City Council Approves Tour de Terrace Funding

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The Mountlake Terrace City Council approved funding for the annual Tour de Terrace festival Monday night but not before a contentious discussion from members of the Council.

For some background be sure to read our previous article on the issue before proceeding.

In short, councilmember John Zambrano has objected to the City providing funding for Tour de Terrace because Tour de Terrace was not a non-profit organization and Zambrano was not convinced that the Nile Shriners (who are a non-profit) were officially sponsoring the festival. It has been the City’s practice to only grant these funds to non-profit organizations.

Representatives from the Nile Shurtah, a group within the Nile Shriners, commented at the March 3rd City Council work session that they were, in fact, sponsoring the festival and allowing the festival to use the Nile’s non-profit status. It turns out this was not entirely true. In a letter received by the City the following day, Friday, March 4th, the treasurer of the Nile Shriners stated that they are withdrawing their sponsorship of the festival because their Imperial by-laws passed on January 1st, 2011, prohibit them from being a sponsor of the festival in 2011. This apparently came as a surprise to members of the Shurtah whose contradictory comments the previous evening came after the letter from the treasurer was postmarked. This letter was presumably a response to inquiries by Zambrano in February about their association with Tour de Terrace. The failure of the Nile Shriners to communicate the contents of the letter with the Shurtah group has led to confusion as to if and how the Nile would be participating in the festival.

Mayor Jerry Smith is the President of Tour de Terrace as well as a member of the Nile Shriners. Because of his association with the festival, Smith had recused himself from any Council discussion or decisions relating to Tour de Terrace. When the City received the letter from the Nile on Friday afternoon it was just as much a surprise to Mayor Smith. Smith, one of the founders of Tour de Terrace, quickly turned to finding a solution to keeping the festival alive. Though not technically required by the City, Smith made plans to have Tour de Terrace’s own non-profit status reinstated, possibly just to quiet Zambrano’s objections. Tour de Terrace had non-profit status from 2002-2004 before the festival was sponsored by other parties, but it had since become inactive. According to the Secretary of State web site, Tour de Terrace re-registered as an active non-profit organization on Monday, March 7, 2011.

Though the drum that Zambrano had been persistently beating was all about the non-profit status, to Smith this is now about insurance.

Tour de Terrace takes place on City and School District property and both of these entities require indemnity insurance so that they are not held responsible for any losses (injury, property, etc.) associated with the festival. As the sponsoring organization, the Nile Shriners had provided this insurance in the past. According to Smith some quotes for this type of insurance have been as high as $20,000. A cost this high could mean the end of a festival that is completely run by volunteers without any corporate sponsorship. Mayor Smith seemed confident, though, that they could find an affordable solution. Tour de Terrace is one of the largest “Seafair sanctioned” events outside Seattle and while Seafair does not necessarily provide insurance to sanctioned events, Smith says they are helping with the search.

Though the matter had been discussed twice before on February 22 and March 3, Monday was the first Council meeting where all members of the Council were present. City Manager John Caulfield brought up the new information, that the Nile Shriners had withdrawn their sponsorship of the festival and that Tour de Terrace’s non-profit status had been reinstated. There were two items on the agenda relating to the funding: 1) that the Council approve the dispersement of funds recommended by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (more on that here) and 2) that the Council approve the funding agreement with Tour de Terrace which included in-kind services. In-kind services are services that the City provides at no charge such as extra police for security and public works personnel.

Zambrano’s comments on the first agenda item were similar to his previous comments, arguing that the application by Tour de Terrace was filled out improperly since Tour de Terrace was not a non-profit organization at the time the application was submitted. For the second agenda item, Zambrano moved on from the profit/non-profit argument and started making insinuations of potential ethics violations against Mayor Smith. Though no detailed allegations were made, Zambrano argued that the City’s funding of advertising costs and in-kind services for the festival could increase the profit to be made and potentially result in personal financial gain for Jerry Smith.

[box type=”normal”]”Is he using his office to gain some kind of special privilege?” asked councilmember Zambrano.[/box]

Tensions were high as Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore and others on the Council were obviously getting frustrated with Zambrano’s tactics. In response to Zambrano’s insinuation that other councilmembers were “voting because of [their] feelings” Sonmore said “As a woman I get perturbed when people accuse me of thinking with my emotions when I’m a trained paralegal and everyone on this council has been trained to look at fact.”

Sonmore asked the City Attorney to comment on Zambrano’s allegations of ethics violations.

[box type=”normal”]”There is the issue of whether or not there is a beneficial interest being recieved by any one of the council members who partake in voting on this action. Mayor Smith, in an abundance of caution, has stepped back and is not participating either in his capacity as Mayor or as an indivudal speaking tonight. Secondly, it has to be a direct financial benefit to that particular council member. I do not have enough facts or background to identify if that is or is not occuring. I’m assuming that it does not occur. These are in-kind service that are provided to the organization, they are not provided directly to Mayor Smith. The key is whether or not there is a direct financial benefit and at this point, based upon what I know, I do not see that,” said the City Attorney Greg Schrag.[/box]

There’s no question about it: Mayor Smith has a passion for Tour de Terrace and the recent objections by Zambrano are seen by some as an attack on the Mayor himself.

When MLTnews asked Mayor Smith about the allegations, Smith said that he has not had any personal financial gain by Tour de Terrace receiving City funds. In fact, Smith says that over the years he has spent around $25,000 of his own money on tents and other equipment that are used for free by Tour de Terrace each year.

The City Council voted 5-1 to approve the LTAC’s recommendation and 4-1 to approve the funding agreement with Tour de Terrace. John Zambrano was the one “No” vote in both instances. Michelle Robles decided to abstain from voting on the funding agreement since she has been a Tour de Terrace volunteer for many years and did not want there to be an appearance of a conflict of interest.

A number of citizens came to the meeting to comment and one comment in particular seemed to resonate with the Council and others in the room. Robert Reedy, who made a similar comment at the March 3rd meeting, said this:

[box type=”normal”]”Let’s get on with this motion. What killed it [a parade] in Lynnwood was the constant backstabbing and bickering that you see in high school. I graduated high school in 1972 and I’d like to leave that behind me and I think the citizens of Mountlake Terrace would like to leave that behind them as well.”[/box]

The chatter after the meeting outside the Council chambers seemed be of a similar note: now that the Council has voted people want to move on and are excited for another year of Tour de Terrace.

Tour de Terrace 2011 will be July 29-31. We will keep this page constantly updated as new information is released.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Mountlake Terrace has done it’s best to destroy other community non profit events, such as the annual Fantasy Fest sponsored by St. Pius X school. I am appalled at the behavior and make it a point to NEVER participate in the Tour de Terrace due to the behavior of those involved.

  2. The Mountlake Terrace seems to always have at least one person on the Council who ignores reality. This time around it’s Councilman Zambrano. How is the city supposed to become a better place to live if there is always someone always obstructing everything?

    • Too bad Mountlake Terrace apparently only has one person on the council that is realistic and that’s Councilman Zambrano. It’s about ‘legality’ something that you and others should understand whether or not to call the Tour de Terrace a non-profit when it clearly wasn’t until it was reinstated due to the steadfast actions of the honest Councilmember Zambrano. No where did he object to having the festival occur but to do it ‘legally’ something the Mayor and other Councilmembers didn’t seem to have a problem with. That should make everyone question their integrity and wonder just what other legal issues they desire to overlook for political gain at taxpayers expense. That would be telling the citizens of Mountlake Terrace to also be able to pick and choose the laws they believe they should abide by, or not. The Mayor and Councilmembers aside from Councilmember Zambrano were clearly acting above the law until the light was shown upon their actions with the glaring fact the non-profit status was not in place. This situation should make all MLT citizens wake up and pay more attention to what is being done in their name on behalf of the city and keep their feet to the fire if they intend on acting with unethical intent and call them on it as Councilmember Zambrano courageously did.

  3. So we don’t get the old “Imperial” Shriner dudes on little bikes and that old pipe organ car in an already bloated parade? As for funding, why can’t the political candidates who seem to take up much of our viewing pleasure in the parade put out a few $$$ for the big, free advertising they receive?

    • Jeff, I believe that the Shriners Shurtah group will still be participating in the parade and it sounds like they will still be volunteering as they have in the past. The only change is they are not the official sponsor any more.

  4. im glad to see that the counsil didnt see how one’s personal feelings againist one person didnt get in the way to make mlt a better community, i for one was getting very disappionted in the fear of not having tour de terrace this year. it brings ppl in from other communities, not to mention bringing mlt together as a small friendly town.

  5. I hate to see people in MLT portray a blowhart like Zambrano as “honest” and “courageous”. Zambrano has numerous mental issues that have not be treated. The grandstanding, lies, half-truths, exaggerations, and arrogance leave a very negative image of MLT citizens.

    I am extremely disappointed that a festival like Tour-De-Terrace is being portrayed in such a bad light. I have been going to this festival since it conception 11 years ago. This is a family-friendly three day event and the ONLY local event of Seafare. Tour-De-Terrace gives me, my family and children the opportunity to visit with MLT classmates, friends, neighbors, and people we haven’t seen in years. MOST PEOPLE DO NOT REALIZE WHAT A GREAT THING THEY HAVE IN TOUR-DE-TERRACE, TILL THE FESIVAL IS GONE. Remember taking the entire family to the drive-in theater for a couple of bucks, remember filling up your vehicle cost less than $10.00, someone running to your vehicle to fill up the tank and wash your windshield, etc. Those items are now gone and lost for ever. I see Tour-De-Terrace headed for that list.

    R.I.P Tour-De-Terrace. You will always be remembered by me, my family, my children, friends, neighbors (past & current), MLT high school gradutates, and supporters of Tour-De-Terrace.

    I will be around long enough to see Zambrano placed in his final resting place and have to answer to GOD for all the things he has done while he was here on earth. That will be his true test of COURAGE & HONESTY.

    • I seriously cannot comprehend the stupidity of some of the people who have commented on this board.

      Councilman Zambrano is not proposing to get rid of Tour de Terrace.

      He questioned whether or not tax payers dollars should be allocated to an organization which had apparently no legal status at the time the application for tax payer funds was submitted. Councilman Zambrano seemed to be the only person on the city council who understood the implications of granting to funds to an organization that did not exist when the request for funds was made.

      There is no rule that says a company called Tour de Terrace, whether it be non-profit or for profit could not sponsor an event with the same name.

      The question was whether or not it was appropriate to allocate tax money to an organziation that did not exist to put on said event.

      I don’t think Councilman Zambrano is a communist, he doesn’t seem to have problem with people making money, he just would like them to do it legally.

      I thank Councilman Zambrano for being the only one on the council who is not a “rubber stamp” vote as Mayor Smith would say, and has the ability to stay away from groupthink and stick to his principles.

  6. Tour de Terrace is now has a non profit (thank yu zambrano for your diligence and stupidity) and alway was a non profit event sponsored by the Nile and their non profit status. NOT ONE DOLLAR OF THE CITIZENS OF MOUNTLAKE TERRACE GOES INTO THE HOTEL MOTEL TAX (L TAX) UNLESS YOU HAVE SPENT A NITE IN THE HOTEL ITSELF. How many of the people commenting stayed in the hotel and live here ? As far a guests comment , if you want the truth on zambrano and Smith call Father Fox at St Pius. Councilman zambrano claims to have over 500 people on his z man news, why did only 49 respond to his questionare. his #’s are 14 for and 35 against.

  7. The mayor of MLT has been really helpful in helping local businesses like Voula’s Good Eats. I am a customer and I know he frequents the restaurant quite often, bringing in guests and family to help promote a family owned, MLT business. He has always been helpful in helping local merchants thrive in an economy that has not been so kind. We need to support him and we need to realize that I don’t think there are too many other mayors out there in other towns that spend the amount of their PERSONAL time helping the community as much as Jerry Smith does.

  8. Zambrano never seemed concerned while “personally investigating the financial dealings of Tour de Terrace” camped out in the beer garden last year.

    • Mayor Smith might become concered when the Department of Revenue comes looking for him. Its his name on the papers. How about the State Liquor control board….Can you say Mayor Smith is going to have alot to explain!

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