The Newport Beach City Council reworked the budget for special event financial support at its Tuesday meeting, deciding the Newport Beach Film Festival and Christmas Boat Parade were iconic events that deserved the most support and generally deciding that the entire process needs to be reworked, possibly in a future Study Session.
The Corona del Mar Christmas Walk had sought $10,000, and staff was suggesting it receive $3,000, and in the end, the Council members voted to award the event $6,000.
This was the second year that city staff and a Special Events Advisory Committee sought applications from special events organizers, then conducted public interviews, in order to decide which groups would get fee waivers or other financial assistance from the city. Previously, events were granted waivers for things like trash removal, traffic control and permits on a case-by-case basis, causing city staff to worry about the lack of consistency and oversight.
After the committee ranked the events, city staff then divided $180,560 in allocated city funds to ten events.
At Tuesday’s Council meeting, the group decided to grant the No. 1-ranked event, the Christmas Boat Parade, $35,000, up $5,000 from a year ago. They also voted to give the Film Festival the entire $125,000 that organizers sought — an increase from the $87,500 that staff proposed, and an increase from last year’s funding of $90,000. Council members also decided to give the Newport to Ensenada race $10,000 — down from last year’s $12,000 and the $30,000 organizers sought, but up from the $3,000 that staff proposed.
Councilman Steve Rosansky suggested that the Film Festival and the Christmas Boat Parade be considered separately in the future as line items in the city council’s bigger budget talks because the two events are culturally iconic and boost tourism and positive attention to the city.
Several council members questioned why the Spirit Run’s funding more than doubled from last year — from $14,000 to a proposed $29,500 — and whether it was a system designed to reward those who asked for the most. In the end, they voted to give the Spirit Run the same $14,000 it received last year.
Mayor Nancy Gardner, who said she did not support increasing the Film Festival’s funding to the total its organizers requested, said she was unhappy with the process and questioned whether the city should even be in the business of doling out public support for community events, including events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is part of a national campaign for an organization that is “really well funded,” Gardner said.
Councilwoman Leslie Daigle also voted against the revised event allocations, saying she believed the Council should stick to its budget, as the members expect other department head’s to do, and follow staff’s guidance.
The final allocations totaled about $43,000 more than the original suggestions.
Gardner requested that the special events funding process be discussed at a future Study Session meeting. Several council members agreed, saying they wanted to see events categorized by whether they were charitable, for example, or aimed at promoting tourism. The date of that meeting was not determined.