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Move cautiously on idea for La Jolla panel

A proposal to create an all-encompassing group that would unite residents and businesses under some new banner overseen by the La Jolla Town Council deserves close scrutiny.

Last week, Promote La Jolla President Rick Wildman, who has been working with other board members and city officials to find a way to get the business district out of the hole created by a city audit last year, said the time has come for a new group that could unify the community’s diverse interests.

While he was just floating the idea, it seemed to draw interest from Town Council trustees and those in the audience. Conceptually, some sort of “fee” would be charged to merchants and residents to raise money for community projects and promotional efforts.

Obviously it’s early in the process, but we question what would become of the programs that address the needs of our tourism businesses and small merchants if they are lumped in a group with residents. And even then, each group’s needs are distinct in their own rights.

Hotels and restaurants depend on visitors from outside La Jolla for much of their revenue; small merchants need residents as well as visitors and don’t necessarily benefit from extensive outreach programs. Residents want parks and beaches that are safe and clean, streets free from potholes and services provided in an efficient manner.

During the course of PLJ’s last year, those board members with tourism interests have left the board. Their dismay was partly a result of the audit, which some blamed on the “new board,” and partly because they felt the focus on their needs was lost.

That experience should serve as a message that perhaps what La Jolla needs is something more akin to a chamber of commerce so that its businesses continue to have their own voice. Meanwhile, as part of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and with two board members on its counterpart in North San Diego County, businesses with tourism links should look more to those established groups for their promotional efforts. In fact, some of that is already happening.

We fear that businesses might lose their voice if they are lumped into a one-for-all group, although we’re willing to listen to ideas. The Town Council — or whoever picks up the ball — needs to remember sometimes being all things to all people isn’t always the best solution.