Mayor Shari Decter Hirst listens to city manager Scott Hildebrand on Monday evening at city hall. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) is calling on the city’s senior administration to conduct a "thorough review" of the management and governance of the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival.
"We play such a big role, we provide a lot of resources to the festival. I think it would be fitting that council take a look at how it’s structured, on the governance and how they vote," Chaboyer said.
Chaboyer said she has received several calls from concerned citizens following the news that the American pavilion will be excluded from the 10th annual multicultural festival, which runs Jan. 31- Feb. 2.
"I am disappointed that U.S.A. will not be present," she said. "I’m hoping that in the future we can work through some of those issues."
The American pavilion, run by the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society, was a popular venue at the 2012 festival. It celebrated blues, bluegrass and country music, and offered cuisine from the Mississippi River region. Close to 5,000 visitors attended.
The American pavilion’s application was declined in the fall after a vote by the festival committee of the whole. Pavilions that have been running in the festival for three or more consecutive years each get two voting rights on which pavilions will be included. One of the main themes that came up was the fact that the other groups run independent pavilions and each have separate societies. It has been suggested that an American society should be established.
"I really think that all of us should be looking closer," Chaboyer said. "I’m interested in having an inclusive community, not being exclusive."
Chaboyer said it seems the BFMAS has been "blackballed."
"They are fully incorporated, fiscally responsible, have to report all the time, and for an organization that’s been around for 25-plus years, hosting cultural events, it just deeply saddens me that they are excluded," she said. "They have incredible volunteers, incredibly committed to cultural arts, music and they’re not part of the process … what happened?"
City manager Scott Hildebrand made it clear that the City of Brandon does not operate the Winter Festival or handle decision-making for the pavilions.
The festival’s committee of the whole manages the operations.
"The criteria for the pavilions is pretty simple and straight-forward and has been in place for many years," he said.
"It’s also my understanding that the executive committee and the committee of the whole have updated policies and procedures over the years."
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said, "it would be inappropriate for us to tell the Winter Festival how to run their business."
The city provides startup grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.
Groups are required to submit accounting of how the subsidy was spent by March 15 of each year.
Financial statements are not required by the city for funds raised at the pavilions.
Decter Hirst suggested Chaboyer meet with the community development department "to get a sense of the process, and the strengths and weaknesses of the current governance structure, get a comfort about our accountability for our financial support that we give the festival as a first step."
As the popular festival approaches its 10th anniversary, Decter Hirst says there may be an opportunity to conduct a review, and how to incorporate some of the concerns of the community.
"There will absolutely be a role for the city to be part of that process, however again the organizational structure is such that this is an autonomous group that we fund," she said.
"So let’s get 2013 successfully under our belt and then sit down and look at the one thing we know we all have in common … how do we make the festival better? And I believe that working with the executive of the Winter Festival as well as getting feedback from the community, I’m absolutely confident we can do that."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 8, 2013