EDITORIAL: Compromise needs to be worked out for Jubilee

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

Organizers of the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee and the city of Selma are at a standstill over who will pay for city services used at this year’s festival.

Sen. Hank Sanders said Wednesday the Jubilee will not pay for city services provided to the festival, after the city billed them more than $23,000.

The city’s take is simple — the Jubilee is a private event that will be using taxpayer funded services such as police, fire and public works services that Selma provides, and those services come with a significant cost.

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Selma Mayor Darrio Melton said the city doesn’t have the funds to expend on city services for private events.

Although Jubilee is a multi-day event that culminates in the Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Melton said this is not about Sunday’s bridge crossing.

Sunday’s actual bridge crossing will cost almost nothing and doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy.

Anyone who wants to march in that event has the right to peacefully assemble and to make their way over the bridge, as tourists do all year.

It’s the other 40 or so events that have the city’s budget in a bind, according to Melton.

Like any event that requires city streets to be closed or diverted, or requires city workers, the Jubilee should be required to pay for those services, especially when organizers are reaping the benefits through vendor and admission.

Events like the education summit at Wallace Community College and the mock trial at the Dallas County Courthouse probably won’t require any kind of city services and therefore should not be billable by the city.

However, many other events, like the step show, parade and festival will be held on city streets. Police officers, fire fighters and other city employees have to be paid from somewhere for the work they’ll do next week, but why should the city have to foot the bill, as it has done for many years, while Jubilee organizers reap financial gain?

Faya Toure Sanders has repeatedly said through the years the Jubilee does not make any money, and invites anyone who questions it to look up the event’s tax record.

Since the organization that runs the Jubilee is a 501c3, all of that information is public.

However, the city has the same argument. The city does not gain any revenue from the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, including the 50th anniversary year when President Barack Obama came to Selma, and has ended up in the hole financially because of the services it provides.

Contrary to the belief of many, there’s no reason to believe Melton doesn’t want the Jubilee or any other private event bringing tourists to Selma to take place.

He’s been fair in requesting payment from both the Battle of Selma and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, arguably the biggest two tourism events in Selma each year, and the city has made public a detailed list of what each event was being billed for.

Nobody in Selma should want to see either the Jubilee or the Battle of Selma canceled.

Both are too important in what they provide to local people in the way of quality of life enhancement and as a way to introduce Selma to those who visit us as what we are — one of the most historically significant small communities in the country filled with nice, accommodating folks.

However, organizers of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee need to be willing to compromise. For many, many years they’ve gotten a great bargain from the Selma taxpayers, but now they’re at odds with Melton, who is simply trying to get them to cover what their event costs the city.

Melton seems to want to work with Jubilee organizers, but there seems to be no reciprocation on their part.

The city started with a request of $35,000 but compromised down to $23,000. Jubilee organizers gave the Times-Journal a detailed list of needed city services Wednesday.

Based on their math, they believe it’ll only cost the city about $3,000 to hold the four-day festival. That number seems unrealistic.

There’s a lot of difference between $3,000 and $23,000, and the Jubilee is less than a week away. Both parties need to work together to come to some sort of resolution, and quickly, with each side agreeing on concessions that allow the events to take place.

Doing anything less is unacceptable for all involved.