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For St. Helens community, we need someone who cares

FILE PHOTO - Concern has been raised that St. Helens businesses were disregarded for participation in a small number of Spirit of Halloweentown events. Amanda Normine, who is the business development committee chair for SHEDCO, suggests a future work session to hash through some of the issues and, more importantly, find sensible solutions.

St. Helens City Council and City Administrators:

I am a local small business owner and am also the vice chair on the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. (SHEDCO) board of directors. I am writing to you today regarding the recent issues that have arisen regarding city events which have not been inclusive of our local business community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Normine is the business develoment commiteee chair for the St. Helens Ecomonic Develoment Corp. Her commentary was submitted to the St. Helens City Council for consideration regarding the city’s month-long Spirit of Halloweentown events. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by calling 503-397-7196.

Most of you have likely seen, either online or in the newspaper stories (see Spotlight, “VIP dinner for Spirit of Halloweentown has some folks gnashing teeth,” Oct. 28) about various Hallweentown events which have utilized either Portland venues or Portland vendors and the community response that choice has elicited.

I, personally, was quite disheartened by those choices and I have concern that if this isn’t addressed then this will cause a further rift between the city and the businesses.

I have been on the SHEDCO board for several years now and I have watched, first-hand, the many struggles that our local businesses go through. Lack of heads in beds and feet through doors is a problem that is widespread. When we get opportunities, like the one that Halloweentown presents, it is key that we help our local businesses to capitalize on them.

Events are not easy and I am not in any way diminishing all that has been created by the team in place. This year ran much better than last, and in many cases, was a success. The issues which arose around not keeping money local could have, and should have, been caught and addressed before they happened.

It is my position that we shouldn’t be pointing fingers at Tina Curry, the event coordinator, but instead at those who were supposed to be governing her and her decisions. Contractors hire their “network” — that is what they do and often what makes them a great choice for event planning, because they bring lowered rates and high-level contacts with them. That said, our needs are not centered around needing a high-end event planner who has a Rolodex three-inches thick. Our needs are much more simplistic in nature.

What we need is someone who cares about our community and who wants to help us and our business owners thrive. It is with that in mind that we should be screening, hiring and managing vendors and contractors which are used. 

I have had the pleasure of speaking with many local business owners and citizens regarding this, and the resounding idea I hear is that there needs to be a group whose sole responsibility is to manage the staff and budgets surrounding our tourism spend. A group who will ensure that the money stays local and that the opportunities for our local businesses are plentiful during city-sponsored events. All in all, a scenario needs to be created where blame can’t be shrugged off or fingers pointed here and there, and where accountability points are put in place.

While I know the debrief for Halloweentown is on the agenda, I realize this topic is much more broad and likely commanding of more in-depth conversation than time will allow. Because of that, I would like to request a future time be set, in a work session, when these issues and this proposed committee can be further discussed.

I look forward to working together toward a positive resolution for everyone.