Monday, February 01, 2010

Hot Flashes

It may have been a cold and snowy weekend, but the local news is heating up. Here's the Growler's Monday morning roundup.

Festival Follies

In the current economic climate, the City Council has been taking a look at the cost of special events and festivals and is making moves to tighten up the requirements for sponsored events which it is asked to subsidize.

One of those worried about the changes is Lenny Harris, who runs the annual One Love festival at Braddock Field. He told the Alexandria Times he was concerned with the new guidelines, specifically the co-sponsorship and non-sponsorship aspects.
"The largest African American festival in the city, according to Harris, is in its ninth year of existence and had previously received financial support from the city, though it was decreased last year. It now falls under a 'non-city sponsored special event.' 'I hope we can work with the city and special events [committees] on continuing to have this festival,' he said."
In a budget memo issued last March, staff classified the One Love festival as a small sponsored event, serving under 1,000 participants. Other events with a similar number of attendees include the Taste of Old Town, the Potomac West tree lighting, and the Spring for Alexandria celebration at Market Square.

However, their cost to the City in FY 2008 was only a few hundred dollars each. One Love was subsidized to the tune of more than $8,500 and although classified as a sponsored event only about 15% of the total cost of the event was offset by Mr. Harris's Organization HOPE.

The One Love event cost the City more in terms of dollars than all other medium-size sponsored events with participation of 1,000 to 5,000 people. In fact, One Love required a heftier City subsidy than either the First Night Out event or the Alexandria Festival of the Arts, both of which are classified as large events with more than 5,000 participants. Both of those events cover between 80% and 90% of their costs through other means than the City subsidy.

In the future, special event organizers will have to come up with a deposit worth half of the event’s total cost before moving ahead with the event, according to the new guidelines, which encourage organizers to find other sources like private sponsors. There is an appeals process in place if organizers cannot come up with funds, but organizers unable to come up with other funding sources could see their event cancelled.

Money Money Money

Critics of City spending will not want to miss Michael Lee Pope's recent article in the Alexandria Gazette in which he spills the beans on staffers earning more than $100,000 per year. (To see the entire list, click here to download the complete January 27 edition of the Gazette and scroll down to pages 24 and 25).

Are readers as shocked as the Growler about the school system salaries? And just how much competition for experienced workers is coming from other jurisdictions? Nearly all local and state agencies are slashing budgets to the bone.

Parker-Gray Goofs?

After nearly four years of City foot dragging, our neighborhood has finally been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But residents who have looked up their homes in the list of contributing structures have been complaining (on this blog and to each other) about its inaccuracies.

The Growler checked out the den address and found everything was in order, but the nomination form goes on to state that the Cranky One's next-door neighbor has a house clad in German siding.

Ummmm, no ....

Other goofs the Growler is hearing about: a historic home that has twice had wood siding applied in the last 25 years is listed as vinyl-clad, and there are references in the narrative to "North Princess Street."

Here's a link to the nomination form. Readers with historic homes should scroll down the document to find the description of their property. Is your house's description accurate?

Bus Boys

Hoping to score funds for a bus transit-way at Potomac Yard, City staff are currently going after $8.5 million in grants under a new U.S. Department of Transportation program aimed at improving community livability with more transit options.

But according to the Alexandria Times, Councilman Paul Smedberg has expressed frustration with City staff for pursuing bus funding without consulting citizens about what mode of transit should be deployed at Potomac Yard.

“The community never had a real debate, in my opinion, of what kind of transit people wanted to see in that community,” Smedberg said. “Just because it’s less expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to be right in the long term.” Metrorail and light rail solutions have been discussed in the past in addition to rapid transit buses. “This [decision] in my view locks us into buses,” Smedberg said.
"Personally, I think this is a big enough policy debate that it shouldn’t be made with staff alone in a vacuum.”

The Times reported that the system could be operational as soon as 2012 should the city receive the grant, but Vice Mayor Kerry Donley speculated that the prospect of winning the funds is “probably not very likely."