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‘Carrot and stick’ approach needed for arts funding, says councillor

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton should adopt a “carrot and stick” approach when it comes to funding the city’s various festivals and community events, says Councillor Chad Collins.

“Our grant process is outdated and broken,” said Collins.

The ward 5 councillor said there is “no rhyme or reason” how and why the city provides money to events and organizations. He recently questioned why the city continues to provide the Art Gallery of Hamilton with $1 million, while Theatre Aquarius, which recently asked for a funding increase this year to $74,000, receives only a fraction of that AGH’s amount.

Collins said events such as the Winona Peach Festival, Festival of Friends, and even Supercrawl, should receive special consideration for more funding because of the impact those events have on the community. All of these events attract people from across the area, investing into their local neighbourhoods, he said.

“There needs to be a pecking order to receive the money,” he said. “I’m a big believer in return on investment. We should reward those events for doing good things.”

He said later the city’s many events could be different categories. For instance, Festival of Friends, with its large volunteer base, and the amount of people who attend the event, would be separated from such community-based events such as the Stoney Creek Santa Claus Parade, andConcession Street.

Collins’ remarks were prompted by Supercrawl organizers asking for a sizable hike in its city funding to $125,000. In 2010, the first year in operation, the city provided the event with $5,000 the maximum allowed under the city’s Community Partnership Program while in 2012 it received over $75,700. The city provided organizers with a one-time $60,000 grant from the economic development department to cover expenses.

Collins said the grant process should take into consideration how many people an event attracts, the amount of corporate sponsorships they have, and how they help the local community.

“I want to reward that kind of achievement,” said Collins. “Use a carrot and stick approach.”

He suggested the city should start providing funding to events based on a priority list. Providing Supercrawl, for instance, with just $5,000 is a “drop in the bucket” for the organization that attracts tens of thousands of people to the downtown event.

The largest problem with the city’s grant process is the lack of money,” said Tim McCabe, general manager of planning and economic development.

“We need to take another perspective,” he said.

A draft report from the Arts Funding Task Force, which was recently released, identified a $1 million shortfall in grants from the city to community groups.

The Stoney Creek Santa Claus Parade, which has about six volunteers, had its CPP funding cut because it received local money to cover higher policing and city barricade costs. The Waterdown Santa Claus Parade was in danger of ending its run last year because it couldn’t pay for the additional expenses.

An internal audit of the grant process has provided city staff a series of “observations” and possible recommendations to reform how the city doles out its cash, said Mike Zegarac, acting general manager of corporate finance.

The CPP program was originally created to simply provide seed money for an event to help it grow until it could become self-sustaining.

He said a few of the suggestions the audit provided included establishing performance measurements, and re-evaluating how to process applications. He said a report will be provided to councillors on how to reform how the grants are allocated.

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