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Column full of distortions about 4th Ave. merchants


The first several words that come to mind when reading Mark Kimble’s July 16 opinion column include bigoted, snobbish, biased, narrow, intolerant, manipulative and manipulated. Several other adjectives surface with further thought but the above can do for a starter.

Headlined ”Beer booth bloats 4th Ave. shops at charity’s expense,” Kimble has accepted the misinformation of the Kiwanis Club to show his disrespect of a group of merchants who have worked hard and diligently to further the urban, pedestrian atmosphere of their area. Judging from his ”analysis,” Kimble seems intent on keeping Tucson moving toward the Atlantic Monthly’s description of Tucson as a low-wage franchise of bloated corporate pods devoid of local identity.

Now to the ”bloating.” I am not currently a member of the Fourth Avenue Merchants’ Association board of directors, but I have served as such in the past as well as president and paid executive director for a time that encompassed five street fairs.

Yes, the association creates funding from the two annual fairs. That money goes toward the cost of communication with craft vendors from Maine to California who rely on the fair, jurying the entries, preparation of the Avenue, (not a small part), maintaining a large crew during the fair, providing long hours of labor for communication, medical emergency, lost children, and extensive bookkeeping and check writing to pay the bills, sanitation maintenance, vendor assistance, post fair clean-up and security.

Kimble should check the hourly cost of security, which has just been increased by the City Council. According to the rules, the most expensive outlay is the security required by the state because of the sale of alcohol. The two annual street fairs cost the association $37,000 to meet these obligations. Porta-potty billing is $10,000 – largely used to recycle the beer. Security the rest of the year costs $24,000 to police the funneling created by the Toole Avenue feeding station.

Now, some talk about the money left over. The first fairs were free but conditions established by the city created expenses. Once this case was faced, the association realized the cost of running the fair required direction. That alone brought about an escalating cost of the event.

In the beginning, the excess money paid for the trees lining the Avenue, a small but nice contribution to the city. Like all enterprises, it has grown. Today we maintain flowers, the trees, trash receptacles, bike stands, and security.

As an association member, I am proud of the contributions we have made with minimum requirement of general fund, taxpayer dollars. Just check out the vitality of Fourth Avenue against the downtown center, and the amount of our dollars that have gone into studies and the amenities intended to create energy in that sector.

Kimble’s understanding of other cities’ use of streets for events leaves much to be desired. He should check out Maxwell Street in Chicago, Pike Street in Seattle. Actually he doesn’t have to go far. He should visit the streets around Mill Avenue in Tempe.

It’s true Kiwanis donated their hard-earned money to worthy charities. I imagine it is also true those donations were given without the explanation of who provided the venue to raise those funds. This is not an attack on the Kiwanians, but rather a criticism of the dissemination of distorted facts.

It has never been an intent of the Fourth Avenue Merchants’ Association to claim itself a charity. Unlike the vast majority of craft and art fairs across the nation, the Fourth Avenue Fair provides free booths for public service organizations – space that would enhance the income of the participating organization. Merchants must also pay for their space.

In addition, we provide staff, publicity and space for organizational events of the Cystic Fibrosis and Arthritis foundations. The association receives no funding to build our ”coffers.” We do try to enhance the environment to encourage traffic. It has been my belief that that is the same purpose as the Chamber of Commerce and the

Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Whatever the cause of the Kiwanis vs. FAMA debate is not dealt with in Kimble’s diatribe. My understanding is that demands by Kiwanis upon the association regarding location and cost were beyond bearance by the staff. Many of these requirements come from the state liquor board.

Being an ”ex-hippie” – whatever that means – I believe reasonable people can meet together and deal with their problems. I also understand the coming fair replacement for the Kiwanis booth is to be Casa de Los NiƱos and my understanding throughout my 26 years in Tucson has been that they are a valuable charity. I also understand the general return to charitable fund raising at similar events across the country averages 20 percent of their income while our negotiations have held to 50 percent.

Kimble’s manipulative trigger words demean hard-working, honest, customer-oriented people. Perhaps he should visit the Avenue and discover the sweet variety of Tucson, he might actually raise his awareness of America.

Peace, brother.

Michael Haggerty is owner of Piney Hollow on North Fourth Avenue and a member of the Fourth Avenue Merchants’ Association.

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