Tuesday, March 23, 2004

You Want It? You Pay For It

The Cooper-Young neighborhood is a great place. Fun shops, tons of great restaurants and aura to spare. The annual C-Y Festival is an all-day outdoor party -- a must for all Memphians. One of the neighborhood's landmarks is a "recovered and repurposed" railroad trestle bridge at the south edge of the hub of C-Y.

The Commercial Appeal ran a story in one of its neighborhood sections about Cooper-Young that featured the trestle art and its costs to maintain. The article seemed awfully boosterish even for the paper and, sure enough, turns out it was written by the Executive Director of the Cooper-Young Community Association! Hmmm.... A search turned up no other CA stories about the art installation.

The Memphis Flyer, it turns out, has the real skinny.
Marc Long, president of the Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA), went before the City Council's Personnel, Intergovernmental, and Annexation committee last week, proposing that the city take over ownership of the art trestle and all the costs associated with it. Meanwhile, the group would retain ownership of the art.

"For the initial project," Long said later, "we had money from grants from the city and the Community Foundation [of Greater Memphis] along with matching funds from private donors and corporate donors. At that point, we took full responsibility [for the trestle] because we had the money in the grants to do it. After 9/11, the insurance went up and we started choking a little bit."

In fact, after 9/11, the insurance skyrocketed from under $1,000 to about $4,000 a year. Last year, the CYCA held its first annual Art for Art's Sake auction to cover the maintenance costs of the trestle and came close to raising the necessary amount. This year's costs will be offset by the CYCA's second annual art auction, scheduled for April 3rd.
Ahhh.... They can no longer afford it, but still want to keep it. So they'll get the rest of the City to pay for it!

The Cooper-Young area isn't rich, by any means, but certainly doesn't lack for funds. The C-Y Festival is an annual smash that could be harnessed to their needs. As the author of the CA story points out, 45,000 attend the Cooper-Young Festival. If only 10% of those folks could spare a dollar, you'd have nearly all the costs taken care of!

I oppose on principle the City being given funding responsibility for these kinds of loss-leaders. Yes, it's really neat (I do like it.) but if you want to have it, you should make arrangements to pay for it. Don't look at me, unless you'll also accept my opinions on what to do with it.

Oh? That's a different matter, you say?

This will eventually turn into a tug of war between the City Council, needing to make some kind of decision on development or something, and the "arts community," which will argue it should be left alone and that the City has no "right" to mess with it. Sorry, but who pays the piper calls the tune.

If you like the trestle art so much, prove it.

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