Porkopolis

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Council OKs Festival Subsidy — Sort Of

Cincinnati City Council approved using taxpayer money Wednesday to provide free or subsidized fire protection and EMS services to the Taste of Cincinnati festival — but officials don't know the amount or whether the services will be provided by city firefighters or a private company.

Council voted 6-2 to support a motion, introduced by Councilman Jeff Berding, that asks the group to recognize the festival's value to the city and "honor our past commitment to this event by taking necessary steps to approve free, or at a subsidized rate, fire and EMS services for the 2006 festival."

Because of a budget crunch caused by spiraling overtime costs in the fire department, city council last year ended the practice of providing free service to some large events like the Taste festival and Oktoberfest. But a new council has taken office since then, and Berding initially led an effort for the city to again provide the service. When that effort stalled, Berding pushed to give the Chamber of Commerce nearly $3,000 so it could hire a private firm to provide the services.

Berding described Wednesday's motion as a compromise that allows city administrators to attempt to strike a deal, but Councilman David Crowley called the proposal vague.

"The motion doesn't move us forward to clarification or better understanding," Crowley said. "I'm not sure what it says to the administration."

Councilman Chris Monzel — who, along with Crowley, opposed the motion — said city council needs to draft a consistent policy on funding special events with clear guidelines.

"It's an issue we've been tackling for at least five years and we need to settle it," Monzel said.

— Kevin Osborne

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