Scottsdale Arts District 2018 Visitors Guide bolstered with municipal support

A view of the Scottsdale Art District 2018 Visitors Guide coming to a mailbox near you. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

A simple-majority vote by Scottsdale City Council allowing a matching fund agreement may be one small step for local coffers but it’s one giant leap in improving municipal and proprietor relations in Old Town Scottsdale, one business owner says.

Scottsdale City Council has approved a $30,000 matching fund agreement with the Scottsdale Gallery Association to help promote its 2018 Visitors Guide.

“This project came about through the tourism and events department in an opportunity to expand our marketing of Old Town Scottsdale,” said Scottsdale Tourism Director Karen Churchard during a February public hearing at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“Its purpose really is to provide matching funds through reimbursement through qualifying marketing paid expenses. We want to encourage innovative and collaborative marketing programs with the business community. We want to increase the visitation to Old Town Scottsdale and we want to support projects that meet a targeted niche audience.”

The Scottsdale Gallery Association — those who provide the lifeblood of Old Town Scottsdale — have been at the forefront of innovation developing the beloved weekly Thursday night Art Walk, which is the longest running endeavor of its kind in the United States.

Bob Pejman, fine artist and owner of Pejman Galleries in downtown Scottsdale, says he and his fellow artisans of Old Town came together and created the 2018 Visitors Guide themselves.

Bob Pejman

“Really, for once the merchants of a certain area downtown came together and they put their own money where their mouth is,” Mr. Pejman said of the guide he spearheaded in concert with the Scottsdale Gallery Association.

“We’ve pretty much re-branded the arts district — now the term ‘Scottsdale Arts District’ has a much larger connotation.”

Mr. Pejman says the idea for the grassroots re-branding effort and subsequent visitor’s guide was an idea born from necessity.

“Last year, we complained to the city. The city was basically promoting the Celebration of Fine Art specifically,” he said pointing out the event is a private business.

“So, we found out last year the Celebration of Fine Art was being promoted by the city of Scottsdale calendar and the Art Walk wasn’t really on it. I asked the city why is this the only private business being promoted?”

Following discovery of the arts promotion conundrum, Mr. Pejman says about 10 Old Town merchants began petitioning the city for local district promotion.

“So, city staff reached out, and said we can help you market if you come up with something,”

Mr. Pejman says of the municipal partnership beginning to bear fruit.

“It really wasn’t the SGA, so to speak, it was a handful of us who were working with the SGA in concert, yeah, I guess you could say it like that,” Mr. Pejman noted. “The ball was in our court. The merchants who are in there funded it basically.”

A new brand and logo was revealed for Old Town Scottsdale last January. (File photo)

To clause or not to clause

According to Ms. Churchard, the first printing of the Visitors Guide was for 35,000 copies and is expected to be distributed in hotels in and around the Scottsdale metropolitan area.

Also, the already printed first-run will be directly mailed to 4,000 homes that were recently sold for $800,000 or more, which city officials speculate is a good local marketing penetration model.

“The second printing would be 20,000 copies that would all be mailed to Phoenix metropolitan homes,” she explained.

“We do have a $100,000 budget in our (tourism department) General Fund and we have only used about $30,000 up to this point, and we felt like this was the easiest and fastest way to move forward.”

But while Scottsdale Councilman David Smith lauded the effort, he called into question certain provisions within the contract.

“I hope the public is paying attention because it is a great product,” he said at City Hall. “This is the 2018 Scottsdale Arts District 2018 Visitors Guide. I want to, among other things, give a shout out to Bob Pejman and French Thompson, who put a lot of work into this.”

But one item to Councilman Smith’s chagrin was certain auditing provisions that would allow the city to audit any of the businesses advertising within the official guide.

“The fact that this provision, we’re told, applies to all contracts over $10,000, which means therefore the 1 percent error rate is $100 on some of these contracts after which the language says you will pay for the audit,” he pointed out.

“Now, we are assured no one has ever been forced to pay for the audit, but we are going to keep that language in here just to scare the hell out of everybody,” he quipped.  “My point is this is not the way to do business with city partners. These are fellow citizens (who) we are negotiating with, and playing hard ball just because we can is no way to encourage business development.”

But Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane disagrees pointing out the stronger auditing provisions apart of any public-private funding agreement is a good thing.

“Given our experience on auditing contracts, I am certainly one who will be more apt for stronger auditing requirements rather than weaker ones,” he said.

“I am a little bit concerned as to what exactly it is we are talking about eliminating. At this point in time, to flag it for a waiver of the audit provisions is not something I would support.”

Scottsdale Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield called into question the common sense of adding certain provisions within a contract of this stature.

“I think this is way too restrictive and minuscule for something like this,” she said of the auditing provisions. “It doesn’t make any rational or good business sense to have this. You don’t put such tight restrictions that you almost guarantee they fail.”

Councilwoman Littlefield also questioned the motivation to have such provisions within the municipal marketing contract.

“The subcontractors, they are not going to sign this kind of contract,” she said. “I find this to be too much government interference. We aren’t requiring this on many of our other contracts, but we are on this? I think that is discrimination.”

The final vote was 4 to 3 allowing city staff to take out auditing provisions questioned by councilmembers Smith and Littlefield. Those voting against the measure were Mayor Lane and council members Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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