Councillors vote down Supercrawl's $125,000 funding request

The extra funds would cover the costs of the quickly expanding festival, says organizer Tim Potocic.
Hamilton Supercrawl 2012. (Supercrawl fan site)

The organizers of Supercrawl — the annual James Street North art and music festival — are seeking an increase in city funding from $60,000 to $125,000.

Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr brought a motion to the city's general issues committee meeting Thursday to request the funds, but it was met with heated debate and voted down in a tie.

Some councillors accused organizers and supporters of the festival of trying to skirt the arduous protocol required by similar events when requesting funds from the city.

Usually, event organizers have to go through a tedious application process to receive funding through the Community Partnership Program. Last year, Supercrawl's one-time $60,000 grant came through reserve funds on the promise the group would pursue the formal CPP process this year.

However, the CPP process was stalled, according to Coun. Farr, so they looked for funding elsewhere.

Supercrawl organizers worked with economic development staff to request the $125,000 out of a $1.7 million reserve fund under the economic development portfolio.

Supercrawl fast facts:

  • First Supercrawl was in 2010
  • Supercrawl attracted more than 80,000 people in 2012
  • The first year, the city paid $5,000 towards Supercrawl

"Despite being a young festival, it needs to be sustainable for the long term," Farr said.

He added that because the funds are coming out of economic development, there is no net impact on taxpayers.

"The festival is expanding. It's success breeding success, and with expansion comes more costs."

However, during the GIC meeting, many councillors felt that authorizing the funds outside the regular process again after last year's one-time-only agreement would set an unsustainable precedent for every other event in the city.

"I have real, serious issue with this," Ward 12 councillor Lloyd Ferguson said in the meeting.

Then, directing his comments to Coun. Farr, he said: "You are being reckless here, just plain reckless here, to run out and throw $125,000 out without statements, without understanding their structure, without meeting the timeline, without providing their vision like everybody else has to do."

Festival growing

Many councillors balked at the large amount of money being asked for, as well.

Last year, the festival requested $100,000 but only received approval for $60,000. Tim Potocic, one of the co-organizers of the festival, said he and his business partner paid the difference themselves.

"We requested $100,000 because that's what we needed to run the festival," Potocic said, adding he was upset the latest request didn't get approved Thursday.

"We do require those funds and we need the city to get on board with us in a multi-year way."

Potocic said the cost increased from $100,000 to $125,000 because organizers plan to expand the festival this year, including waterfront stages and a shuttle bus to get visitors between venues.

While all the councillors praised the success of Supercrawl, which launched in 2010, they were concerned about struggling events in their own wards.

"As the [Winona] Peach Festival grows, their needs are more, and every time they ask for more they're told to put it on their application," Ward 11 councillor Brenda Johnson said. "And yet their budget simply stays the same and they have to make up for it."

Coun. Farr said he intends to bring the issue back to council at the next meeting, since it was a close vote and many councillors were absent at Thursday's meeting.