May 21, 2013 10:48:47 AM
Is there anything that's not been said about the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau and its policy of funding festivals organized and orchestrated by elected officials and board members?
Monday afternoon at its monthly board meeting the organization discussed a much-hoped-for proposal that would strictly prohibit those parties from soliciting support for their pet festivals, a practice that's been widely criticized for months now. Not only that, the policy under consideration would prohibit the organization from funding events those officials are in any way associated with.
Such a policy is well and good in principle, but will the CVB enfore it? Is there any doubt that when a representative for the Juneteenth Festival turns up before the CVB with hat in hat, he or she is a proxy for Supervisor Leroy Brooks? Same in the case of CVB board member Harvey Myrick and Grillin' On the River. It's difficult to imagine either of those festivals existing with Brooks' or Myrick's involvement. Which begs the question: If a festivals' existence is dependent on the participation a single person is that festival worthy of public support?
While this ethics policy would be a long-awaited improvement, we'd like to see the CVB articulate a reasoned approach to festival funding in general. Some festivals draw visitors and promote the area (Market Street, Dream 365) while others provide entertainment for a particular neighborhood (Southside Blues Festival, Juneteenth).
While both types of events have value, one is more in line with the mission of the CVB, an organization whose purpose is, as a CVB director in another Mississippi town recently said, to put people in motel rooms.
Unfortunately, even with our larger festivals, this is seldom the case.
The CVB's proposed ethics policy is a welcome move. Now for the hard part: passing it and then enforcing its provisions.