Community events came into the crosshairs at last week’s Port Allen City Council meeting. Concerts on the levee and parades could be canceled if the city can’t find corporate sponsors with deeper pockets.
The City Council decided in a 3-2 vote to remove the $60,000 allocated for community events and their promotion from the budget at the Wednesday, June 13 meeting.
“That’s canceling a lot of events if we can’t find funding,” Mayor Richard Lee said.
Councilman Gary Hubble, who made the motion to eliminate the line item, said his problem is not with events, but with the lack of oversight, participation, and sponsorships. The elimination of the line item from the budget is not an elimination of events. It will require the Council to approve each community event and respective expenditures.
“Events are good, but we have to be responsible with taxpayer money,” Hubble said.
City Coordinator Rose Roche manages community events and budgets for events throughout the year. The council has been able to review expenditures at any time but was not required to approve them.
“She makes a request, and the mayor cuts a check,” Hubble said in an interview after the meeting.
Councilman Brandon Brown raised concerns over the potential cancellation of the Juneteenth celebration because of difficulty finding corporate sponsorship for it.
“Fourth of July gets more support than Juneteenth, that’s just the way it is in this society, to be frank. That’s why I don’t agree with it completely,” Brown said.
Juneteenth is the annual celebration of June 19, which marks the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the South and slaves learned they were free. Juneteenth has been a yearly celebration in Port Allen for nearly two decades.
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence, who has been principal in the development and coordination of the Juneteenth celebration dissented along with Councilman Brown.
“Let’s just look at it more closely and make it more beneficial and accountable to the taxpayers, that’s all I’m asking,” Hubble said. “If anybody thinks I’m just trying to target some things you’re entirely wrong.”
Roche did not respond to a phone call regarding the budget cut.
The board will gauge potential participation, spending, return on investment and sponsorship funding before expenditures for events are approved.
“We’ll just have to amend the budget, and we can do that all year long,” Hubble said.
Update: Mayor Lee vetoed the budget on Wednesday, June 20. The Council will have an opportunity to override the veto with a vote.