Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Council Demands More Info on Concerts

A request to double the cost of downtown summer concerts was not music to the ears of the City Council Monday - the $55,000 tab failed to gain a consensus to proceed.

Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn and Jacques Howard of the Office of Economic Development sought council approval to apply for use of $55,000 in Urban Enterprise Zone funds for the 2010 events, but under questioning from the council, it came out that last year's Music in the Plaza series was put on at a cost of $26,200 in funds from business donors after the council turned down a request for $6,000. Councilman Adrian Mapp then pointed out that the pair were asking for almost 10 times last year's request.

Wynn and Howard pitched the concerts and related events as a way to draw people to the downtown, creating a destination not only for entertainment but for shopping and dining. Councilman William Reid was effusive in his enthusiasm for the proposal, but others found it lacking in planning and saw no proof that past concerts enhanced business downtown.

Councilman Cory Storch said he was "really disappointed" with the presentation, saying a lot of questions were raised and only one was answered. Based on the presentation, he said, "I would have to say you weren't listening to us."

Councilman Rashid Burney questioned whether the program really created economic activity, saying merchants told him it had not.

Although past concert events received the endorsement of Special Improvement District officials and the Chamber of Commerce, no representatives of either group were present Monday. Wynn said he would be meeting later in the week with SID officials.

As the discussion continued, some council members relented and said they might be inclined to approve a $40,000 UEZ request for a vote at next Monday's meeting, if more information on the program's impact on the downtown economy could be proven. But besides needing council approval to apply for the UEZ funds, the administration would still have to vie for approval from the state agency that grants use of the funds. If the Urban Enterprise Zone Authority were to approve the funding in March, it would take two more months for it to become available.

Council members wanted to know how much money was left in the fund, which accrues from the reduced sales tax charged by retailers in the zone, and also questioned whether in hard times a use other than entertainment might be more appropriate.

Howard called such events a "proven formula" for building up a city's attractiveness and Wynn portrayed the proposed eight gigs as a job opportunity for local performers, but their only unequivocal cheerleader was Reid. The program began two years ago with four concerts, and last year a car show and movie were added. Wynn responded to doubts voiced by Storch and Burney on last year's event by insisting, "It was successful."

But Mapp said, "I think the governing body wants some metrics that we can get our arms around."

If Wynn and Howard can show merchant support and produce more details on the cost and benefits of the events, the council may approve the proposal next Monday. The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Pat said...

Bernice: it's the classic "bread and circuses" formula - the mayor offers the buffets and the rest of city govt offers circuses, like the PMUA "environmental fair," free ugly hamburgers for the public, shrimp for the pooh-bahs and a "moon walk" bouncer thing for the kids, or dirty movies downtown. But as Councilman Reid said "The Wall Street brokers in their BMWs" wouldn't understand and Councilwoman Rivers said she hadn't gone because she hadn't been elected yet. Pat

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's do some math. If we generously assume that 250 people show up for each of 8 concerts and spend $20.00 each at local downtown merchants, that's a maximum total of $40,000.00. Assume an incremental profit of 50%, and we've got a $20,000 return on a $56,000.00 investment. Brilliant.

Will more people come to downtown later because of the music festival? Nope, they will continue to drive to Target and Shop-Rite and BJs to buy their real stuff. If they come at all it will be for the one-day event. Many will be kids and single aliens with little purchasing power. There's nothing to "discover" in downtown that isn't already known to those with real money to spend, many of whom are ethnophobic (black, latino, or both) and are therefore unlikely to attend the concerts anyway.

As to "job opportunity for local performers": why should it be a city government function to provide work for musicians at the taxpayers expense? And who will certify that they are local performers? Does Plainfield really have 8 nights of concert quality performers? Are they representative of the entire community?

And what I really want to know is who the promoters are, and how much of the $56,000 ends up in their hands? And as long as we're at it, what connections they have to city administrators, councilpersons or powerbrokers?

But perhaps I just don't get it.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, while the library amount is being reduced from 300k to 150k is still a major blow to it's services. It's also not being said that last year the library was the only entity that reached into its pockets to help the city. 100k to be exact, which was difficult to find. The administration also hasn't verified whether the library is only the entity with union employees that is being charged back employee benefits. The bottom line is that library services will be adversely effected, which could have been avoided had the administration dealt with the budget a year ago like all other fiscally responsible cities.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious as to how Wynn defines success. In the absence of any measurable or statistical data, I would be dubious. If Wynn were to hold an event, pay for it, expect 1,000 people to come, and get maybe 30, is that "success?" If that is how he defines it, maybe the administration should get someone to take a look at his division's budgetary practices. I'm just sayin'....!

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wynn doesn't need to define success. It's just about what he wants. Don't you know it's his world?! If he was interested in success, he would promote the programs already in place with low enrollment numbers rather than duplicate another baseball league just because he wants to get back at them. He wouldn't look to spend money on fluff entertainment (Music in the Park, Golden Gloves) when layoffs are imminent and more to come. Oh but he got his raise so what does it matter how he spends the money. It is very important to check the numbers of participants and who's getting paid. It's an insult to waste money. But the real insult is he's allowed to do what he wants to do.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the economy where it is, we should cancel the programs for at least this year. We need cuts and sacrifices, this is one i can sacrifice.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous SEXY said...

Let's not waste energy and time on Wynn whatever Wynn wants Wynn gets....his momma gives him anything; that's why he showed up with that half-ass presentation, but he has been praised with that behavior for so long; folks don't know what is a good presentation. If I showed up on my job with no answers to questions asked of me for my job and presentation and I didn't have any answers....I wouldn't have a job. Who measures his accomplishments woops he has none, that's why he continues to do nothing. He should on the list for cuts not getting a raise. City cutting folks that are losing their jobs, taxes going up, folks getitng raises when they don't deserve it; what is going on with this city?!. We have so much to offer just the wrong folks leading us!! Asking for so much money he may be pocketing it...its not the first time

10:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home