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Our View: Corn Fest fee to park is fair

Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011 5:30 a.m. CDT

The scenario: A festival is held each year which draws some, but not all, of a city’s residents and a number of out-of-town visitors. The city provides, among other things, a location for the festival and police and emergency personnel in case something goes wrong. The emergency personnel are paid out of their departments’ budgets, which tough financial times have stretched as far as they will go.

The question: Who should pay for those costs? The people who attend the festival or every taxpayer in the city, whether they attend or not?

That, essentially, is the question before the DeKalb City Council as it ponders a proposal to charge a $5 weekend parking fee at Corn Fest. The $5 fee would cover Saturday and Sunday at the festival. Friday parking would be free.

For those unwilling to pay the fee, a free shuttle service would be provided from several locations around the city. People could park for free, ride the shuttle to and from the festival and, as a bonus, not have to deal with the hassle of parking at the event.

Admission to the festival will remain free, as would all of the entertainment except that provided by outside vendors, such as food and carnival rides.

And 20 percent of the revenue collected from the parking fees would go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of DeKalb County, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the lives and futures of at-risk kids. Big Brothers Big Sisters is providing the volunteers to help park cars.

While we understand public resistance to paying something that has always been free, in all, this is not a bad proposal. It creates a mechanism by which the users pay for the costs of the festival, not the taxpayers. It supports a local charity. Five dollars for a weekend of parking is not exorbitant, and if you want to take a stand against it, there is still a free parking option via the shuttle.

Times are tough and festivals are not free to put on. At this time when there has been clamor for government to cut wasteful spending, charging a nominal fee to park at what is still a free festival seems to be a reasonable move.

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