Sunday, June 16, 2013

Want Some Taxpayer Dollars? Start a Festival, Concert or Mardi Gras Krewe

Friday, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne asked Governor Jindal to cut in half the amount of money that Legislators approved to give to the Bayou Country Superfest, a two-day concert in Baton Rouge.

Did you even know that state tax dollars were going to the Bayou Country Superfest? I sure didn’t.
Except for its inaugural year when it received $300,000 in taxpayer dollars, Dardenne has routinely appropriated $100,000 for the concert. Next year, the Legislature has opted to give the concert’s promoters $200,000, over Dardenne’s objections.

Now, I know that the Bayou Country Superfest folks will tell you that people from 46 states as well as country music fans from Puerto Rico (who knew there were country music fans in Puerto Rico?), Canada and the home of country music, Scotland, attended. But, does that warrant tax payer dollars?
But, it’s not just the Bayou Country Superfest that gets your tax dollars from the state.

Next year, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism will spend almost $950,000 on Essence Fest and another $300,000 on the Independence Bowl (I wonder how many real tourists plan their vacations around a December football game in Shreveport?).
Of course, what the state won’t tell you is that we’re reducing the budget for state museums, cultural events, and state parks while we fund concerts and bowl games.

The question isn’t how much these events are receiving. The question should be, why are they getting any money at all?
Every city in Louisiana has some version of the Hotel/Motel tax to promote tourism at the local level.

Jefferson Parish has a Hotel/Motel tax as does the City of Kenner, which gives its share to the Jefferson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (JCVB) which is controlled by Mayor Yenni’s political consultant, Greg Buisson.
The Hotel/Motel tax in Jefferson Parish is given back to the districts which provide the taxes to spend on tourism.

Of course, in Jefferson Parish, as at the state level, the word “tourism” can mean many things.
In Terrytown, Jefferson Parish has routinely given “tourism” money, first directly and later in the form of expense reimbursements, to the Terrytown Festival run by State Representative Bryan Adams. Exactly how many “tourists” flood the streets of Terrytown during the Festival? Your guess is as good as mine. But, one thing that I don’t need to guess about is the fact that we’ll be talking again about the Terrytown Festival and State Rep. Adams very soon.

In Metairie, “tourism” dollars go to Family Gras, an event promoted by the JCVB and whose advertising dollars are doled out by, you guessed it, Greg Buisson. This year, Family Gras was headlined by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Creedence Clearwater Revisited (I guess copyright law stopped them from using “Revival”). To be honest, I didn’t even know that Frankie Valli was still alive but I was encouraged to hear that he’s still performing at 79. I may need to adjust my actuarial tables.
Have a Fishing Rodeo? Sure, we’ve got “tourism” dollars for you.

A Mardi Gras Krewe? No problem with that either.

Back on the West Bank, the JP Council has routinely given thousands of “tourism” dollars to Mardi Gras Krewes. It could just be me, and, to be honest, I really do have a small circle of friends, but I don’t see people sitting around the dinner table and saying, “Kids, should we vacation on the West Bank this year and see the Krewe of Alla or should we go to Disney World?”
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending upon how you look at it, Alla and several West Bank Krewes have decided to parade in New Orleans so JP Councilman Ricky Templet (who himself is the Founder and Chairman of the Gretna Heritage Festival) will have a few more shekels in his “tourism” budget.
Anybody want to start a Concert on the West Bank? I hear Frankie Valli might be available.