Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 14, 2014

Touma not changing his tune on Blues Fest funding

Niagara Gazette — City Councilman Andrew Touma is sticking to his guns when it comes to funding a popular downtown music festival.

Touma told the Gazette this week that he has no plans to budge on his intent to lower the city’s contribution to the Niagara Falls Blues Festival from $40,000, as was requested by Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration, to $10,000.

“I will support a $10,000 give,” Touma said. “I thought $10,000 was very reasonable.”

During last week’s city council meeting, Touma attempted to amend the agenda item that would have awarded the $40,000 contribution during the council work session. Dyster pulled the item from the agenda, saying he would rather take the time to discuss the amount and resubmit the item at a future council meeting.

Touma said that when he was first approached about the blues fest funding by event organizers the amount being requested was $10,000. Then, at a meeting a few days before the council meeting, the amount had been increased to $40,000 without a clear explanation as to the need for the extra dollars.

The $10,000 in funding would be more in line with the $2,500 other festivals have received, as the blues festival lasts four days, Touma said.

“I think it’s more than fair,” he said.

Touma would likely be the deciding vote on the funding request, as Council Chairman Charles Walker and Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti have consistently voted in favor of public support for outdoor concerts and other cultural events while Councilman Glenn Choolokian and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. have often opposed such requests.

The funding for the festival would come from the city’s tourism fund which is derived from an account for the collection of bed taxes. The city applies a 5 percent surcharge on hotel room bills collected, with the funds used for the purpose of promoting tourism in the county.

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