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Regional News

City funding brings Syracuse one step closer to bringing back Jazz Fest

JazzFest.JPG
Ellen Abbott
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WRVO News file photo
Syracuse Jazz Fest founder Frank Malfitano announces the festival lineup in 2017, the last year Jazz Fest was held

On Monday, Syracuse’s Common Council allocated $125,000 to bring the city’s beloved Jazz Fest back to Clinton Square after a 22-year absence. This funding is part of the $375,000 of federal stimulus money the council decided to set aside for the city’s festivals.

However, setting aside funds specifically to revive the Jazz Fest was not the original plan. During Monday’s meeting, Councilor Pat Hogan introduced an amendment allocating funds for this particular festival.

“I'm offering an amendment to this item on the agenda they will set aside $125,000 for the Syracuse Jazz Festival that will take place this summer in Clinton Square,” said Hogan.

Not all of the councilors were on board, mainly because this amendment would allow the organizers of the Jazz Fest to bypass the funding approval process by the Downtown Syracuse Foundation.

“We have to make sure that we do not set the wrong example or allow one organization versus other to not follow the rules,” said Councilor-at-Large Rasheada Caldwell.

She said she fears this would set the wrong precedent. Councilor-at-large, Rita Paniagua, agreed, saying this amendment would favor the festival’s founder and director, Frank Malfitano.

“The council does not legislate for individuals nor should the city of Syracuse govern in that manner,” said Paniagua.

However, Hogan said the popularity of the Jazz Fest–which drew a crowd of 35,000 the last time it was held in Clinton Square and has had headliners like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin–makes it a priority for the city.

“To those that say this isn't fair–you're wrong,” said Hogan. “What isn't fairs to act like all these festivals are the same, and that they all have the same impact and effect on the downtown's economy.”

The decision to amend the agenda item passed by a mere five to four vote. Then it came time to vote on the funding itself and the clerk read the roll call.

“11a passes with a unanimous vote–nine to zero,” said the clerk.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean the Jazz Fest is back yet. Malfitano said in a Facebook post on Monday that the organizers are one step closer but “critical work still remains before this becomes a reality and done deal.”

“It's not soup yet, but at least we're on the stove,” he wrote.