In December of last year, Reader’s Digest proclaimed Solvang the “The Best Christmas Town in California.” That came about the same time as the New York Post put Solvang among "The 10 Best Christmas Towns in America.”

That’s saying a lot, considering that our little Valley village rarely sees a flake of snow, a white Christmas being a main theme on so many holiday cards.

Still, local residents know those national honors are richly deserved, because Solvang goes all out to make the Christmas holiday season truly special for folks of all ages.

Reader’s Digest editors wrote the following: “Visiting this captivating town north of Santa Barbara at holiday time will have you thinking you’ve been transported to the Old World. Founded by settlers from Denmark, the village features architecture (including a windmill!), restaurants and goodies that are distinctively Danish. In December, Solvang goes all-out for its Julefest ... .”

Ah, Julefest, a citywide event scheduled to run from Nov. 29 through Jan. 3. Easily one of the most festive times on the Central Coast.

Julefest 2019 may have a somewhat different look and feel, thanks to a new-directions strategy recently embraced by the Solvang City Council.

The council majority is changing things up this year, hiring IDK Events, a Fresno-based company that stages big events in far-flung places, to organize and put on this year’s Julefest.

That had been the responsibility of the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau until an apparent falling out compelled the council majority to stop funding that organization.

IDK will have to hit the ground running. Planning for the annual holiday extravaganza usually takes place throughout the year, so this change comes on very short notice. But the Fresno team will have help from local Daniel Lahr, whose consulting will keep the event factual and true to Danish traditions.

The hiring of an outside firm to do what has been a strictly local event is not sitting well with some Solvang residents, but it does signal that this City Council is heading in a new direction.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact could turn out to be better for the town’s businesses. That all remains to be seen, depending on how locals and visitors react to the new paradigm.

The council majority seems determined to change city government’s old way of doing things, perhaps taking some clues from how the federal government has changed since the 2016 presidential election.

That, too, is not necessarily a bad thing. But we have a bit of advice, and it’s just as valid for the federal government as is it for the Solvang City Council — embrace the concept of full disclosure and transparency in policy making.

Taxpayers have a designated right to know what their elected representatives are doing, and why and how they plan to go about doing it.

That concept is the foundation for government-in-the-sunshine laws across the nation. Making big decisions that involve the use of tax dollars behind closed doors in secrecy is what happens in third-world dictatorships. Such a strategy does not serve the interests of a truly democratic society.

Lots of folks believe government should be run like a business. But there is a significant difference between businesses and governments. The former serves the investor/owner/consumers’ interests. The latter serves the interests of taxpayers.

IDK’s winning bid for putting on the Julefest show will cost taxpayers $100,000, with possibly a few add-ons for special events. The company’s spokesperson promises a really big show.

A show America’s best Christmas town deserves.


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