Downtown Partnership gets support, after mixed reviews

PRESCOTT – The Prescott Downtown Partnership (PDP) got the continued support of the City Council this week, despite some opposition from the audience and from two members of the council.

By a 5-2 vote, the council approved an agreement that allocates about $18,000 to the downtown management organization. The money goes to help pay the salary of the PDP's full-time manager, who works to organize downtown events and deals with Main Street issues.

The city has been contributing to the PDP since 1999, when the organization formed.

But new council members Jim Lamerson and Mary Ann Suttles had some questions about the allocation. Both ultimately voted against the agreement.

Lamerson, a downtown business owner, voiced concerns about the objectives of the organization. "I don't understand what the PDP has developed into," he said. He also questioned the benefits to retail businesses from PDP events such as the Electric Light Parade.

And, calling the PDP an "unnecessary layer of bureaucracy," audience member Sue Willoughby questioned the accountability of the organization – especially because it doesn't comply with the Arizona Open Meeting Law.

Willoughby maintained that because the PDP receives money from the city and the county, it should have to comply with the open meeting law's requirement to conduct its business in public. But, she said, the PDP has turned away members of the public.

City Attorney John Moffitt maintained, however, that, even though the organization has contracts with the city and county, "it still operates in a private capacity." He compared it to the arts events to which the city awards money, such as Tsunami on the Square.

The organizations that conduct those events also don't have to comply with the open meeting law, Moffitt said.

Kendall Jaspers, the president of the organization, said the PDP helps to organize a number of events that bring people to the downtown area. He brought up the light parade, the Cinco de Mayo Taste of Salsa, the courthouse lighting, and the July 4 street dances.

"We decided that we would get the most bang for our money by trying to be events-oriented," Jaspers said. He allowed, however, that most of the events do not make money for the organization.

But Jaspers, who operates a restaurant on Cortez Street, maintained that events such as the light parade do bring customers to downtown businesses.

Suttles suggested that the city should reduce its contribution to the PDP.

Other council members disagreed, contending that the organization helps to keep the downtown vital.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com