October 22, 2019 10:10:06 AM
When a group of Columbus Pilgrimage homeowners notified the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation by letter in September of its intentions to assume control of the Pilgrimage in 2021, it was not an attempt to air grievances, negotiate a peace or suggest a trial separation.
It was a notice of divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
The question today is not one of saving the marriage. It's a matter of whether the divorce will be an amicable parting or an ugly fight.
If you will permit us to continue with the marriage analogy, there is a child involved. When parents divorce, there must be major consideration of how the split will affect the child. The less acrimonious the parting, the better for the child. When things get nasty, often the child becomes a pawn, a point of leverage that injures the child.
The Pilgrimage homeowners and the CCHF have been in their current marriage since 2008. The CVB diverts a large chunk of taxpayer money to the private nonprofit CCHF to fund -- among other things -- Pilgrimage. The CVB and the CCHF share the same board. We see this as an obvious conflict of interest, even if it's legal. A group that receives its funding from a government entity with whom it shares a board is awful policy.
That aside, it's clear the relationship is beyond saving.
The focus now is the welfare of the child -- in this case, the Pilgrimage, which was held for the 79th time this spring.
Both sides insist they support the Pilgrimage and recognize its importance to the community.
But the sincerity of those claims is best determined by their conduct.
From the start, this sensitive subject has not been handled well.
The homeowners' letter, which announced the split and requested $117,000 in annual funding, came across as a lightning bolt. The CVB/CCHF board seemed genuinely stunned by the letter, which offered no hope of reconciliation.
During his appearance before the CCHF board Monday, Dick Leike, president of the homeowners group -- which has been organized as the nonprofit Preservation Society of Columbus -- admitted the shock value of the group's letter.
"We realize we are hitting you pretty hard on this, but we've got to get (the Pilgrimage) back into the hands of the people who have the biggest stake in this," Leike said.
Simply put, the PSC wants custody of the child and child support. While the CVB/CCHF seems agreeable to turning over the operations of the event, there's little doubt some hard, hard feelings persist. They've also been unwilling to discuss child support.
At Monday's meeting, the board voted to table all discussion on the issue while the PSC members were present to answer questions.
That was a terrible mistake.
When parents split, they are obligated to sit down with each other and negotiate some sort of agreement that places a high priority on the welfare of the child, no matter how unpleasant the discussions may prove to be.
The two groups can either protect the Pilgrimage's welfare or render it grave damage.
Both sides say they love the Pilgrimage.
If that's true, both parties will meet as soon as possible to work out an agreement that truly puts the best interest of the Pilgrimage first.
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