In order to make prudent decisions, sometimes you have to look beyond today, sometimes beyond tomorrow, and sometimes, outside of your immediate circle of impact. The last of those is often the hardest to do. On a national level, this seems to be a common hindrance to progress. Let’s not make the same mistake on a local level.
We should all be able to agree on this – the Fourth of July is our most significant reason for national celebration and unity. Without the events that led to the Declaration of Independence, none of the other freedoms that we enjoy – religious, political or social – would even be possible. Let’s not diminish the significance of this magnificent celebration, a long-standing and revered tradition, by boiling it down to “fireworks” – like it’s a bad word. In the end, this discussion is not about our patriotism, it is not about whether we believe this day should be celebrated and it is certainly not about “fireworks.” This discussion is about money – who has it, who should spend it and who benefits from it.
It has been suggested that some of the profit generated by the City’s “Farmer’s Market” be used to fund the Fourth of July celebration. The Planning Board, the Chamber of Commerce and MICA (almost always cited as the voice of the people) all agree that this is a reasonable way to fund the annual Fourth of July celebration. Some dismiss this prospect out of hand, saying the businesses should pay for it all. Some have suggested that the $60,000 of profit go toward the city’s $216,000,000 of debt. At that pace we’ll have the City’s debt paid off in 3,600 years.
It has been said that $40,000 for 20 minutes of fireworks is too much. In reality, it is $42,000 for 28 minutes of fireworks – of which the city (i.e., the citizens) was previously contributing $10,000 – making the additional potential expenditure $32,000. But as with most things, there is a price and there is a cost – if you don’t look carefully, it is easy to only see the price. Here is the cost associated with not having fireworks:
n Local businesses count on the Fourth of July surge to get them through lean summer months. As has been noted by so many, we are already in lean economic times, with no definitive end in sight. The loss of revenue that would be created by eliminating fireworks would only exacerbate this problem on the local level.
n Relative to the week before and the week after, depending on the industry segment, loss of fireworks translates to a loss of 20-50 percent for local tourism, restaurants, grocery stores and hotels. If the Fourth of July is on a weekend (a shorter stay for tourists) the loss increases to 35-65 percent.
n This is not about percentages. These percentages translate to jobs. Jobs at a local level that will be lost. Some of those will be lost at local businesses that have to cut staff and, even more unfortunate, some will be lost because local businesses will close.
n Fewer employed people means less local income, less local spending, less local tax generation and fewer local services provided.
Some would have you believe that businesses on this Island are the enemy – that they are only in it for themselves. The obvious contradiction here is that most of our local business owners are residents of the island. Business owners on this Island give and give and give. You would be hard-pressed to find a single non-profit, not-for-profit, civic or religious organization that does not ask for and receive support from local businesses.
Business owners understand the significance that these organizations play in the local community and in the local economy and, as a result, they give, they give continuously and they give happily. This incessant effort to pit the local businesses against the local residents is, at best, a shameless ploy of people who like to “stir the pot” and at worst, a creation of individuals who have no sense of the extent to which business owners are ingrained into the fabric of this community. To say that the businesses are the only ones that benefit from the fireworks, without realizing how all those big, bad profits funnel back through the local community is a pipe dream of the myopic.
By any established definition, calling the city’s enterprise a “Farmer’s Market” is at best, a stretch. Due to the scope of products being sold and the source of those products, the “Farmer’s Market” acts in competition to many of our local businesses. In essence, the city has become a direct competitor of its own constituents. Considering this fact, the idea of using some of the profits from the City’s “Farmer’s Market” to pay for Fourth of July fireworks is not only reasonable, but equitable as well.
Fireworks on the Fourth of July are a time-honored tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately, this time-honored tradition also has a significant impact on the local economy. Those two reasons provide ample cause for City Council to hear the voices of the two organizations that represent the majority of its constituents and to implement the Planning Board’s unanimous resolution to use some of the “Farmer’s Market” profits to fund the Fourth of July celebration.
If they don’t, the next time we have this discussion it may be in front of your favorite restaurant or store – but it may have a “closed” sign in the window.