OUR VIEW: No fireworks? Don't blame City Hall (vote in poll)

Staff reports Updated: June 30, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: June 30, 2010

Don’t blame City Hall when the skies are dark over Memorial Park on July 4, for the second year in a row. Instead, ponder why we’ve relied on government to pay for this party.

The country we’ll celebrate Sunday was founded to facilitate prosperity. We build wealth by producing, buying and selling goods and products that improve the human condition. We advertise goods and services proudly. Creators of wealth share the greatness of their wares by sponsoring everything from city buses to park benches to taxi cabs to T-shirts. Large wealth producers buy naming rights to sporting complexes and tall buildings. Doing so helps pay for amenities enjoyed by the public and promotes commerce and trade. Most of what defines community is funded privately.

In a country like this, government should never have to pay for fireworks. It’s hard to imagine a better all-American event for producers of wealth to sponsor.

In the old days, the major employer in a city or town paid for the July 4 celebration. The most celebrated Independence Day celebration in the country remains the annual corporate-sponsored Macy’s July 4th fireworks display over the Hudson in New York.

Decades of economic growth, during which local governments enjoyed taxpayer largess, led too many communities down the road of leaving entertainment to City Hall. But the party is over, as the recession has left local governments strapped for cash.

“City budgets snuffing July 4th fireworks,” stated a Monday headline in USA Today. The story told of cities from coast to coast that have cancelled fireworks as a result of dwindling tax revenues.

As Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera told The Gazette’s editorial department, it’s hard to lay off city employees one day and write a check for fireworks the next.

The same recession that’s hurting local governments has also hurt businesses. But it hasn’t hurt them all. McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Hooters, drug companies, the tobacco industry, the liquor industry and much of the medical industry have thrived during recession. Most do business in cities and towns throughout the country. Even a lot of small, homegrown businesses have done well during recession, most notably auction houses, towing companies, securities and commodities brokers, risk management consultants and law firms specializing in bankruptcy, liquidation and divorce. Even in bad times, potential sponsors abound.

Rivera said city officials are eager to restore the fireworks celebration to Memorial Park. In recent decades, the celebrations were paid for with city funds. It costs up to $135,000 — an amount that includes a performance by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, public safety, barricading and about $20,000 for fireworks.

(Please vote in poll to the right in red type. Must vote to see results. Thanks!)

After Fort Carson soldiers deployed for war, the city’s sales tax revenue dropped so much in 2004 that Rivera decided to raise private capital to pay for most of the 2005 Memorial Park celebration. He continued raising private capital for the event until 2008, when raising money for the United States Olympic Committee took precedent.

Next year, things may be different. Rivera said he already has a nibble from a corporate sponsor interested in paying for part of a 2011 celebration. Sponsors will invest in building community and promoting freedom. In return, consumers will reward them. That’s the culture of strength we celebrate on the Fourth of July, not a society that asks City Hall to provide a good time.

Wayne Laugesen , editorial page editor, for the editorial board. Friend him on Facebook

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