Marketing

I'm having a hard time understanding the reluctance of some members of Bellevue Council to approve the fifth year of a farmers market. One of the key aspects of promoting and marketing Bellevue's main street business district is bringing in events that will in turn bring in people, some of whom might otherwise never visit Bellevue, and many of whom will patronize local businesses while shopping at the farmers market.

Here are a few facts just to get you all caught up: The farmers market is sponsored and managed by Enjoy Bellevue, a private, nonprofit organization. It is held on Wednesdays during the spring, summer and fall on Hawley Avenue adjacent to Lincoln Avenue, which allows it to be visible to traffic passing on Lincoln Avenue and preserves most of the parking in the area. The market was started by a group of people, including a member of Bellevue Council, who ultimately failed to follow through on their commitment and dumped it into the lap of EB.

Bellevue Council certainly cannot have a problem with events using borough property, because it quickly approves such events as the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce sidewalk sales and light up night, which actually go one step further and require the input of borough personnel and utilities; the 5k race, which closes down a whole bunch of borough streets; the ill-fated ArtoberFest, which swallowed $8,000 in borough funds donated to the skate park while incapacitating the business district for most of a Saturday; and Improve the 'Vue, which actually has private citizens performing work on borough property.

Of all of these events, the famers market requires the least borough involvement, so borough involvement cannot be the problem here. Closing down a small portion of one street cannot be the problem.

I heard comments from officials about wanting to "privatize" the event. It doesn't get much more private than having a private nonprofit corporation as the sponsor, just like most of the other events mention previously. In fact, by sticking their noses into the farmers market, council arguably is attempting to do just the opposite, and assert public control.

Then, someone made the comment that the event was the borough's because it's called the "Bellevue" farmers market. Really? Do you know how many businesses have the word "Bellevue" in their names? They include restaurants, medical practices, automotive garages...how about going to one of them and telling them that council gets to approve everything they do because the word "Bellevue" is in the name. That would be about the time the word "Bellevue" stopped being a part of the name, replaced by a word like "Avalon," or "Emsworth," or "Ross."

Then came the equally moronic argument about liability. How is Bellevue responsible for actions taken by a private entity? EB has insurance, the borough has insurance, and there's no way to stop anyone from filing a frivolous lawsuit.

My favorite objection came from the mayor, who probably would have refrained from his comments if he had thought about them for a little bit. There was a dispute last year when a local business owner objected to a decision made by the market manager. Both the business owner and the market manager ended up calling the mayor for some reason. The mayor said the two acted "childish." Man, if we start throwing people out of Bellevue for acting like children, that borough hall is going to be one empty place.

There is no valid reason to deny EB the use of a small portion of a side street to run a farmers market. This is looking dangerously as if some officials have a personal or political reason for making it this hard to do something that could be good for the business district. Other organizations, with which some officials have an affiliation and a currently undeclared conflict of interest, are not held to the same level of scrutiny.

Talk about liability.