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Santa Rosa fiscal crisis likely will impact its bid for museum June 30, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Towns.
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The City of Santa Rosa, N.M., faces a financial “catastrophe” after the state suddenly withheld $160,000 in gross receipts taxes in June, with an extra $240,000 reportedly withheld in the coming weeks, reported the  current print edition of the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa.

The state abruptly withheld the money after an undisclosed business appealed the amount of taxes it paid over the years. Because of the sudden shutoff of funds, the city faces deep service cuts, a shutdown, or even bankruptcy.

The sudden fiscal crisis will hurt Santa Rosa’s chances in establishing a Route 66 museum in the historic Ilfeld Warehouse near downtown. Sixty miles east, Tucumcari also seeks to land a Route 66 museum. Santa Rosa’s plight — along with positive developments involving Tucumcari’s bid — almost certainly has placed Tucumcari in the lead for a Mother Road museum in New Mexico.

The Communicator described how quickly the crisis developed:

Like many municipalities, Santa Rosa counts on monthly gross receipts tax revenues to fund its day-to-day operations. In June, the city was expecting a monthly distribution of about $160,000. But when the city checked its bank account, the automatic deposit had not arrived.

Instead, the city was informed it had a “negative distribution” that wiped out that entire monthly amount, with the Taxation and Revenue Department saying that another $243,334.39 would have to be repaid either in full, or in six monthly payments of $40,555.73.

Either option was considered cataclysmic. As of this week, the city had around $200,000 total in its bank accounts, a payroll of $71,000 to meet by the end of this week, and other bills due totaling $45,000.

The city council voted 3-2 to seek an emergency loan from the state on Thursday to make up for the lost June money. Even with a loan, Santa Rosa still has to find about $200,000 a year in spending cuts. Whether the state approved the emergency loan was not known during the publication of this story.

If Santa Rosa declared bankruptcy, The Communicator reported that would mean a takeover of the municipal government by the state, with “bare-bones services at best.”

In an opinion piece, M.E. Sprengelmeyer, publisher and editor of The Communicator, took the state to task for not informing Santa Rosa in advance about the tax appeal and the possible future problems with it:

The city faces all sorts of financial or accounting issues, past or present, that certainly are worthy of debate. But this appears to be an entirely new crisis, separate and distinct.

The current crisis is about New Mexico law and policies that somehow allowed a big-money appeal to go forward without an advance heads-up to the cash-strapped local and county governments that might conceivably be forced to pay back some of the money they thought they were entitled to spend.

That ain’t right.

Just a few months ago, the state awarded a $325,000 grant to plan and rehabilitate the Ilfeld Warehouse so it can become a Route 66 museum. However, with the city suddenly becoming more cash-strapped, it’s doubtful it can pay for basic museum services, much less renovations.

Coincidentally, about the same time news of Santa Rosa’s crisis broke, a group in Tucumcari announced in an email that the New Mexico Route 66 Museum had been officially incorporated and its nonprofit status approved by the state. The group also announced:

A new Museum Board has been formed, and a Museum Operating Committee is in the works, with more announcements to come soon. The New Mexico Route 66 Museum is now accepting financial donations and interests in sponsorship, more information on exhibit donations will also be released soon. A primary site for the museum has been selected for approval, and that decision should be concluded within the next couple of months. Once that decision has concluded, work or the move in process will begin almost immediately.

As recently as a week ago, Santa Rosa was considered the front-runner for the first Route 66 museum in New Mexico. How quickly things can change.

UPDATE 7/3/2012: KRQE-TV in Albuquerque filed this follow-up story:

Serrano says the total the city owes reflects about a quarter of its annual revenue stream and Santa Rosa is asking for two years to pay the money back.

The city also needs a loan of the money the state’s already taken to cover its bills in the short term. It’s working with TRD to come to an acceptable arrangement.

“We’re going to be forced to look at steep cuts in our finances in order to make that payment,” Serrano said.

Layoffs, furloughs and reduced hours at city buildings are possibilities, but Serrano says one area is off the table.

“As far as law enforcement, fire, ambulance… we don’t want to touch that at this point,” Serrano said.

Serrano also said bankruptcy was not being considered.

Jumpin’ Ack Flash June 30, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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Putting this video together took some hard-core traveling:

Jumpin Ack on 66 from Shaun Callahan on Vimeo.

More about this journey can be read here.

New reality series takes a Route 66 road trip June 29, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Road trips, Television.
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Jeff Schroeder and Jordan Lloyd, who starred in the reality series “The Amazing Race” and “Big Brother,” are starring in a new CBS.com web-only series, “Jeff & Jordan Do America,” where they drive Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles to begin a new life.

Here’s a preview of the show, which begins July 18:

Here’s a 30-minute web chat with them about the show. The best tidbit about their Route 66 starts around the 13-minute mark:

I sure hope “Jeff & Jordan Do America” fares better than the awful “Great American Road Trip” reality series from 2009.

Wigwam Motel featured on Route 66 Rendezvous T-shirt June 29, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Motels.
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The historic Wigwam Motel is featured on the official T-shirt of the annual Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino, Calif., scheduled for Sept. 13-16, reported the Contra Costa Times.

The T-shirt was unveiled Thursday. Kumar Patel provided this photo of the shirt:

The newspaper reported:

Owners of the Wigwam, Jack and his son, Kumar Patel, who were on hand for the unveiling, remodeled the motel last year, they said.

The father-son duo have been proprietors of the San Bernardino/Rialto motel for a decade.

“The only other Wigwam Motel left on Route 66 is the one in Holbrook, Ariz. A lot of our customers are typically following Route 66,” Kumar Patel said.

“Basically, people are learning about Route 66 and what it meant to America then and what it means now. It’s such a beautiful thing to travel the old road and see the old motels and diners.”

Also, Stater Bros. Markets announced it signed on for a five-year extension as the main sponsor of the Rendezvous. Stater Bros. has been the sponsor for 20 years.

The story behind Ambler-Becker Texaco June 29, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, History, People.
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Here’s the latest of the Route 66 Stories video series for Illinois. This one’s an interview with Phil Becker, longtime operator of the Ambler-Becker Texaco station in Dwight.

The station no longer operates as a gas station, but has been converted into a visitors center.

Mitla Cafe marking 75th anniversary June 28, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Food, Restaurants.
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The historic Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino, Calif., is marking its 75th anniversary with a blues and jazz concert Saturday and another celebration in September, reported The Press-Enterprise newspaper.

The key to its longevity has been the family atmosphere and a menu that is largely the same as when Lucia Rodriquez started the restaurant, said Irene Montano, current owner and Rodriquez’s daughter-in-law.

“We try to keep all our plates like they’ve always been prepared and we try to use everything fresh,” she said. […]

The menu is straightforward – tacos, burritos and fresh flour tortillas are some favorites – but it’s one that reflects Rodriguez’s home cooking, said Steve Oquendo, Montano’s nephew and great-grandson of Rodriquez, who as general manager oversees the daily operations.

“The biggest compliment we get here is somebody says that it tastes like their grandma’s cooking,” Oquendo, 38, said.

It’s a big year for Mitla, a Route 66 landmark. Not only does the anniversary mark one of the oldest restaurants in the Los Angeles region, but it played a prominent role in a new book — “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” Glen Bell was a regular diner at the Mitla, and the food inspired him to found the now-ubiquitous Taco Bell restaurant chain.

On a personal note, I dined at the Mitla about a month ago. I wondered how the restaurant’s tacos were so special that they inspired Glen Bell to take Mexican food to a global scale. Once I bit into one, I understood.

Joliet theater expanding its tour hours June 27, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways, Theaters.
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In response to demand from Route 66 tourists and other visitors, the historic Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, Ill., is greatly expanding its hours for tour groups, reported the Naperville Sun.

The newspaper said the theater would expand its tour hours to 10 a week.

In the past, the theater offered only one tour a week on Tuesday afternoons. But more and more people kept popping in on other days of the week asking for impromptu tours, said Annette Parker, the Rialto’s director of marketing and sales. […]

Recently, Rialto officials, working with the City Center Partnership, decided the time had come to show off their theater five days a week. The twice daily tours will give visitors more to do downtown and should lead to more business for downtown restaurants and other tourist attractions, Parker said. […]

Rialto tours are offered at 10 a.m. and noon weekdays through Aug. 31. Tour tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the box office at 102 N. Chicago St. or by calling 815-726-6600. No advance purchase is necessary.

Tours consist of a 45-minute walk through the 86-year-old theater followed by a 45-minute concert performed on the Rialto’s original Barton Grande theater pipe organ.

The Sun reported that many of the tour referrals have come from the Route 66 Welcome Center and Joliet Area Historical Museum.

While reading that story, I honestly was shocked to learn the theater’s tour hours were so meager. Once word gets around, I bet city officials will be surprised with how much pent-up demand there is — especially from foreign travelers exploring the Mother Road.

The Rialto Square also boasts the double benefit of sitting just a block away from the Lincoln Highway, as well as being on historic Route 66.

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