Letter: St. Helens' expensive, failed efforts
You know, I really do not care what type of "event" the city of St. Helens and Tina Curry-Cannard come up with. What I do care about is that the taxpayers are being deceived about any profits coming back to the city.
I have seen no documents outlying results and listing any profits being made to offset the costs to the taxpayers by these events, which are struggling to encourage tourism. In fact, an additional $140,000 is at Curry-Cannard's disposal. This amount is collected from motel taxes, etc., and must be used for tourism. Add this to Curry-Cannard's salary of $120,000 and you have nearly one-quarter million dollars being spent to increase tourism per year. So far — not even close to be breaking even.
At times Curry-Cannard must use some of her salary as a contracted employee to pay for help at certain events, but this only happens if she cannot come up with enough volunteers to offset her costs. She also asks for "contributions" at local events such as 13 Nights on the River, viewing 4th of July fireworks on public-owned property, and the failed fairy festival fiascos. These volunteers and contributions enhance her personal income.
With research through the Spotlight I was able to obtain the following information — only three people in south Columbia County are paid more than St. Helens Event Director Tina Curry-Cannard: superintendents of both the Scappoose and St. Helens school districts at approximately $140,000 per year and director of the Columbia River People's Utility District at $210,000 per year. The Scappoose and Columbia River Fire and Rescue fire chief, the St. Helens police chief, the Port of Columbia County director, our county commissioners, the city of St. Helens administrator and the finance director each make less money than the events director.
The "events director" position was set up in order to encourage tourism and stimulate the return of growth in St. Helens. Yet, in uptown St. Helens, disregarding restaurants, a furniture store, businesses on Highway and resale outlets, the last retail store in this area will be closing approximately Oct. 1.
I object that people are now being asked to contribute to enjoy 13 Nights on the River, which was originally a free community event and was the best thing the city has ever done for the citizens of St. Helens. I object that Strand Street is being partially closed on Friday nights so that a city employee can play piano in a parking lot instead of using the beautiful gazebo park, or even the Columbia Courthouse Plaza Park.
I object that Strand Street and First Street will be closed every weekend for nearly a month in October for Spirit of Halloweentown; after all there, are condos in that area and the people living in them have had their ability to get to their homes compromised. I object to all the local and tourism traffic that will be re-routed over Knob Hill and departing down Cowlitz Street — heavy traffic on a road that was not meant to be a thoroughfare.
Curry and the city have failed to address the impacts to the neighborhoods and businesses. They have failed to provide the basic organizational structures needed for the operation of this enterprise.