A business improvement district board for downtown Rapid City is approving $20,000 for ambassadors in the area.
The Rapid City mayor says ambassadors would be pedestrian kiosks with pamphlets and recommendations downtown. He says they would also interact with anyone who brings discomfort to shoppers.
The vote is unanimous to invest $20,000 to the group Destination Rapid City for four part time ambassadors to walk around the downtown core.
The program will fund two or three ambassadors to walk around downtown everyday, and be a contact point for anyone visiting the area.
Mayor Steve Allender says he envisions ambassadors defusing any interactions between shoppers and those who might bring discomfort. Allender says those would be either panhandlers or those who are inebriated.
“This downtown ambassador has nothing to do with policing,” Allender says. “It has everything to do with downtown customer service. No amount of compassion or love for your fellow human being should create a tolerance for abusive behavior.”
Allender says the city will match any dollars donated by Visit Rapid City.
Allender’s challenger for mayor says she doesn’t see $20,000 going very far.
Natalie Stites-Means says the program is damage control and an campaign ploy
She says it’s not appropriate for four part-time people to provide surveillance on panhandlers or the homeless.
“Even on intoxicated people,” Stites-Means says. “Intoxicated people can be dangerous. One of the important parts of business downtown is our alcohol industry. That’s an important part of tourism down here. Are the ambassadors going to be looking out for those intoxicated people? I don’t really think it’s an appropriate program to address complex issues.”
Stites-Means says the Rapid City Police Department is quick to respond to downtown issues.
The ambassador program will start on June 2 and run through September.