First Night, First Ruckus

Looks like the "First Night" New Year's Eve celebration in Annapolis is the first glitch of Y2K.

In case you missed it, Annapolis says it will have to charge the not-for-profit up to $35,000 to use City Hall, City Dock and city-owned facilities for the popular, non-alcohol celebration. The city says it has no choice but to jack up the reasonable rates it has charged in the past because of a new city law requiring organizers of events to pay for costs of overtime and clean-up.

In turn, First Night Annapolis has said it will take its party elsewhere. It says it can't afford the rates the city wants to charge for police overtime and other costs.

We hope things get worked out. The city ought to be a proud co-sponsor of the celebration, which features dozens of variety acts and boatloads of family fun.

It's not easy to take sides in this one. Sometimes, non-profit groups become high-handed and overly righteous in their approach. We're not accusing First Night Annapolis of anything untoward. With nearly three months to go, we hope they will remain flexible and keep the bigger picture in mind.

For its part, the city is abiding by the new law, however onerous it is.

Still, we wonder why, in four months of negotiations, some other funding mechanism hasn't been found. What about that gaudy surplus in state funds?

Speaking of money, organizers say that the event brings $1 million into the community in holiday related spending. Could some of those proceeds be tapped to lighten the burden on taxpayers?

From the beginning, we believed that the new Annapolis law requiring people to pay the city when they gather was an undemocratic idea. Along with the status of a state capital comes certain responsibilities; that's what separates Annapolis from, say, Frederick or Gaithersburg.

You trade on your cachet of being the political and decision-making center of your state. Whether you're Annapolis, Des Moines or Springfield, Ill., you and your merchants profit when people come to visit.

In a state capital, there's no room for the small-mindedness that gave rise to the new law.

Now, in the First Night impasse, we're seeing the upshot of what can happen when you tell people to ante up or stay away.

| Issue 40 |

Volume VII Number 40
October 7-13, 1999
New Bay Times

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