---------- We need all the help we can get ------------
After traveling up to the Russian River over the past 25 years, and after living here part, now full, time in Rio Nido, I agree very much with your remarks about the need to strengthen the infrastructure and to develop a year-round sustainable economy. When these issues are addressed, only then will the Russian River area redevelop into more than just a summer destination spot. That being said, I don't know how controversial or costly the GLBT tourism ads are, but I'm here to tell you, that the GLBT money that is pumped into the local economy is substantial and significant. When it wanes, the community wanes. I've seen that over and over in cycles through the years since the early 80's. However, the GLBT and 'straight' tourism dollar should be considered in addition to the infrastructure and year-round economy issues. Diversity in advertising dollars is always wise.
But I also have to say, nobody wants to invest in a community prone to blight and flooding. When is some enforcement towards the clean up of the local ‘private’ dumpsites throughout Rio Nido going to happen? The Rio Nido Inn is disgusting, with its trailers filled with garbage and covered in blue tarp. I've called the county, to no avail. It appears to me that some substantial redevelopment can start in most of the front and back yards in this area. People drop their trash anywhere they please, and nobody seems to care. The entrance to Rio Nido is a bunch of muddy ruts turned in mosquito ponds. Some large boulders to keep vehicles off these areas, once they were leveled, would be a big help, and would look appealing. Maybe that idea can be presented to the Redevelopment group. True redevelopment will occur when people that drive through the River note the beauty of this area, instead of the blue tarp and garbage dumps along the roadside. Until then, I think the Russian River is doing well to attract any tourist dollar it can get.
Matt, $25K was spent on niche marketing ads for GLBT tourism. The Chamber of Commerce & other organizations tracked spending for & responses to these ads closely & found -- as you would have predicted -- that the ads had good results, in terms of increased tourism & business. The decision to run these ads was extensively discussed & well-thought out. Unfortunately, the ads also ticked off a LOT of people, who felt that their tax dollars were being spent on promoting an image of our community which many folks are NOT on board with.
In general, we revel in our free-wheeling, live-and-let-live image until a certain line is crossed. Like the equator, the GLBT-Friendliness line is utterly invisible, but definitely not imaginary. It lies somewhat South of our belovedly wild, wacky, & totally stylin' drag queen charitable fundraisers, the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence whom we all ADORE; & WAY NORTH of the barbarian hordes of drunken, vomiting, buttless chaps-wearing Lazy Bear Weekend visitors whom we all ABHORE because they're obnoxious & make everyone who's unfortunate enough to visit that weekend -- including our very own friends & relatives -- never, ever, EVER want to visit this area again.
---------- Redevelopment? WHAT Redevelopment? ------------
Dear Mr. Carillo:
This note is to second and support Mr. Guccione’s and Ms. Parker’s messages regarding the conduct and management of the Russian River Redevelopment Area. As a manager, Kathleen Kane does not have the interests of the River communities at heart, is deeply unconstructive in her attitude towards those of us who are advocates for issues in our county region, and is the wrong choice to lead redevelopment efforts here.
Ms. Kane has a long-standing record of unresponsiveness and lack of accountability towards those of us who want to see the RRRA prosper. This is most strongly typified by her refusal to consider any options beyond funding tourism efforts aimed specifically at the gay community. Businesses in the area are getting no marketing support, the large community of families in the Russian River and their interests are completely ignored, and innovative ideas for growing the local economy are shot down with negative comments.
This is completely unacceptable. Among the major problems in this area that Ms. Kane appears to have no interest in addressing are the following:
- The central park of Guerneville, Drake Park, has no bathroom and no functioning water fountains. Meanwhile, a recently built county park across the road overpass has a complete bathroom facility and is overrun by the homeless and by drug dealers;
- The only credible local newspaper of note, The Russian River Monthly, has just shut down;
- At least half a dozen storefronts in Guerneville are vacant, and what new businesses there are do not effectively cater to the local population with good inexpensive restaurants and shopping, preferring to concentrate on fripperies for non-existent tourists such as expensive jewelry and boutique flowers;
- An old bank building in Guerneville has been vacant since the mid-to-late 80’s and remains a magnet for homeless panhandlers;
- The roads in Rio Nido, my immediate community, are essentially unpaved dirt and local hot-rodders constantly speed through our canyons at 30-40 miles per hour. This while Old Cazadero Road in Guerneville has speed bumps installed along its entire length;
- Monte Rio continues to have chronic infrastructure problems and is facing an ugly summer ahead as water levels continue to drop, killing whatever tourism may be possible in that community.
- Homes in foreclosure are selling locally for a third of what they were worth a few years ago;
- There are absolutely no jobs in the local area.
Now, redevelopment initiatives can’t solve all of these problems, but it would be nice if we had county employees who actually gave a damn about our area. One of the few ways to grow the tax base in this area is to market these communities as less-expensive places to raise a family. Even now, homes in the immediate Bay Area are selling for a median of $700K+ in metro areas, remaining out of reach of even most two-income families. This is a perfect marketing opportunity. Our area remains within commuting distance of San Francisco. Yet all we do is market to the gay community, continuing to damage our communities’ reputation and keeping our image as a party-hearty area where people can come and let their hair down with impunity, drive drunk and commit sexual battery. On some weekends during the summer, I’m actually afraid to bring my kids to Guerneville even to do grocery shopping.
Ms. Kane not only does not represent our interests; she does not offer solutions and simply remains negative and resistant to change and new ideas. I completely support Mr. Guccione’s idea for a community redevelopment forum and hope that you can find time in your crowded schedule to begin to address our concerns and possibly take some action to restructure the RRRA management to become more responsive and constructive. Ms. Kane does not solve problems; she causes them and perpetuates them.