A Catch 22—The Latest CCVB Meeting

The May 21, 2012 meeting of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau (CCVB) was a perfect example of the term, “Catch 22.”  The almost-orderly meeting (by CCVB standards, at least) lasted just 75 minutes and illustrated what real struggles the organization faces.  When the harsh words and accusations are kept to a minimum, then the real concerns that the community must address become evident.

Without a doubt, the bizarre tradition, in which elected officials ask for money from the very people they appoint, serves to complicate matters.  It would be much less awkward if these public servants – who are the actual organizers of these festivals – would let others make these grant presentations for them and would exhibit the wisdom not to attend the meetings at which their request is being considered.  The simple truth is that they gave up their rights to be regular citizens, when they were elected.

If they want to be regular citizens, they should quit their elected positions.  And, then they can be regular citizens, all day long.  It is that plain and simple.

If they chose not to attend, it would ease the perception of a conflict of interest.  When Board member Bernard Buckhalter made his impassioned plea for funds for the Southside Festival, those in attendance had to wonder why he was arguing so vehemently for the festival.  Was it just because he is a “loose cannon” or was he trying to impress Mayor Robert Smith, Councilman Gene Taylor and Councilman Bill Gavin – all of whom were in the audience – with his commitment to a program that is sponsored by Taylor and Supervisor Jeff Smith?

Buckhalter’s term is about to expire and one would have to assume that he is interested in being re-appointed. So, does he truly care about this festival or is he trying to ensure his re-appointment?  Only the Shadow knows, and he thinks it was both.  And, why not?  He had the perfect audience.  Why not show those who appoint you, how much you care?  Rest assured, they were watching closely.

In the meantime, Board Treasurer Bart Wise informed the board that restaurant tax collections were up; that is always a good thing.  And, though Buckhalter could not agree with the concept of not giving everyone everything they asked for, in terms of grants, the other board members eventually got it.

The following is a list of the grant awards made by the board, last night:

  • Artesia Day had requested $10,000 and received $8,000.
  • Crawford Day had requested $8,000 and received $4,500.
  • Southside Festival had requested $22, 000 and received $12, 000.
  • Tennessee Williams Tribute had requested $16,500 and received $15,000.

In total, almost $40,000 was given out yesterday – a considerable amount of generosity.

However, it was not until the last presentation was made, in regard to the 3rd Annual Legends Concert, that the real “Catch 22” reared its head.  Roger Short of the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority appeared before the Board and admitted that last year’s program was not the success they had hoped for, in terms of being a money-maker.  He then explained that, with modifications to the project, especially the decision to schedule regional acts, instead of nationally known talent, the event could, once again, be a success.  But, herein, lies the “rub.”  It is only a one-day event and doesn’t qualify for grant funding.  It could be considered a special project, but of the funds the CCVB allocated for special projects, only $54.00 remains.  That is a far cry from the $22,000 the concert committee had requested, to fund the project.

Steve Rogers had the best response to a comment made by CCVB Board member Mark Castleberry, who had pointed out that the Legends Committee was asking the CCVB to subsidize the attendees of the concert. Rogers very astutely reminded the board that, in extending grants to the other festivals, the CCVB was, in fact, subsidizing them, as well. That is an undeniable fact. And, that is the real problem.

When the CCVB board says that the festivals need to secure more sponsors, they are right.  But, where would these other sponsors come from?  Who are these magical benefactors?

The school system has received grants from KiOR, Ecolab, and others, and these businesses should be commended.  There are other groups that have given tons of in-kind services, and without them, there would be no festivals.  Unfortunately, there are no large bundles of money for anyone to grab, and the few big businesses that do contribute, are overwhelmed by the number of requests.

It would be nice to see some of the new business that come into our area give back, by helping the community.  It would be nice if Lowndes County had an Andrew Carnegie-type, someone who would help with the arts, festivals and in renovating the Trotter Convention Center, as a gift to the community.

But, as of now, that person or corporation does not seem to exist – at least not in a way that can be seen by the public.  In the meantime, our community will continue to fund festivals with taxpayers’ money, and hope for the best.  Maybe, one day we will have our “Carnegie” in this community.

MoJo

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5 Comments on “A Catch 22—The Latest CCVB Meeting”

  1. ed Says:

    Why don’t they go to the “bridge to no where” and throw $40,000 off the north side and watch it flow under it. That is about all the are getting out of the so called festivals. It will be interesting to see if the mayor re-appoints Buckhaulter….

    Reply

  2. hal Says:

    Did LeRoy get his I-Phone? Who is going to pay for this? I heard he showed his a$$ and said some ugly words. Lets see what the other sups will do about it. Poor little LeRoy! Keep up up-dated on this event. Stay on them Joe!

    Reply

  3. randy Says:

    Someone said the packett ran a story on Leroy. Do you know aboutthis Joe?

    Reply

  4. charles divel Says:

    I say if they cannot spend our money any better, then abolish the board. It is very questionable that any of these activities help the city or county.

    Reply

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