OUR VIEW | Fiscal restraint on parade


Sometimes, though we look really hard, the silver lining just isnt present in a bad situation. 

Fortunately, most of the time something good does come from unfortunate events. The citys current budget deficit of more than $40 million is an example of the latter. The deficit means that city leaders must look closely at all city services, decide whats vital and whats not and make choices. That kind of parsimonious approach to spending tax dollars is far more easily done in lean times than in economically meaty ones.

City Council has taken just such a close look at tax dollars spent on special events in the city and has managed to create a win-win situation: Budgetary savings of almost $100,000 from last year plus a streamlined process for event approval.

Alexandrias many and varied special events, including our parades and cultural festivals, are an important part of what our city is all about. No one, least of all our city leaders, is suggesting that these events should be eliminated. But sometimes it is possible to have too much of a good thing, 
particularly when taxpayers are footing the bill.

The new guidelines make sense. They limit the frequency of large (more than 500 people) gatherings in Old Town by limiting them to no more than one every other week. They also state that no other section of the city will be overly burdened by large crowds on a consistent basis. 

City assistance will shift away from funding in dollars and toward a contribution of in-kind support from city staff and possible waiving of fees. That makes sense, for whether its in the business world, the nonprofit sector or government, independent sustainability is vital. Events, like organizations and government programs, should not necessarily be permanent. If an event over time cannot generate the private or individual support that it needs to continue, then perhaps it should cease or shrink in its scope.

The city also got it right by giving top priority to assisting events that provide cultural enrichment and/or promote economic vitality. Some cultural festivals will not be economic boons to the city, but will nonetheless enhance Alexandrias aesthetics and are thus worth preserving. Others will mainly lure large crowds that will spend large amounts of money in our shops and restaurants. Both types of events, in reasonable numbers, are good for our city.

So, though some festivals from years past may disappear, if the end result is a better process and budgetary savings, thats not necessarily a bad thing.