Zambrano Questions Legitimacy of Tour de Terrace

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To some Mountlake Terrace residents, John Zambrano is their only voice on the City Council. Take, for example, a vote earlier this year on whether the City should re-zone a large portion of the Melody Hill neighborhood from residential to commercial. Even though homeowners in the area were adamantly opposed to the re-zone, the Council voted 6-1 in favor of the re-zone. The one “No” vote was John Zambrano.

Now he’s at his go-it-alone tactics again, this time questioning funding for the annual Tour de Terrace festival despite what looks like approval from the rest of the City Council.

First, a little background. The City receives a Lodging Tax from the Studio 6 Hotel that goes in to a fund that must be used for events or organizations that promote tourism in Mountlake Terrace. It has been the City’s practice to only give these funds to non-profit organizations. A Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) consisting of Mayor Pro Tem Sonmore, two representatives from Studio 6 and representatives from Tour de Terrace and the Friends of the Arts was appointed by the City Council to recommend how to disburse the funds from the Lodging Tax. Their recommended disbursement of the $23,000 was 77% to Tour de Terrace, 7% to Friends of the Arts, 4% to the Farmer’s Market and 12% to the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau.

At the Council’s February 22nd meeting councilmember Zambrano brought up the fact that he had been personally investigating the financial dealings of Tour de Terrace. On their application for the Lodging Tax funds the legal name of the non-profit organization is listed as “Tour de Terrace.” Zambrano determined that Tour de Terrace was not an active non-profit organization and that representatives from the Nile Shrine Center (the organization allegedly sponsoring the festival) had told Zambrano that, as far as they knew, there was no financial relationship between the Nile and Tour de Terrace. Zambrano compared this to falsifying an employment application, saying that he strongly supported withdrawing Tour de Terrace from consideration of the Lodging Tax funds.

[box type=”normal]”My modus operandi is ‘trust and verify’ and so for a period of time I was trusting and then I started verifying. And I just want answers. The second reason that motivated me to expend the energy researching this is that I was elected by the people that voted for me to watch their back and to watch and legislate policy in a fair and equitable manner and I thought by looking at the recommendation that they [LTAC] were asking us to approve tonight, there is a tremendous imbalance here,” said John Zambrano when asked what his motivation was for the investigation.[/box]

The Council decided to table the issue on the 22nd and put it on their agenda for discussion at their March 3rd work session.

Our investigation shows that Tour de Terrace was established as a non-profit organization in 2002 and that its non-profit status expired in 2004. Since then, the festival has been “sponsored” by two different organizations. First, by the Terrace-Brier Lions Club and, most recently, by the Nile Shrine Shurtah, a group within the Nile Shriners made up of mostly retired law enforcement officers. It should be noted that Mayor Jerry Smith is active with the Nile Shrine Shurtah and is President of Tour de Terrace. Because of this Smith has recused himself from any discussion or decisions that may involve Tour de Terrace.

Around 15 citizens were in attendance at Thursday night’s City Council work session where the LTAC’s recommendation was on the agenda once again.

When discussion opened Zambrano and Mayor Pro Tem Sonmore went back and forth on the manner, Zambrano persistently coming back to the point that Tour de Terrace is not a non-profit organization.

“The majority of the grant is going to go to a misleading applicant,” said Zambrano.

“I think we are spot on on this,” said Sonmore in reference to the LTAC’s recommendation.

What the argument comes down to is this piece or paper [PDF]. Jerry Smith, acting on behalf of Tour de Terrace, filled out the application and listed “Tour de Terrace” as the legal name of the non-profit organization. While this may not technically be correct, Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore said she and the LTAC committee had intuitive knowledge to understand that the Nile’s non-profit status was being used.

“I’m not convinced that Tour de Terrace is supported by the Nile. There is no proof that the Nile stands behind Tour de Terrace,” said councilmember John Zambrano.

[box type=”normal”]He continued, “I would like to go on the record stating that the applicant that has solicited the funds for LTAC is not authorized in any shape or manner to request these funds. Tour de Terrace is an event. It’s not a non-profit, then it has to be for profit. There is no proof that the Nile Shrine Center, indeed, sponsors the event. On Monday we will vote as to accept the recommendation of the Chair of LTAC. My position is that we disqualify Tour de Terrace for inappropriate application submission, at the very least, and award all the requested funds to the other applicants who filled out the application correctly. And one more thing, I am pretty confident that the City has been misled for a number of years and with that I will end my part of this.”[/box]

A representative from the Nile Shrine Shurtah, the “High Sheriff”, spoke and explained that they were, in fact, sponsoring the Tour de Terrace festival with permission from the Nile. He further went on to explain that the Shurtah unit also sponsors MMA and amateur boxing events and that “Shurtah” is generally not used in the name of the events they sponsor. When asked by Zambrano if the Nile financially supports Tour de Terrace, the representative said that no, they don’t give money to Tour de Terrace but they volunteer by staffing the event.

“I’m a little confused as why there’s so much confusion on the issue,” said Councilmember Rick Ryan.

While Councilmember Doug McCardle didn’t have any objections to LTAC’s recommendation, he did say he would like to see a more equitable distribution of the funds in the future as all the applicants have an economic benefit to the City.

The City Council will vote on whether or not to accept the LTAC’s recommendation at their March 7 meeting. The meeting begins at 7pm at the Mountlake Terrace Interim City Hall.

UPDATE: The City Council approved funding for Tour de Terrace last night but not before a contentious discussion. Read more about it here

20 COMMENTS

  1. So why can’t the Tour de Terrace make application as a non-profit entity so it would legally, on paper, be entitled to the funding? If it’s too late to be funded this year, then maybe a different sponsor can step up. Such as Premera Blue Cross, which had a pretty profitable year by all accounts. Just saying. I’ll shut up now.

  2. PS: Good reporting, Dustin. I’m glad you included the background information in the article so readers know all the details.

    • Thanks David. The article ended up being around 1,000 words. It could have easily been 3,000. I tried to include as much information as I could without it being too long that people wouldn’t finish reading the article.

  3. It’s widely known that Mr Zambrano has had a vendetta against one of our board for years. Depsite being a councilman, he’s incredibly ignorant of the TDT/city relationship. He would rather the money go anywhere, than to the biggest tourism event in MLT.

    • Councilman Zambrano has a vendetta against anyone on MLT council who doesn’t bow down to his bully tactics. Currently, Zambrano has done this to ALL council members, but two. The remaining two councilmembers need to watch thier P’s & Q’s otherwise the “Zambrano” will be coming after you next. Zambrano for years has made vague statements, false claims, and outrite lies about every councilmember. Coucilman Zambrano can not be trusted. MLT voters need to look close look at what Councilman Zambrano has done during his tenure and VOTE HIM OUT OF OFFICE. There is no room in politics for a school yard bully like Zambrano!

      • Scott you should probably let your dad fight his own fight. There are rules for a reason and just because he is Mayor does not make him exempt!

        • Ask Zambrano about his going to the food bank and getting food a few months ago. Does he need it, NO! He has an better than everyone else Mr. high and mighty attitude and I can see why alot of people don’t like him including me and I have only lived her a year and am a renter. I wouldn’t vote for him. The festival has been a long tradition and many other festivals have run beer gardens and profits have gone to festival or to an organization such a charities or drill teams or schools or such. Who frickin cares let Ellersick do what they have been doing for a while now and reap from the profits. Many people may not come as they love the beer and there have been no problems in the past why now?

          • Can you explain on this a bit?  He got food from the MLT food bank is that what you are saying?  And how do you know this??

            Thanks for the info

      • I don’t think we want to talk school yard Bullies. Ask your dad and Dave Mercer about that. Handing glasses to Dave and swinging at me. Don’t go there!

        • I’m no fan of Jerry or Dave – but I agree with Scott that Zambrano is a bully and none too stable. I resigned from a city board because of his threats and the hostile environment he created when he attended our meetings.

  4. What a ridiculous situation, and what a biased approach from what I hoped would be an independent, responsible news source in our community.

    As far as I can tell, the Shriners organization was created for and exists mainly to support one major charitable purpose: to provide medical care free-of-charge to seriously ill children and to maintain hospitals dedicated to children’s health across the country.

    What possible profit-making scheme or negative motive could the Shrine Center have in seeking funds for, or helping to sponsor the Tour de Terrace?

    What is wrong with the Shrine Center receiving tourism grant funding so that its members can work with MLT organizers to create a reputable event of which city residents can be proud?

    Yes, the Shrine should have submitted the application in its own name (if it, indeed, has non-profit status). OR the Tour de Terrace organizers could have taken 10 minutes on the computer to sign up as a non-profit, charitable organization in Washington.

    So: return the application to Jerry Smith, ask Tour de Terrace organizers to re-do it, and get on with it!

    There is no controversy and no obvious wrongdoing here. Councilman Zambrano is not even being questioned about HIS motive, and what HE is trying to accomplish here. It appears that his motive is to challenge and throw obstacles in the way of former political opponents.

    His actions will potentially cancel an event that is an important part of our community’s revitalization, economy and pride. How is that showing leadership and serving constituents?

    MLT News runs the risk of damaging its reputation by appearing to be an advocate for Councilman Zambrano or any elected official. Where is your research on all sides of this story? Did you decide not to include a response from Jerry Smith? Or did you consider asking the Council leadership about possible solutions or options? Applauding the “go it alone” tactics of Councilman Zambrano on this issue is not responsible reporting.

    • I read this twice, once because I was interested and the second time to see why you thought it was biased. I’m no fan of Councilman Zambrano, mostly because I think he’s a contrarian by nature, but I can’t see any bias in this article. Can you point out what was so offensive to you?

      I can’t see why there needs to be a “response” from anyone. This isn’t a political debate, it’s a news story.

  5. Dustin,

    I am glad that you are willing to report the news of the city. Some folks on here obviously don’t like because it may appear to “favor” Councilman Zambrano. I don’t believe you have any political agenda here. It’s simply an interesting story with some perhaps troubling consequences, which makes it news worthy. Obviously there are a lot of folks that dislike Councilman Zambrano. Fair enough. But just because folks may not like him does not mean that the news regarding his findings should not be reported.

    • I see there have been no reponses and no clicks on the “Like” tab,
      Just like all other issues in this world “No one likes the Truth”.

  6. I read this article and did not see bias at all.    I found it informative.  Perhaps the Tour de Terrace should be declared non profit and make everyone happy.  Keep up the good reporting.  Elections are coming up so if you are unhappy with your council, you can change it!!!

  7. Zambrano use to come to the food bank and get food and would bring other people and fly into the lot at 11:30 which is the last check in time and then he brags about being in politics and other things which to most of us  was a huge turn off. If I had known he was a council member I would have and now will shame him. This food is for those who need it and live in our area, not him or people who are out of the area. Shame on you and I hope the cops catch you speeding and give you a ticket. If I still live in Terrace next election as I am a renter I will so not vote for you. What a disgrace to the community.

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