Screenshot from video of Tuesday’s Eureka City Council meeting.

The long-standing, sometimes controversial arrangement between the City of Eureka and the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau looks to be coming to an end.

After nearly two and a half hours of deliberation, including testimony from dozens of speakers, the Eureka City Council last night unanimously approved a motion to request proposals for new partnerships and marketing strategies for the town.

Eureka Development Services Director Rob Holmlund began by giving a presentation on Eureka tourism and marketing strategies and the current partnership the City of Eureka holds with the Visitors Bureau. Eureka shells out $370,000 to the bureau annually to help promote the city.

Although Holmlund said the bureau does an excellent job of promoting the redwoods, he does not feel that they are doing an outstanding job of marketing Eureka specifically.

“Could Eureka get a better return on investment? That’s what this is all about,” Holmlund said.

Following Holmlund’s presentation, Richard Stenger, interim executive director of the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau, stated his reasons for why he thinks the partnership should continue.

“We’ve been delivering the goods to Eureka,” Stenger said.

He outlined some of the ways the bureau has highlighted Eureka, including prominent placement on their website and in their pamphlets. He also credited the bureau’s PR efforts in getting Eureka on the cover of several magazines. Stenger himself had also written an eight-page spread on the redwoods for the San Francisco Chronicle had also helped get an eight-page spread on the redwoods published in the San Francisco Chronicle, including one article which he had written, which he said featured Eureka business prominently.

Councilmember Austin Allison questioned Stenger on the bureau’s lack of cooperation in promoting the cannabis industry, to which Stenger seemed to get a bit nervous. “I need a drink of water before I answer that,” Stenger said before requesting a glass from city staff.

Richard Stenger adresses the council

“I can’t speak for the board, Austin. But I can speak strategically of what lies ahead,” Stenger explained. Stenger said that efforts to work with the cannabis industry have been frustrating for both sides and the bottom line is that the industry is just not ready. “If you market this too early, you will hurt the industry not help it,” he said.

Many community members commented on the issue, both against and in support of the city staff’s recommendation to request proposals from other agencies.

Mike Newman — member of the Humboldt County Planning Commission and former Eureka City Councilmember — urged the council to continue the city’s partnership with the bureau, saying that they have done a wonderful job. “Redwoods are the key. That’s what brings people here,” he said.

In the end the council felt that it was time to open the city up to new competitive ideas and strategies, and approved the staff recommendation to accept proposals from other agencies.  Several council members mentioned that they hope the Visitors Bureau will submit a proposal for consideration.

Coucimember Kim Bergel said that while she appreciates all the work the bureau has done, she has been frustrated in the past with their lack of willingness to publicly embrace promoting the cannabis industry, which she hopes they will consider if they draft a proposal.

“I think it’s important for us to be able to look at new ideas and to work together,” Bergel said.

You can view a full video of the council’s deliberations on the matter below.