- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The nation’s capital is a natural magnet for political rallies and sporting events, such as the annual National Marathon and two huge rallies that will be held Aug. 28, the anniversary of the March on Washington.

Sometimes the D.C. government doesn’t get reimbursed by the event sponsors and organizers, and sometimes the District waives the costs, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

The D.C. Council wants to get to the bottom of this practice.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, said he will hold public hearings on the practice. D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who is chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said the city cannot afford such largesse. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said he weighs each event on a “case-by-case basis.”

“From the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to the D.C. Caribbean Carnival, there are several examples from past administrations of financial assistance for local community events that residents look forward to each year,” the mayor said in an e-mail to The Washington Times. “Our administration has continued to support many of these same events and others on a case-by-case basis, including those that bring additional visitors and revenue to the city.”

Fox 5’s Paul Wagner first reported Tuesday that for two years the Fenty administration has waived more than $485,000 in costs incurred for the National Marathon, which is organized by the nonprofit Greater Washington Sports Alliance. The race, which winds its way around the capital, calls for tightened police security and street closures.

The city has a fund to cover the expenses of some special local events, including the annual 6-mile run on Capitol Hill and the Adams Morgan Day festival and parade, Mr. Mendelson said. But not all groups get a free ride on the backs of the city taxpayers.

“Police sources familiar with the coverage of special events say organizers of the most recent Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure had to pay for security,” Mr. Wagner reported. “So did organizers of July’s Boy Scout Parade as well as the Memorial Day Parade.”

Mr. Mendelson said he wants to get to the bottom of the who-pays-and-who-doesn’t question in public hearings to be held this fall because there is “no defense” for the indiscrepancies.

“We can’t afford to have fees waived for everybody [and] we can’t afford to look the other way,” he said. “What are the criteria? I will look at it … because in my view it’s not fair.”

Mr. Mendelson said he shares concerns with Metropolitan Police officers, who complain that the added security for large-scale events means residents and businesses in other neighborhoods are left vulnerable.

Tighter security at special events hurts places such as Ward 8, which averages 50 homicides a year and has experienced a 300 percent increase in sexual assaults, Kristopher Baumann, president of the D.C. police union, told Mr. Wagner.

“[It’s] going to get less police services so we can pay for giveaway free police services to a marathon downtown,” Mr. Baumann said.

Then there’s the affordability issue.

Mr. Evans — who has endorsed Mr. Fenty’s re-election bid and has received campaign donations from the Greater Washington Sports Alliance — said officials are depleting the city’s savings to fund police, education and social service programs, and it’s time to rethink and reload.

“Those [special events] are individual sums of money that do add up, but they don’t begin to address the problems the city has with overspending,” he said. “Maybe we can’t give these free protections anymore.”

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