(Sept. 13, 2019) Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig readdressed his concerns about the Tourism and Advisory Board’s (TAB) funding policy at Monday afternoon’s Tourism Committee meeting.
On Aug. 27, Ann Hillyer of Shore Craft Beer requested $12,300 from the Ocean City Council to support the “FeBREWary: Love on Tap” beer festival, which had outgrown its previous location.
While a majority of the council members were ready to approve the request, Gehrig hesitated, as he said it could set a dangerous precedent.
“I just don’t want to open up a policy where every event in town is coming back asking for funds,” Gehrig said to council members at the time.
Despite Gehrig’s protests, the council members voted 6 to 1 to approve the request.
At Monday’s tourism meeting, Gehrig brought the debate back to life, and said the committee should discuss and review TAB’s funding policy.
The councilman said aside from funding an established event, which TAB had avoided during his time in the board, the city was meddling in private enterprise.
Essentially, the city was using public funds to pay a private event to be held at a public venue.
Gehrig warned that if the city were to continue this decision-making model, funding events would become arbitrary, and based on personal preference.
TAB member Todd Ferrante argued that the event’s growth warranted the funding, but Gehrig contended that TAB funding was meant to be seed money, not continuous growth money.
Ferrante then went on to say that because the event was being held on April 29, a leap day, the city’s investment would be returned, as it would generate major economic development.
Gehrig reiterated, nonetheless, that the city should not meddle with private business, and recommended that TAB meet and discuss its funding policy before the strategic planning meeting in October.
“I believe we need a tight policy, it at least deserves a discussion,” Gehrig said.
Other committee members agreed, but without establishing when that discussion would take place.