City Loses JW Convention-Parking dispute:Two versions-Guess who lied?

by AndersonsInfo 30 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • AndersonsInfo
    AndersonsInfo

    City loses convention

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008 By LEE ROOPand KAY CAMPBELL Times Staff Writers lee.roop@htimes.comkay.campbell@htimes.com

    Parking dispute spurs Jehovah's Witnesses to move

    Jehovah's Witnesses will move their three summer meetings from Huntsville to Birmingham next year, ending for now a 12-year string of meetings that brought nearly $9 million a year in business to local hotels and restaurants.

    A dispute over parking has ended the annual meetings, at least for 2009, as the city's largest single convention booking, bringing 6,000 people to town each of the three weekends. Bill Scott, the manager of the Sheraton Four Points hotel, emerged from a 90-minute meeting of hotel executives on the issue Tuesday to call it, "from my standpoint, a major loss. I don't have anything to replace it."

    Local convention bookers, however, say the sessions, although the largest single convention, represent only a 3 percent loss in total delegates visiting the city.

    "We host more than 1,000 meetings a year," said Judy Ryals, president and CEO of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said the city is still poised for a "banner year" next year.

    The decision is "beyond recall for 2009," Gerald Grizzle said Monday from the convention office at the Jehovah's Witness world headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. "We will absorb it into the other conventions."

    Jehovah's Witnesses have 340 conventions in 80 U.S. cities. Planning for the 2009 conventions began this spring, said local denomination coordinator Don Diekman. Conventions here are usually three weekends in June and July.

    "They increased the price on us too much, and they also had the parking charges going up, and it's getting out of line with what we typically deal with," Grizzle said. "We're not wealthy people, and it's been a very expensive site.

    "We rent the building and pay for the parking so our people and our visitors can afford to come," Grizzle said.

    "We just couldn't come to an agreement on city parking at the Von Braun" Center, Huntsville-based Diekman said Tuesday. Mayor Loretta Spencer said Tuesday night the parking offer was the same deal as in other years. "We gave them $2 a car. It's $5 for everybody else," she said.

    Grizzle estimated that some conventions attract as many visitors as members. No offerings are collected during the conventions, which include lectures and Bible dramas.

    Different version

    Local officials had a different version of events.

    The city's negotiations with the Witnesses were handled by a three-organization team representing the Von Braun Center, the Convention Bureau and the city parking division.

    It did come down to parking, agreed Ryals and Tommy Brown, director of parking and public transportation for the city. But it was the Witnesses who wanted a new deal, he said.

    Grizzle said the Witnesses believed the three-year discussions as a proposal, not an agreement.

    The city's deal for 2009 would have charged $7,400 each weekend next year for 1,200 spaces for three days, Brown said. That's about $2 per space for spaces usually rented for $5, he said.

    The 500 Von Braun Center spaces were free, Ryals said. Ryals said the city's proposal, including the 500 free VBC parking spaces, meant the Witnesses were getting the Von Braun Center and the parking at a "71.5 percent discount."

    Ryals also said her bureau gave the Witnesses $6,000 in cash per weekend for the two largest weekends and $4,000 for a less-attended Hispanic weekend.

    That kind of direct payment isn't unheard of in the highly competitive convention-booking business. It came from the Convention Bureau's own independent budget funded largely by a local hotel occupancy tax, Ryals said.

    Economic impact

    Using conventional ways of measuring economic impact, the conventions have brought in an average of $8.7 million each year for 10 years in revenue, $717,000 each year in sales tax revenue and $5,515 each year in hotel tax revenue.

    Grizzle and Diekman said the Witnesses repeatedly called the mayor's office over the last few months to find someone to help broker a deal for 2009, but those calls went unreturned. Spencer recalled the event organizers asked for a meeting on a day the mayor was out of town. "They talked to my secretary. We were booked solid that day," she said. Brown said the message to the city was, if they have to pay for parking at all, they wouldn't come.

    Negotiating team

    Spencer's office referred the calls to the city negotiating team, which would not change the price. Spencer said Tuesday night it's regrettable the convention chose another city. "We want everybody to come, but we can only be so much of a partner," she said.

    "They're tough negotiators," Ryals said of the Witnesses.

    Ryals said the city team knew this summer that the Witnesses were moving the Hispanic weekend next year, but had reason to believe the other two weekends were still scheduled.

    The denomination informed city hotels last week that it was not coming, Ryals and Diekman said.

    Ryals said Huntsville won the Jehovah's Witnesses business from Birmingham and "we're going to continue to pursue it" for 2010.


    ©2008 Huntsville © 2008 al.com All Rights Reserved.
  • 95stormfront
    95stormfront

    Well.....

    I guess it's a good bet that armageddon won't come before the summer conventions in 2009.

  • AndersonsInfo
    AndersonsInfo

    Anybody remember the information that came out in a newspaper in Tacoma, WA in 2000 revealing the Tacoma Dome's yearly rental contract with the Watchtower PROHIBITED them (Watchtower) for charging a parking fee because parking was free? Large convention sites all over the U.S. had the same stipulation in their contracts too and that's why we were paying at the Kingdom Hall for convention parking tickets so convention centers wouldn't know that Watchtower was breaking the rules. Now we have the Huntsville two-different version story about parking charges. I don't think the City lied, not with what we learned about the Tacoma Dome parking scandal.

    And how about JWs receiving direct payments from Convention Bureaus. This is another little known secret. Watchtower keeps lots of secrets, don't they folks?

    "Ryals also said her bureau gave the Witnesses $6,000 in cash per weekend for the two largest weekends and $4,000 for a less-attended Hispanic weekend.

    That kind of direct payment isn't unheard of in the highly competitive convention-booking business. It came from the Convention Bureau's own independent budget funded largely by a local hotel occupancy tax, Ryals said."

  • Dogpatch
    Dogpatch

    This has been going on for a long time! NOW they finally get publicity over their tactics Barb! Randy

  • stillajwexelder
    stillajwexelder

    Rutherford was correct - the WTS religion is a snare and a racket

  • Quandry
    Quandry

    I am just sad that it will result in a bit of a loss for hotel/motel business in the area....cheapskates....during the conventions they always ask for more donations to cover expenses, but I imagine that they would not mention in the "accounts report" that the city gave them money.

    Thanks for the report.

  • knock knock
    knock knock

    ----- No offerings are collected during the conventions ----- ???

    When did they get rid of the donation boxes?

  • 1914BS
    1914BS

    Snakes!

    Ryals also said her bureau gave the Witnesses $6,000 in cash per weekend for the two largest weekends and $4,000 for a less-attended Hispanic weekend.

    That kind of direct payment isn't unheard of in the highly competitive convention-booking business. It came from the Convention Bureau's own independent budget funded largely by a local hotel occupancy tax, Ryals said.

    So that is how they (WTS) made money in Kamloops BC this year at the JWs expense!!

  • SnakesInTheTower
    SnakesInTheTower

    I have posted on this topic in the past.

    Springfield, IL lost its long time DC business (2 a year) to nearby Bloomington, IL because of the tough negotiations of the WTBTS.

    The Society has a very specific formula that they use to figure the per person cost (no, I dont have it, just know it exists) for renting a facility. In the Springfield case, they essentially got the Prairie Capital Convention Center for free because the Society paid the Center and was reimbursed at 100% of the cost by the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. So why leave FREE? (This info came to me via someone high up in Convention planning in Springfield and some other info I had access to at the time when I was an elder).

    Parking was part of it. WT couldn't control it. There was a discount for the garage. On Friday (usually a business day in the state capitol) parking was at a premium downtown. There is a parking garage adjacent to the center. The JWs were charged for that parking. On Sat/Sun, all of the nearby surface lots and street parking are available, so no one has to use the garage, its just more convenient for some to park there.

    The MAIN issue though was the contract. It was explained to me that if WT accepted the higher contract (that was outside of WT's "formula"), then word would get out among all of the convention center managers that they had "broke" WT and then the other venues around the US would up their rates and fairly soon WT would be forced to pay higher rates at venues where they are not reimbursed for the facility rent (which of course is the case at the majority of venues). So the Bloomington people offered a more favorable contract, though WT will have to actually PAY it....WT saves themselves money overall by sticking to their formula at all of the venues.

    And the locals (except for those in Bloomington area of course) have to drive further...

    so much for concern about "gas prices"

    Snakes ()

    edited to add.... someone said "Snakes!".... thus my avatar name "SnakesInTheTower".... the real snakes are in theWatchtower...

  • spoopy
    spoopy

    Grizzle estimated that some conventions attract as many visitors as members.

    Give me a break! All of the conventions I ever slept at, in no way were half of the attendees just visitors. On the days of the drama or the public discourse the attendance count never rose as much as 2%. Just another misleading statement (or lie) by the watchtower. Of course when it comes to calculations and figures, they would have a hard time keeping up with a first grader.

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