The Right tone in Riviera Beach

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Friday, November 28, 2008

The fat lady finally has sung at the Riviera Beach Music Festival.

On Wednesday, the Riviera Beach City Council ended a two-day workshop without an agreement to give the musical festival advisory committee the go-ahead to proceed with the annual event. Council members did not take a formal vote, but most clearly were not in favor of a 2009 festival. Specifically, they were against taking another financial hit.

Riviera Beach has lost money on most of the eight festivals the city has held. The loss was $389,291 last year. In 2006, the city lost $600,000. The advisory committee, an impressive team led by public relations consultant Mami Kisner, proposed a two-day, $325,000 festival instead of the traditional three-day event. They planned to hold it at a city recreation center instead of Singer Island because of construction on the beach and promised that it would not cost taxpayers a dime more than the $75,000 in seed money the city had appropriated.

But council members said that they had heard that promise before. And despite a nice presentation, there were too many questions the committee couldn't answer. For example, the committee said it already had $200,000 in sponsorship commitments but had no documents to prove it. The supposed reason? Sponsors were waiting for the city to move forward. So these companies couldn't put their intent in writing and make it contingent on the city's approval? Riviera Beach once again could have ended up holding the bag.

The workshop was contentious at times and residents were divided. Several wanted to proceed with the festival and questioned the council's detailed scrutiny of the finances. But if previous councils had practiced such oversight, the city might not have lost so much money and perhaps could have repaired the sidewalks and installed the streetlights residents say they need.

Former council member Sylvia Blue, who voted to finance the first festival, said times have changed. "There are a number of priorities here in this community that take precedence over a jazz and blues festival," Ms. Blue said. "This is not a priority, and it should not be viewed as such." The council agreed and made the right decision for the city.