It is sad to see that the Disabled Persons Action Organization is now embroiled in a dispute with the Watertown City Council over fees being charged for their summer concert series this year. Sadly, the decision to impose the fees, which have traditionally been waived in prior years, comes at a time when the agencys state funding has been significantly reduced.
We all understand that the city of Watertown is under intense pressure to both raise revenues and reduce expenses and has put everything on the table for review as they should. That being said, this concert series is the single major fundraiser for a local non-profit that has been a strong local employer and provides critical services to those in need. This is starting to look like a lose-lose situation.
Big cities around the country offer huge money and tax incentives in order to attract and retain major league sports franchises, and while they do it for the revenue and the jobs to be sure, perhaps equally important, they do it for the image it brings to their city.
I think in its own unique way, the DPAO summer concert series makes a statement about the city of Watertown and helps connect it to all the surrounding communities on both sides of the border. Just walk through the parking lot at any concert and look at the license plates and it will show you the drawing power of these concerts. Ask the local restaurants and hotels, and they will confirm that these concerts have a big impact on their revenues as well.
Sometimes in a difficult negotiation like this, one side or the other mistakenly assumes that a little more expense wont kill the deal, and suddenly it is gone.
I used to be in the music business, and I can tell you that if Joe Rich and his band of volunteers were not working for free and doing everything in their power to make these events happen, you would never see superstars like Alan Jackson or Blake Shelton standing on a stage in Watertown.
There will probably come a time when the DPAO can no longer make the numbers work, and these big name summer concerts will all be a memory. Im happy to see they are trying to how to work this out so we dont accidentally accelerate the demise of a concert series many of us look forward to each summer.