Redefining What Qualifies As A Disaster
This year's Taste of Summer was held at the Waukesha County Fairgrounds from June 4 through the 8th. Unfortunately for organizers, this was the weekend that Wisconsin experienced record rainfall - which led to severe flooding. In what should be a surprise to no one, attendance at the festival was off substantially. I mean, if your basement is flooding, you've probably got a lot more to do with your time than going to see Davy Jones and David Cassidy.
According to published reports, the festival organizer has been writing bad checks to various vendors, including some performers. Several of the vendors are demanding that criminal charges be issued against the organizer as a result of these bad checks. For its part, the Waukesha Police Department is holding off seeking criminal charges.
Well, apparently the organizer is seeking a $250,000 "loan" from the taxpayers through the Small Business Administration. In seeking the "loan", the organizer is claiming that he is entitled to relief because Waukesha County was declared a federal disaster area based on flooding. If Taste of Summer qualifies, the organizer would have up to 30 years to repay the "loan".
First of all, who's kidding who. If this "loan" goes through, what are the odds that the taxpayers will ever see a dime repaid? Slim to none! If the organizer is writing hot checks to vendors, does anyone seriously think he's going to make good on debts to the government? Therefore, why not just call this what it is - a taxpayer bailout of a failed music festival.
People who put on festivals in Wisconsin during the summer will tell you that their primary concern, year in and year out, is the weather. For example, it's not a coincidence that the recently completed Wisconsin State Fair saw a 9% increase in attendance while enjoying beautiful weather essentially every day of the Fair. In contrast, Summerfest attendance dropped somewhat this year as Summerfest was plagued by bad weather on at least four of its eleven day run.
In other words, if an outdoor festival gets a rainy weekend, it's going to be in trouble - and therefore needs to budget accordingly.
The organizers apparently made a business decision and chose not to buy "rain insurance" because it was cost-prohibitive. That's understandable. However, having made a decision not to carry insurance, it's hard to see why the taxpayers should bail them out now that this business decision has proven to be a bad one.
I also seriously question how an outdoor music festival can even qualify for disaster relief? From what I'm told, the problem is less that certain acts had to be cancelled but rather that almost nobody came because of the weather. This is therefore much different from an ongoing business looking for assistance because a flooded basement makes it temporarily unable to operate. Plus, a festival like this doesn't strike me as being an ongoing business in the same sense as a bakery that operates in the community every day.
There are a lot of stories out there about how people who aren't flood victims are trying to milk the system for undeserved benefits. This isn't quite as bad - but it's still not appropriate. Hopefully, the federal government will shut this silliness down and decline to issue a "loan" in the first place.
I'm sorry that this will mean that Davy Jones and David Cassidy will get stiffed. At the same time, better them than us taxpayers.