Will Mission Viejo’s Rose Parade float pay off in more tourists?

(Picture Courtesy of the L.A. Times)

Technically speaking California is “the land of milk and honey.” With cattle off Interstate 5 in Coalinga and bee hives in Rancho Cucamonga, that title passes the smell test.

However we are also experiencing some serious financial problems beginning with an out of control state budget along with the front page Business Report of today’s Register where they report the “biggest job loser in 2008: California.”  We lost 257,400 jobs last year. Add to that bad news the high cost of doing business in our state compounded by trial balloons that we may shortly be paying higher taxes. We are the sixth most expensive state in which to do business. Perhaps we can label this a “perfect storm” with many of our 35 million residents losing their retirement investments, others struggling to pay their bills, and thousands having their homes go into foreclosure.

In fact, From DataQuick’s report on California foreclosures in the first three months of 2008: “Trustees Deeds recorded, or the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 47,171 during the first quarter. …  Last quarter’s total rose 48.9 percent from 31,676 in the previous quarter, and jumped 327.6 percent from 11,032 in first quarter 2007.”  That translates into 517 foreclosures every day in the first quarter of 2008.

It is important to point out that this recession did not begin yesterday. We were surely feeling the financial shortfall in Jan of 2007 when Mission Viejo City councilman Lance MacLean suggested, and the council majority budgeted, $300,000 for a Rose Parade float. For our mayor to be quoted in the Register stating that, unlike the state, we are in fine financial shape is so out of touch with reality of our citizens it is beyond words. It reminds me of the horse and wagon we once rented in Newark, NJ where the horse wore blinders so that he would not be distracted by what was happening on either side as he  pulled us down the streets. Stay tuned for the wrap up on our incidental parade float expenditures.

One teaser. The city manager told me we purchased 24 tickets to the Rose Bowl game. Based on our discussion I know where 12 ended up. Who received the balance? Were they gifted or purchased? I will shortly have copies of every requested invoice on these additional expenditures and will report back.

Without posting my resume let me simply say that my quarter century of corporate business and industry leadership experience relating to marketing and sales surely qualifies me to make a valid assessment of any city entering a float in the annual Tournament of Roses parade.

In the Aug 24th Register Mission Viejo council member Kelley is quoted defending her role in pressing ahead with our float said “it’s a good way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of cityhood as well as promote the city to people across the country.”
Promote what? Our private “members only” lake?

Let me respond by stating that I have no objection to the parade and city entries. Every volunteer deserves kudos’ for their efforts in creating these works of art. In fact  I have gone on record commending both the cities of Anaheim and Long Beach each of whom compete to fill their convention centers. While I would have preferred private funding, that expenditure is justified. Someone even reminded me that the city of Los Angeles entered a float that did not use any taxpayer money. They too have a convention center on South Figueroa right next door to Staples Arena. That’s called marketing. When your city is a destination for tourism, with multiple venues to promote, participating in the parade provides an excellent “return on investment.” Simply compare Anaheim, whose annual bed tax revenues are around $80 million, Vs Mission Viejo with $575,000. At half the cost of our float it’s a no brainer.
Last fall I did an entire series on city float entries and will not repost that old data.

The main point is that there are citizens in our city who have suggested our entering another float to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Let me offer some recommendations beginning with my attending, without an invitation, a meeting our Mission Viejo Community Foundation a few months ago. While they were surprised to see me as I walked into the city’s Potocki Center (without an invitation) and sat down, the chairman of the city funded non-profit took me to task for suggesting that they should have taken on the challenge of creating fundraisers for the float. At that point I was told that I was a guest and that they do not have to consider anything I may suggest.  I would label this a blown opportunity, especially when we funded their start-up to the tune of around $400,000 while they never raised the million plus for the Murray expansion which was their first project’s target.

If residents in any city want to enter a float, organize, create a volunteer group, assign individual tasks based on the functions to be performed utilizing the individual talent of your team members. Commence various garage sales, boutiques and other forms of fundraising so that you are not using taxpayer monies. Solicit local merchants into becoming sponsors, etc. i.e. “The Downey Rose Float Association was founded in 1952, prior to the incorporation of Downey. Our first entry was in 1913 and since 1955 we have continuously entered a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Downey’s entry has the distinction of being one of the only six floats which come under the parade classification of self-built.  This classification means our float is completely financed, constructed and decorated by volunteer contributions and help.”

LaCanada-Flintridge has an all volunteer Association. They received around $15,000 in city funds. Sierra Madre Rose Float Association designs and constructs their own float. In addition their funding is achieved through donations, memberships and other fundraising activities. The city of Roseville budgeted $200,000 all of which was to be covered by donations. They were celebrating their Centennial as was the city of Huntington Beach who had raised half of their float cost way back in July of 2008.

Perhaps we should ask everyone looking to lease our vacant Mervyn’s anchor store on Alicia Parkway and Interstate 5 if they learned of Mission Viejo through our two minutes of fame on January 1st?

About Larry Gilbert