OSWEGO, NY – At what cost city events was back on the council floor Monday night.
After a lengthy debate, members of the Physical Services Committee gave a favorable recommendation to a business owner’s request for use of public space.
Anne Backer, owner of Taste the World at Canal Commons, requested use of West First Street between West Oneida and West Bridge streets, on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. for dates in June, July and August for “Mugs and Motors” community car show, which for the past few years has attracted crowds to downtown Oswego on what historically has been rather sluggish business times.
Backer also requested a small stage will be set up as a venue for local musicians. She said she’d like to invite a couple of food trucks to set up on site, also.
“It is a free community event,” Backer told the committee. “So there’s not really any money to be made by anyone on this.”
Third Ward Councilor Nate Emmons pointed out that such events cost the city money for things like use of the bandstand and overtime for city personnel.
The event costs her money as well for things like insurance, musicians and gifts for car owners who display their vehicles, Backer noted.
She does seek sponsors to help support the annual event, she added.
“So there is a lot of money paid out for this event through my store,” she said.
Emmons suggested she consider alternatives to seeking financial support from the city and location.
“Our intention was to promote downtown Oswego and to bring awareness of the businesses that are there,” Backer said. “It’s mostly a ghost town in that area unless there is something going on.”
Seventh Ward Councilor Robert Corradino said he agreed with Councilor Emmons.
“We’ve kind of drawn a line in the sand here recently about the city paying for these events,” he said.
He pointed out that Cre8 Studios used social media to raise funds for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade it organized last month.
“I see what you’re doing here. You’ve created this event. But you’re doing it at the grassroots level,” he told Backer. “Maybe it’s time to step it up … and take this to the next level.”
She has been able to generate some financial support, mostly from some small businesses, she said.
The event has been very successful and many people have already inquired about the 2016 dates, she added. It has grown in attendance every year and the number of vehicles taking part has also increased.
While saying he’d support the request, Emmons said he’d like to see Backer “figure something else out” rather than asking the city to support her event.
Heathe Jones of Cre8 Studios told the councilors they should get behind this event and others that benefit the city, especially the business community.
“Where is it that we stop moving things because we are so not willing to invest in our community?” she asked the committee.
“She’s putting the energy into this project. Please, anybody who has this kind of energy in this city that wants to put on an event like this, my God, don’t hold them back,” Oswego resident Miles Becker told the councilors.
If you run events as a business, there are costs involved, Emmons pointed out.
“And, as a business, you have to make the determination of whether those costs can be included in your budget,” he said.
Inferring that if the city doesn’t help events they will be destroyed “is absolutely not the case,” he said. “We have a job to represent the taxpayers as best we possibly can. I believe that firmly. I take offense to the fact that we are constantly being criticized for asking the questions that we are bound to ask.”
Backer puts in a lot of work and pays entertainment to come to fill downtown with people … she is using her time, money and energy to promote the city, Jones explained.
The city’s name is on the event also, she said, adding that the event helps support the city.
Sixth Ward Councilor Eric VanBuren said that without events like this and others, Oswego a robust community.
The request was forwarded to the full council for consideration.