Thursday, June 11, 2009

Without Rally This Year - Repeat of 2006

The following is a Letter to the Editor at The Pinnacle Newspaper, a local Hollister publication.

Without A Rally Will We See A Repeat of 2006

A reporter for one of our local papers came by Johnny’s to ask me about the fourth of July but I was out. He didn’t miss anything because I decided after my last interview that I would never do another one. I have been misquoted or have my words taken out of context. If my opinion matters at all I’d like to give it in my own words. I thankfully have a historic business that the Boozefighters and many other bikers will make the pilgrimage to, rally or no rally. What about the other businesses? The gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and many others that will feel the sting of the loss of the only event in Hollister that drew upwards of a hundred thousand visitors in a three day period, all those wonderful people with plenty of money to spend in our town. Some one per center motorcycle clubs showed up too. Does one percent mean the same thing to you that it does to me? What about the other 99%? Our police chief has used fear tactics for years to convince our city council members and city manager that he must spend close to $120,000.00 a day for law enforcement for our three day event. The two factions that he is most concerned about live right here in each others own back yards 365 days a year. They have no reason to wait until our motorcycle rally to have a clash. Common sense says that it would not be wise on their part. Law enforcement costs for the rally weekend have put it out of business. I don’t blame Chief Miller. He is doing what he honestly believes in his heart is necessary. If the cities safety was my responsibility and you gave me a blank check and said the sky’s the limit I’d probably go a little overboard myself.

You would think just one of our five elected council members would have the gumption to do a little research, look at the track record and dissect the law enforcement bill to figure out where cutbacks could be implemented. What about the helicopter that flies over head multiple times a day and night? Is that really necessary? I wonder how much it costs tax payers every time the helicopter leaves the pad. I’m surprised so many down town residents are supportive of the rally considering what they have to put up with. Why not send the helicopter out once a day for a head count and have it on stand by for an emergency. I will never be convinced that the reason we have not had any violent altercations during any of our rallies is because of the outlandish expenditures on law enforcement for the event. I have had the privilege of visiting with a lot of these dedicated officers and they are bored to tears. They don’t even understand why so many of them are here.

I believe that our city council has finally done it. They have finally killed the rally. The only city council member that ever went out of his way to save it was Robert Scattini. I also believe that he was the only council member with the business sense to see what the rally means to Hollister. He initiated putting together the 2006-2007 Hollister Motorcycle Rally Committee that I chaired and he was a dedicated member. It was the first time that the rally did not lose money in three years. It didn’t make a lot of money either. We had a dedicated promoter and many wonderful volunteers that helped to pull it off despite the huge law enforcement costs. It was a daunting task. The committee gave oversight on all issues and helped Horsepower Promotions make the 2007 rally a successful one. The committee stepped aside and let the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce take our place for the 2008 rally. That did not go real well. The Chamber was not aware of what they were getting into and they never called upon the many volunteers waiting to help. The Chamber was overwhelmed and uninformed and the rally died.

For the rally to work a few things would have to take place. The Hollister Downtown Association, San Benito County Chamber of Commerce and our city would have to get together and work hard with help from an experienced promoter. Our council would have to come up with a reasonable law enforcement budget. (No promoter is going to get involved in a rally if they are expected to hand over $350,000.00 for law enforcement costs.) The council came up with this figure not taking into consideration the money that is brought in from business licenses, permit fees and sales tax. Not to mention our entire economy being stimulated. Wake up please!

With that said I’m praying that we will not have a repeat of 2006. That was last time the city council canceled the rally. The CHP was called in to see to it that bikers and motorists alike did not want to venture out onto our streets or highways for fear of being ticketed for any minor infraction. Even bicyclists were ticketed all over town. Rumor has it, and I wouldn’t know for sure since no investigative reporting was done on the subject, that over eleven hundred tickets were doled out that weekend. I talked to numerous people that were sited for everything from not putting both feet down at a stop, something that would not get a second glance on June fourth, to having regulation tinted windows believed to be too dark. They beat those tickets. I would not be at all surprised to find that the city lost money on the citations given out that weekend because most were found to be ungrounded. Our courts were bogged down with cases that were dismissed. That might be another subject worthy of investigation.

On Friday June 30th (the Fourth of July fell on a Tuesday) I started out having a wonderful day. I thought, “Great! Just as I thought, people are going to show up anyway.” By 3:00 in the afternoon the word was out. Don’t go to Hollister. There are more cops there than civilians and they are ticketing everyone. People in their own driveways who started their engine before putting on their seat belts were not exempt to the tyranny. It was a total embarrassment to me as a citizen of this fair city. Did I say fair? Maybe not. The bar phone started ringing off the hook. People from San Francisco to Santa Barbara were asking if it was true that everyone was being ticketed. It would have been better for my business to have lied to them but I could not. I’m not that kind of person. The weekend was a disaster. Many businesses lost thousands of dollars. What did Hollister gain from this experience? I’m hoping the sense to not let it happen again. In 2006 the city made money from vendors that set up on private property. In 2009 they won’t make a dime. In these tough economic times the powers that be in Hollister dealt us yet another blow. Will they learn anything from this experience? We will see. I’m not putting my money on it. If what I’m hearing is correct we will see a lot of motorcycle riders who don’t believe in breaking tradition. I’m hoping to see thousands of them. Our city decided not put out the welcome mat. Let’s hope they don’t compound it with a KEEP OUT sign. If you are one of the people that felt victimized instead of protected in July of 2006 I urge you to call, write or email your city council members and tell them that we will not stand quietly by and be harassed and made to look like fools.

Yours truly, Charisse Tyson

Saturday, June 6, 2009

4th of July in Hollister!

In the midst of our preparations for what promises to be a ROCKIN' 4th of July weekend this year, we wanted to reach out to all you bikers and enthusiasts and hear your comments about what is, and is not, officially happening this year in Hollister.

What about the City's "de-sanctioning" (a term we've heard around town) of this year's motorcycle rally?

How do the folks who have attended the previous years' rallies feel about it? And of course there are the local people - residents and businesses - what does it mean for them?

Are your friends and fellow bikers talking about this?

Could this year signal a return to a more traditional way of recognizing and celebrating the birthplace of the American biker - Where It All Began?!

After all, people are still going to be coming to downtown Hollister, and people are still looking for alternatives like the Gypsy Tour Motorcycle Classic at Bolado Park for places to enjoy their time, spend their money and have fun!

We'll have more information for you as the weekend draws closer. And we would sure like to hear your opinion.