Friday, February 20, 2004

Explain yourself: Tall Stacks rebuttal

Last week, the Enquirer reported that the 2003 Tall Stacks festival may wind up losing money, despite drawing a record crowd of 800,000 downtown last October. The festival owes the city $311,000 for police and fire overtime, and about $200,000 to riverboat operators. Event chairman Peter D. Gomsak Jr. said the problem was that the festival had yet to collect from concessionaires. Cincinnati officials will work out a repayment plan with the festival, but suggestions that the city forgive Tall Stacks' debt met with opposition from John Cranley, chair of City Council's Finance Committee. "I expect them to pay it. I expect us to go through whatever legal process to make sure they paid it. ... We need to hold them accountable."

In Thursday's What You Say feature on this page, two readers objected to Cranley's comments and defended the festival; one said the councilman should "cool his jets." Here is Cranley's response explaining his stance:

"I make no apologies for standing up for taxpayers. As Finance Chairman, I supported Tall Stacks by voting to give more than $200,000 to the festival. I also enjoyed attending the festival and experiencing its great music.

"But just because Tall Stacks was a great event does not mean the city should pay off its credit card debts. Taxpayers deserve better than this.

"The city told the Tall Stacks organizers from the start the cost of paying for police and fire safety. Now Tall Stacks owes over a half-million dollars because of poor planning. As Finance Chairman I will not allow a festival's debt to result in cuts to neighborhood police patrols or neighborhood fire safety.

"It's a shame that such a great event was not a financial success, but it is not the taxpayers' job to pay off the festival's credit card debt. The city already gave over $200,000."

Do you know of a position, vote or statement made by a public official that you'd like him or her to explain? Make a suggestion, and we'll ask. Send ideas to Ray Cooklis at rcooklis@enquirer.com; phone (513) 768-8525.

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