A day after giving the impression that Greenwood and Leflore County’s economic development officials were gung-ho on the idea of subsidizing a concert, Supervisor Anjuan Brown had to do some crawfishing.
This idea of using public money to help out an out-of-town, for-profit promoter is mostly being pushed by Brown, with support from fellow supervisor Sam Abraham.
Economic development officials say they were not receptive when they met last week with the two supervisors to discuss their pitch for the Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board to use some of its funding to erect a stage at Florewood Park, the venue for the May 11 Down Home Blues Festival.
The supervisors were told their request did not meet the objectives of the publicly funded Industrial Board or its privately funded arm, the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation. The focus of these organizations is supposed to be on attracting permanent jobs, not transient business.
The Industrial Board chairman, Tony Sinclair, did tell the supervisors, though, that if they believed development of Florewood as a concert venue was a county priority, the county could come up with the money it was seeking by diverting roughly $15,000 of an allocation the supervisors had previously earmarked for the Industrial Board.
By a 3-2 vote Monday, the supervisors did just that.
It was a poor decision.
Robert Collins, one of the two dissenters, is correct when he says the county shouldn’t be spending public money on ventures that provide marginal economic benefit and are designed mostly to put money in a private entity’s pocket. If the promoter of Down Home Blues Fest can really draw 4,000 to 5,000 people to this event, as he claims, that’s $100,000 to $150,000 in ticket sales alone. He should be able to afford his own stage, lights and sound equipment.
It is one thing to kick in some public money for a locally based nonprofit group, such as the Chamber of Commerce, for a community event that provides a recreational outlet while potentially benefitting the businesses in this community. It is quite another matter to give public money to someone whose main motivation is trying to make a buck for his own business.