Battle of Selma cancellation a lose-lose situation

Published 9:31 pm Monday, February 13, 2017

Earlier this month, we reported that the 2017 Battle of Selma was canceled after the city of Selma requested more than $22,000 from organizers for police, fire and public works services. With only a few months to raise the funding, the April 1865 Society, which organizes the battle, said it had no choice but to cancel the long-standing event.

The city’s letter to the battle organizers said “Thank you for your service request. Unfortunately, due to down economic times the [city] can no longer give in kind services.”

After our reporting, many local residents who attend the battle each year aired their displeasure on social media, understandably upset it was canceled.

Email newsletter signup

Unfortunately, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved as local residents and those who travel here to participate or watch lose, and the city of Selma loses one of its biggest events for tourism and the increased sales tax receipts that come from it.

We believe this situation, and its apparent outcome, could’ve been entirely different with better communication from both sides. Mayor Darrio Melton said he never heard from Hammonds personally throughout the process and Hammonds said he couldn’t get Melton on the phone.

We respect both men’s stances, but we think everyone can agree that it would’ve been nice for them to meet face to face before any final decision was made.

It’s understandable that the city no longer wants to offer in-kind services. The city of Selma doesn’t have a blank check budget. Unfortunately, it’s exactly the opposite, and we applaud the city for seeking to cut costs.

However, for this big of a change — one that could result in major events being canceled — the city could’ve provided more time, offered a one-time discount, or waited until the two biggest tourism draws the city has (Battle of Selma and Jubilee) passed until announcing the change in policy. It would have given organizers more time to respond for the 2018 events, or negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement for all involved.

But if this is going to be the new standard, leaders should be as transparent as possible. It’s in the city’s best interest to release exactly how they got to the $22,054.22 number they asked the Battle of Selma to pay and to release that information for any event in Selma. Specifically listing how much fire, police and other services would cost down to the penny would help clear the air.

The city also needs to make sure it’s taking a common sense approach in how, and for what, its billing for. For instance, if firefighters are already scheduled to work the weekend of the battle, the Battle of Selma should not be asked to pay for any regularly scheduled hours.  If additional firefighters are needed for that day, then it’s understandable to ask for additional funding.

Transparency would help clear up any confusion on what events are actually paying for.

If there’s any good news in all of this, it’s that there are 14 months before the 2018 Battle of Selma is scheduled. That’s plenty of time for the city of Selma and battle organizers to meet face to face, clear the air and get on the same page.