Ticketing ‘Taste of Downtown’ patrons hurt city’s image

The city of Nashua and the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce are spending more than $100,000 to develop a new brand for the city.

In today’s image-
infatuated world, it’s a noble and needed pursuit for a city working hard to maintain economic and social viability in these eccentric and volatile times.

(As a matter of full disclosure, Telegraph Publisher Terrence Williams is one of 12 members of the city’s Branding Advisory Committee.)

Not much more than a month ago, Economic Development Director Tom Galligani said the effort is an attempt to rekindle the buzz of 15 years ago, when Money magazine named Nashua as one of the best places to live in the country for the second time.

“It’s a matter of trying to figure out how we can project a positive image for Nashua and how we can project the great things that are happening here,” he said.

The project manager for the firm hired to lead the rebranding initiative, Jennifer Williams of Nashville, Tenn.-based North Star Destination Strategies, described a brand as what other people say about you when you’re not around.

“It’s that orchestration of all that you do to affect what they’re saying,” she said.

So it’s curious that during one of the city’s signature special events designed specifically to showcase the downtown experience and encourage people to frequent city businesses – the annual Taste of Downtown moveable feast – parking enforcement officers didn’t skip a beat in handing out overtime violation citations, 34 in all.

According to the city, the number of tickets issued was in line with the number usually handed out on
any other busy downtown night.

Still, they were enough that businesses received negative feedback from
customers who were left with a bad taste in their mouths.

Perhaps some of the disgruntled patrons weren’t aware of recent parking rule changes – such as that tickets are now issued until 7 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. in some areas.

Perhaps others thought that after spending $30 or $35 per person to attend the event, the city would show appreciation of their patronage by putting away its parking ticket pens for a couple of hours.

Regardless, for 34 drivers and the people they brought with them, an otherwise enjoyable night on the town was unnecessarily tainted.

And for what?

If all the tickets issued for overtime parking were paid on time – within seven days – the city would rake in $340.

That raises the unavoidable question: Was the monetary benefit of handing out parking tickets worth the public relations hit? Probably not.

Perhaps it would have been wiser for the city to include free parking as the price of admission to the Taste of Downtown.

Each ticket sold could have included a voucher to be placed on car dashboards to permit free parking from, say, 3-7 p.m.

Maybe people would have come earlier. Maybe more tickets would have been sold.

Branding is a lot of things, such as not losing sight of the trees for the forest. Big ideas and big strategies are crucial to projecting a positive image.

But the little things count, too – even if it means passing up a few hundred bucks so people can enjoy a special night on the town by frequenting local businesses without fear of overstaying their welcome.