Trenton has more than its fair share of volunteers, arts organizations and civic groups. Many of these active people and groups put on festivals and events either as part of their mission (The Trenton Film Festival, St. Patrick’s Day Parade), to raise money (Trenton Half-Marathon) or both (Art All Night).
Every event put on in Trenton needs city cooperation even if they have to pay for it (groups have to pay for police and park rangers). But generally, no private group needs or really wants the city to do its planning, promotion or operations. They rely on the goodness of their sponsors and volunteers.
But we have to ask ourselves, with such a vibrant roster of volunteer groups in Trenton, why do we need to publicly fund and operate government events?
Tony Mack has announced his “unwavering support” for government festivals such as Heritage Days.
Is it the proper role of government to organize festivals? Especially when the government is nearly bankrupt?
Trenton could support festivals in the city by making it easier for non-profits to work with the city. For instance, the process for engaging the police and public works could be streamlined; city assets available for use by groups could be listed on the web site and rented out (including tents and stages). The administration could eliminate the requirement that groups hire park rangers. The city could be generally more responsive and helpful.
But, organizing and running an event such as Heritage Days or the Thanksgiving Day Parade is simply inappropriate. These events have become thinly veiled mechanisms for a Mayor to self-promote to an unsophisticated public. We certainly don’t want our precious tax dollars going towards that. Politicians love spending your money to make themselves look good and Trenton is rife with examples (the former Trenton Jazz Festival, the hotel, Waterfront Park). I’m asking that Trentonians see this for what it is and help City Council put a stop to it.
Heritage Days cost taxpayers at least $70,000. There were less than 1,000 attendees at the event meaning we spent more than $70 a person. That’s an obscene waste.
The Mayor has committed himself to government festivals. However city council is at least rethinking it. They are having some difficulty however, in getting a proper accounting of what we’ve spent. Requests for a full accounting of the Thanksgiving Day parade and last year’s Heritage Days have gone unanswered leading some of your council people to question every line item in the budget trying to find out where the expenses have been hidden. Some of our more responsible city council members are even considering eliminating the recreation because it’s become a rogue department. It’s come to this.
Trenton is facing a $7M deficit in 2013 and it recently laid off 30% of its police force, in other words, we’re burning. Meanwhile our Mayor insists on playing his fiddle. It’s his top priority.