The Annapolis City Council will be asked to vote Monday on whether tax dollars should be used to help underwrite the cost of the Annapolis Rising Festival — but some aldermen say they have a raft of questions they intend to raise in advance of a vote.
The Annapolis Rising Festival honored the victims and first responders of the June 28 shooting at The Capital Gazette office. Five staffers of The Capital were killed and others were injured in the attack.
The festival, held July 28, featured several bands and speakers, including journalists and family members of those killed — Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman and Rebecca Smith.
Alderman Ross Arnett said that because the event was to be held on the one-month anniversary of the shooting, it was put on very quickly with little coordination with the council.
Before agreeing to sponsor an event, the council is usually given several weeks to consider the issue. When Mayor Gavin Buckley brought the plan to the council just days before Annapolis Rising, he estimated the city would spend about $32,000 providing police and fire services, as well as paying for items such as portable toilets.
The city ended up spending about $1,900 more than the estimate, according to Susan O’Brien, communications officer for the city of Annapolis.
“My concern is I would like to see where the money came from, where it went,” Arnett said. “Tell us what happened…. We get that it was done in a rush. Now it is time to account for everything.”
Arnett said he and others on the City Council will have to decide whether tax dollars will go to support not just this event, but others Buckley would like to put on in the future.
The city has budgeted $16,780 for New Year’s Eve and $22,100 for Fourth of July celebrations. In addition, it helps pay for support for Navy football games at a cost of $34,000.
Regarding Annapolis Rising, O’Brien said: “The leaders of the music community in Annapolis came together. It was a great day for people to come together, to heal, to celebrate the people who survived, to talk about and champion the freedom of the press.”
O’Brien said Rams Head Promotions LLC agreed to serve as the ticket agent without charging its usual fee so that every penny that came in from ticket sales would go to the benefit of the families. The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, which is handling the fund for the families of the victims, has received nearly $64,000 from Rams Head Promotions, O’Brien said.
In addition, the nonprofit Annapolis Arts District handled some of the details of the event and some money that came from corporate sponsors. The organization has not received all of the corporate donations toward the event, O’Brien said.
Another $25,000 was donated by Katcef Brothers Inc. to an LLC called Annapolis Rising that was set up after the shooting.
The concert series was initially planned to begin in September, but after the shooting, Buckley decided to hold a concert in July rather than September.
While he doesn’t question that the Annapolis Rising event was for a good cause, Alderman Frederick Paone said he doesn’t believe it was handled professionally.
“Who is in charge? What are the bills?” he said.
Several members of the staff in the mayor’s office worked full time for two or three weeks on the concert, Paone said.
“There is a better use of taxpayer money than having city employees working on event for a nonprofit,” he said.