18 May 2004
Fest or famine
(Note: This is, or at least comes across as, an attempt to talk out of both sides of my mouth. Really.)
Bruce reports that the vast majority of respondents to a poll conducted by a Tulsa TV station would not be willing to increase their taxes to support the Tulsa Mayfest. What does it mean?
Too often we overlook the less than immediate effects of public investments. For instance, festivals like Mayfest are important tools to promote the "livability" of a city. While I doubt that many people would move to Tulsa just to attend Mayfest once a year they might see it as a factor in determining their choice of where to live. Having "places to go, things to see" might not be as important as job relocation or overall cost of living but it does contribute to the overall appeal of a city. Younger people especially see entertainment options as important considerations when choosing a city.
But that's only half the story he has to tell:
This past weekend I also attended the Renaissance Faire in Muskogee. I have a friend that is part of a show there so I went to see him do his act and to take even more pictures. From what I know, the Ren Faire does not operate with any public funds. You pay to get in and you pay "event prices" for food, drink, merchandise and other "special" events you want to participate in. You choose the level of financial investment you are willing to make and if gawking at women with pushed up boobs and hearing all manner of bad medieval accents is not your thing it doesn't cost you a penny to stay away. A publicly supported event would cost you money whether you choose to attend or not.
True enough. Getting a few bucks from the government might be nice, but there are always strings attached, and they may not be strings you like. Better to keep one's distance. Besides, most of these operations have learned how to turn a buck on their own. At the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City, the Arts Council gets a piece of anything sold on the premises; what's more, they solicit donations directly. I'm sure my one afternoon at the Festival, during which I spent $150 or so, generated a fair chunk of change for the Arts Council, likely far more than they'd get from me were I taxed to pay for it.
This is not to say that government has no role whatever in creating or maintaining "livability" certainly the city of Oklahoma City didn't shy away from ponying up some funding to restore the Skirvin Hotel but the city expects to turn a profit on this deal, and any dollars they make from the Skirvin are dollars they don't have to siphon from me. And while the Skirvin deal presents philosophical problems I expect to hear from the Oklahoma Libertarian Party presently about how awful it is I still think it will work.