, business or building. Some have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, building convention centers, parking garages, arenas.
Truth be told, some governmental agency should be figuring out where to get taxpayer money to create more parking at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, which is owned by the state.
Cities and counties must play a role in developing, guiding and enhancing their future. They pay for infrastructure all the time – roads, lights, landscaping. Those are no-brainers. Everyone uses them. Everyone benefits.
But there is much more to be done, many more ways for government to move alongside business to create the sort of town that people of all ages, backgrounds and interests will enjoy living. A place people will flock to, not flee.
When business is healthy, everyone benefits. Do people believe visitors are going to go to the Brew N Cue and go nowhere else? Won’t some stay overnight? Won’t some eat breakfast or other meals in our restaurants? Won’t people be so enamored of Sonora and Tuolumne County they want to come back?
Also, Kennedy does not get to use the fairgrounds for free. He will use his private money to support a public entity.
One of the biggest problems Sonora has faced in its downtown rebirth has been a city that has been unable to jumpstart its future. The Vision Sonora plan has never fully launched, largely because there was no money, but also because there was no buy in from all community leaders. The plan became controversial.
A downtown plan must first have strong city leadership, commitment from the community as a whole and a desire from people — regular citizens — with money to invest to do so.
Before Kennedy decided to build his Green Dog Beer Company, downtown abounded with empty storefronts. It’s probably not a stretch to say every third or fourth space was without a tenant. Now, most are full.
Kennedy deserves this pittance of support from taxpayers for the millions of dollars he has invested.