Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Plaza Riot

The Plaza vending program is the most symbolic of all local government programs. It is also the most corrupting and is emblematic of government failure to do enough or for it to do the right thing.

The sense of entitlement that the five year contract gives the vendors have elevated their position to a lofty self-proclaimed ambassadorship, far superior than lowly a mayor or councilor.

Couple that with a lack of enforcement and permissiveness and you have a symbolic program all right … a symbol of a government subsidized arrogant special interest monopoly.

From the flawed and RIGGED selection process to the failure to authenticate the proposed products that are sold, the City is complicate in what can only be called a fraud.

For me, as a small downtown business owner, what astonishes me about this shabby tent city flea market looking strip is the inability of the City to monitor sales or evaluate the value of the retail business not to mention auditing to see if the City is getting their fair share of gross receipts taxes. Remember this is PUBLIC property. The governing body as "landlord" has a fiduciary responsibility to see that the business are legitimate operations ... collecting and paying taxes.

As far as I know no sale receipt are given out to the customers on the plaza and the City has no clue to what the annual sales are and therefore no clue to the Value of the business.

Santa Fe street vendor on the Plaza.
Before I get too far let me say that I am not for “the abolishment of this mean spirited program” as one of the Plaza vendors themselves, Cliff Mills, called for. As I recently told councilor Bushee and Ortiz … this is an issue of fairness. And I will interject disperse some solutions into my ranting and raving.

First of all until the Council can identify the long term goals and define in honest mission statement limit duration of the permit. For example, if a goal of this program was a permanent viable accessible City “Mercado” then I would support this kind of program even though I have been lock out of it.

The point is that five years is just way way to long to control and improve the program. I don’t know of any other City “permits” that are good for more than a year. Suggestion number 1 … Make the permit for one year.

Secondly, issue official receipt book to the Plaza vendor. In my store even if we sell 25 cents worth of buttons we issue a receipt. It is for our records, for tax records and for the consumer’s protection and information. If the customers have to return the item, locate or get hold of us or even for insurance reasons … the customer should have a receipt especially since the City of Santa Fe is basically the guarantor.

Although the Plaza vendors are required to make the stuff they sell the city has never authenticated whether the vendor COULD make the product no less if they actually DID make it. The low standard the City has set for the program has facilitate a further slide downward of what was once the requirement that the products sold on the Plaza had to be “Handmade original art made in Santa and sold by the person making it.” Now is some cases the products can be ‘Machine made copies or assembled curios from Chinese parts sold by whomever.”

On the Plaza, not only is up to the City to set higher standard for how the business conducted, whether the products are authentic handmade “arts and crafts” but also that the selection committee is actually made up of professional experts and not part-time instructors from the Community College and friends of the existing vendors.

Now I still consider some of the vendors my friend. And I truly believe that special consideration should be given to the founders of the program. I know the Plaza vending program isn’t going away. So as much as I can admit that I want you to admit that there are serious flaws in the program that will not be solve by the additions to the ordinance that are before you. The program is so woefully inadequate, so unfair, so unprofessional, so garish looking, so un-administered, so permissive, so cultish, so hypocritical, and so far from the original intentions that you must not allow it to float along for another five years. That is the least you can do.

In the past there have been successful citizen input committees like the non-defunct Plaza Use Committee. Mayor, Councilors, making this permit for one year and allow for a serious yearlong review and oversight steering committee to be form. Why shouldn’t the goal of this program be excellence rather than expedience?

Girls dance and play the air guitar on the Plaza stage with larger unbrella and illegally park Plaza vendor's car in the background.

From the abuse of parking to the non-historic umbrellas; from the sense of entitlement to the unfair competitive advantage; from the un-audited cash sales to the benign neglect; from the impediment of sidewalk traffic to the carpet bagging fraudulent selection process… The City just wants to stick their heads in the sand.

When the new and wonderful Civic Center opens in less than a year and the incredible Railyard facility is well along there should be a new vigorous wonderful image of Santa Fe being portrayed. Unlike the Farmer’s market that started with nothing and became a successful tradition in Santa Fe … the Plaza vendor program has been given everything from government and has not blossomed into a true reflection of Santa Fe. Please Councilors work with the whole community on this one. Make any changes you want to the ordinance but make the permit valid for one year. Do it right … do it slowly … doing with transparency … but most of all do it fairly.


At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In short, the whole point of this long-winded and self-pitying whine is, "Don't let that other guy sell his crap on the Plaza. Instead, let Coviello sell HIS crap there!"

Who knew that self-proclaimed anarchists are actually greedy, capitalist pigs at heart?


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