December 17, 2012 11:50:01 AM
Festival grant funding has been a contentious issue between Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board members for most of 2012.
Today's meeting, the last one of the year, looks to be more of the same.
As the board prepares to vote to award festival funding for the first half of 2013 during today's 4 p.m. meeting, some members of the community plan to protest the board's methods for issuing grants.
District 5 supervisor and Juneteenth Festival organizer Leroy Brooks has been added to the board's agenda to discuss "issues with the CVB."
"The guidelines that they have put in place are not workable," Brooks said Monday morning. "I just want to ask the grant committee members to sit down and meet with us and discuss this and see what we can do. I'm not coming with a sword; I'm just coming to talk and see if we can put this behind us."
Brooks said his issue is with the new guidelines for festival grants that were recently recommended by the festival grants committee and approved by the board. The grant committee is made up of Mark Castleberry, Rissa Lawrence, Bernard Buckhalter, Harvey Myrick and Nadia Dale. Under the new guidelines, grants are issued in two divisions -- a tourism division and a quality of life division.
"Tourism events can be funded a maximum of $15,000, and they must spend 25 percent of their money on marketing and advertising," CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said in a recent interview. "Each day, the event should draw visitors from greater than 100 miles from Columbus to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. Quality of life events can be funded up to $8,000. All applicants must have paperwork from the secretary of state showing they are a nonprofit organization."
While only 25 percent of tourism event funding can be used for entertainment, there is no stipulation on what amount of the money provided to quality of life events can be used for entertainment. Brooks filled out an application for both tourism and quality of life events. The grant committee recommended his Juneteenth Festival be awarded $15,000 as a tourism event.
"They will only let us spend 25 percent on entertainment," Brooks said. "My entertainment itself costs $15,000. This just isn't working."
Brooks will receive support at the meeting from local black ministers and representatives from the NAACP. In a statement made Monday morning, NAACP vice-president Kamal Karriem said the new guidelines have created an atmosphere in which black festivals cannot be successful.
"On behalf of the NAACP, we are in full concert with supervisor Leroy Brooks and other officials who have problems with festival funding," Karriem said. "We feel the current guidelines are an obstruction to the continuity and success of our cultural festivals. We are hoping they will rescind the new guidelines or place festival grants under special projects."
With almost $150,000 to be awarded in festivals grants, Lawrence said the guidelines were fair to everyone that applies.
"We worked on the guidelines for more than a year," Lawrence said. "We even placed an entertainment stipulation in them to please everyone. No one on the committee nor the board voted against the wording of the guidelines other than Bernard Buckhalter, who wanted the tourism maximum raised from $14,000 to $15,000. The organizers have a year between festivals to raise money and we can help them do this. We have done everything we can to be helpful. We are one of the only CVBs that gives festival money -- this should be seen as a gift. Personally, and the guidelines don't say this, I think the grant money should be used as seed money. At some point these festivals need to be self-sustaining."
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