Change is coming to Eastern Market.
Eastern Market Advisory Committee Plans Restructure to Focus on Future Health of Market
by Larry Janezich
Posted December 5, 2022
Last Wednesday night, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC), began consideration of a series of restructuring moves prompted by long standing concerns over the future of the Market. The concerns have been heightened by a growing recognition of Eastern Market’s vulnerability in terms of support from the city owing to erosion of the tax base because of continuing stress in the commercial real estate market.
EMCAC is a community-based advisory body and has no real power re governance of the Market. The Market is managed by the Department of General Services (DGS), which is not really in the business of running a business, and though DGS’s management has been adequate for the day to day management of operations, the agency itself appears to have little interest in utilizing city resources to invest in the long term financial well-being of the Market. EMCAC appears ready to step in to fill the vacuum and seems to have the support of Ward 6 CM Charles Allen.
The restructuring proposals came out of a brain-storming retreat on November 9, where EMCAC members and Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson came up with a list of politically and financially feasible actions meant to further the goal of promoting financial stability of the market.
Several of the proposals were brought up for consideration at last Wednesday’s meeting. These proposals are part of a larger plan which will be pursued depending on early success of the initial actions.
The first action EMCAC agreed to was to consider the expansion of EMCAC membership and to reorganize EMCAC’s committee structure. Currently the Eastern Market statute limits EMCAC voting membership to 11 members. There is one seat vacant. The statute allows bringing on new members by a 75% vote of EMCAC but once the 11 seats are filled, new non-voting member organizations can also be added by 75% vote. According to EMCAC Chair Chuck Burger, this action item will include taking a look at tweaking the law to allow more voting members. Under the statute, potentially eligible new organizations must be broad-based and long standing in the community. The committee authorized Burger to seek out potential organizations and submit a list of possible candidates for discussion.
In conjunction with expanding EMCAC, the committee considered a proposal to re-organize and expand EMCAC’s committee structure. The need for at least one new committee in particular was cited – an Outreach Standing Committee to manage digital and social media outreach as well as oversee outreach to solicit new EMCAC volunteers. Burger said he would make recommendations regarding a new committee structure including the establishment of a new committee and detail the responsibilities of each committee by January.
EMCAC also agreed to a third action, to explore establishing EMCAC as a 501C3. According to Burger, nothing currently bars EMCAC from going out and raising money, but funds raised go into a city-controlled Enterprise Fund. Burger said, “If we raise money [for operational costs], we want to control it.” He said this would require a minor tweak of the legislation, and the committee authorized EMCAC Treasurer Tom Kuchenburg to investigate the possibility of setting up EMCAC as a 501c3 non-profit organization.
Further initiatives are expected to be forthcoming, building on the success of the initial proposals. In addition to the major initiatives above, the Committee also agreed to several other proposals which were generated in the retreat. Among these:
- Obtaining a “seat at the table” to discuss the update of the Natatorium. The city is expected to begin discussions next spring with the issuance of a Request for Proposals for concepts regarding what can be done on the renovation of the city-owned building. EMCAC wants to insure they have a voice for input, influence and information in the planning process.
- Creating an Emergency Response Subcommittee to discuss security and safety and examining both the need and the cost benefits ratio.
- Creating a plaque to honor long time EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder.
- Investigating the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing leases for the inside South Hall Vendors vs keeping the status quo of no leases.
EMCAC will not meet in December, and will next meet on Wednesday, January 25th.