With the recent shoot-down of “Pioneer Perfect,” the Oakdale Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau decided to finally “embrace” “Cowboy Capital of the World” as it continues its mission to develop and promote tourism for the City of Oakdale.
This decision follows a history of one-hit wonders of OTVB activity as it has attempted to accomplish this mission.
In 2009, the Oakdale City Council formed a Business Improvement District along with a 7 percent room tax charged by hotels and motels on every room rented. In 2012, the council agreed to provide revenue from 2 percent of the tax assessment –over $60,000 annually – to the Oakdale Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau to carry out the BID’s business plan.
The shelf-life of the decisions made by those within OTVB with taxpayer money appears to last less than the budget itself.
In May 2012, at a cost of $19,700, the OTVB partnered with NextMedia Group of San Jose for an aggressive marketing program to encourage Bay Area residents to visit Oakdale. The media blast consisted of radio ads, a new logo and website, and quarter-page advertisements for Oakdale Tourism in printed media.
Due to a poor response, the OTVB dropped the campaign the following year.
Furthermore, OTVB no longer uses the logo purchased and its website design has changed.
That year the OTVB also financially sponsored the Oakdale Car Show and was a major sponsor of the Oakdale Climbers Festival. Both events were not as successful as hoped.
That June, Jim Brunk condemned the OTVB for turning down sponsorship of his well-known, well-attended, and established Sierra View Music Fest in lieu of the financial support toward the first time, developing Oakdale Climbers Festival – an event organized by one of the OTVB members, Ramona Howard.
In 2013, the OTVB board presented its 2013 budget, noting that $34,000 was set aside for advertising and bringing business and tourism to Oakdale.
Then administrator for the OTVB, Howard, announced a tentative plan for the budget to place informational kiosks throughout the city that would have maps, restaurant information, and event announcements.
“Our goal is to do eight, but we’ve budgeted three,” said Howard in 2013.
The kiosk plan never went forward and Howard left the OTVB the following year.
In May 2014, the OTVB, under new leadership appointed in late 2013, spent $15,000 to bring in consultant Roger Brooks of Brooks International.
In addition to surveying the city evaluating factors such as parking, access, accommodations, and other factors used for recommendations for a core strategy, Brooks hosted a day-and-a-half workshop which included members of the public to help “brand” the city and develop the city’s tourism.
The result of the endeavor was taking the weekly farmers market, a happening that nearly all other cities host also, with the motto of “Farm Fresh California” and making it into an area known public market to attract outside visitors to the city.
As Brooks told it, the goal was to make Oakdale “California’s signature farm fresh public market in the heart of America’s cornucopia to be the poster child for Sunset Magazine and its Guide to Living in the West.”
“You have to be able to sell it,” Brooks told the Leader. “I’m not throwing it under the bus – but how’s ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ working for you the other 362 days of the year?”
In December 2014, current OTVB director Keith Boggs appeared in front of the council stating the OTVB was working on a different strategy to get travelers to go to the downtown area while passing through the city.
“Farm Fresh California didn’t resonate,” Boggs said.
Finally, earlier this month, the OTVB introduced a branding slogan presentation of “Pioneer Perfect.”
When questioned about Cowboy Capital of the World, Boggs responded that the rodeo, along with its cowboy association was only a two-day event, a statement similar to what Brooks had said the year before.
“We have to be able to use a brand that resonates over the course of 365 days a year,” Boggs replied.
In the end, after the city came forward stating it wasn’t considering changing its slogan, the OTVB recanted, stating it would forego the launch of “Pioneer Perfect” and would now use the traditional community slogan “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
“The business plan has always been solid,” said Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer. “What we’re changing is the ‘title page.’”
Whitemyer said the OTVB business plan has been “vetted” and approved by the city’s economic development commission and the chamber of commerce economic development committee.
The BID and OTVB have not been without other controversy over the last few years.
In 2011, an investigative report found that BID members discussed commission business under the auspices of a “meet and greet” at the Best Western Ramada Inn in March 2011. The members were later admonished for their actions of holding a private meeting in violation of the Brown Act.
In 2012, the Oakdale City Council voiced concerns about having the same board members from the BID, comprised of the city’s four hotel operators, sitting on the board of the OTVB which was designated to carry out the BID’s business plan.
In 2013 the OTVB came under scrutiny for its lack of timely financial reporting. After hiring a private accountant to review the books, the council was told in 2014 that the OTVB’s budget wasn’t as “clean” as the accountant would have liked.
Also in 2013, Howard, sent a lengthy email regarding the city’s proposal of banning park alcohol drinking and putting portable toilets in certain parks. In the email, Howard named then-Councilman Farrell Jackson stating because of his inaction, the problem had worsened.
Jackson confronted Howard at a Business Improvement District meeting later in the day. The BID Advisory Board later censured Howard for her remarks.