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It’s time for merchants to speak up

When the debacle surrounding Promote La Jolla, the local group that had been running the business improvement district started to unfold a year ago some of the strongest voices for the local tourism industry and Village merchants decided to step away from the fray. Some resigned their seats on the organization’s board and a couple of others opted to become board members with San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meanwhile, around the holidays a few merchants raised their voices about finding a better way of marketing their businesses, beautifying the Village and hosting special events. But despite apparent dissatisfaction, no one has given a public voice to the concerns, even as some Town Council trustees are suggesting a new group be formed to accomplish those tasks.

We’ve said before that the needs of businesses and residents are divergent enough that the two shouldn’t be lumped together and we’ve called for those who may have better ideas to speak up. With the topic of visiting Little Italy — or having the firm that runs their community’s district visit La Jolla — expected to be on the agenda for the May 13 trustees’ meeting and a budget about to go to the City Council to keep the La Jolla BID functioning next year, this is a critical moment for business owners and managers to make their opinions known.

If there is not solid support for the business improvement district, then perhaps businesses should no longer be assessed.

State law and council policy contain procedures for “disestablishment” that can be considered once a year prior to approving a budget and levying the assessments. In short, the process can be initiated by a petition of 20 percent of the eligible (read that as “paid up”) businesses in the district. Once that happens, the city’s staff must conduct a mail-ballot election of the businesses to determine if “at least 50 percent of the eligible businesses by assessed value support dissolution.”

(Odd quirk, it seems, but the petition process can only be used once in any three-year period.)

Other ways to start the dissolution movement include a resolution by four-fifths of the directors or “special circumstances as determined by the Council.”

Should the move to shut down a BID succeed, the council would “wind down” operations and if there are remaining assets return them to businesses that were current in the assessments when the council approved the move, but only if there are no impacts on existing contracts. And if the cost to return funds is greater than the assets, the city manager can decide to spend the money on “an eligible BID activity.”

What this all means is that there’s still time for people who have good ideas about how to help our businesses, whether they are hotels and restaurants or small businesses, to say something. So don’t be shy. Show up at the Town Council meeting at 5 p.m. May 13 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.