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Tomzak says merchants lack ideas
Mayor Tom Tomzak delivered a wide-ranging monolog tonight that appeared to be aimed at downtown merchants who criticized his support of Capital Ale House’s Oktoberfest event.
Tomzak started off talking about how budget time was approaching, and how it wasn’t going to be fun. He then mentioned that the City Council wrote a vision statement that calls for volunteerism, and how Mark Newton’s Homecoming Pickin’ Party, which raised $30,000 for James Monroe High School athletics, was a good example of that.
Then he turned to downtown. He told a story we heard a lot back when the council was considering public support for the Expo Center: A few years ago, when the Virginia Turf Council first had a conference in the city, the Expo Center arranged for attendees to be taken to downtown via a shuttle. They got there after 5 p.m. and left after 45 minutes because there was nothing to do. Tomzak said this was an example of why the city should encourage more special events downtown.
"In the six years I have been mayor, I have not seen the downtown merchants come forward with one positive effort with regards to an event," he said. Tomzak has been mayor for just over five years.
Some Caroline Street antique shop owners criticized the location of Oktoberfest. During his remarks tonight, Tomzak said, "Why don’t they put up capital for an event … instead of just criticizing other events."
He asked why he wasn’t seeing more support from downtown merchants for the riverfront park, then stated that he has "complete confidence" in current Downtown Retail Marketing President Bonnie DeLelys.
"I just hope Bonnie has endurance," Tomzak said. "Because that’s what it’s gonna take."
Shortly after the mayor’s remarks, council members granted DeLelys’ request that the city extend the two-hour parking limit on downtown streets to four hours for the Christmas shopping season, which they defined as Nov. 16 to Jan. 1.