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Syracuse Jazz Fest is one step closer to monetary support from Onondaga County Legislature

John Smith
Posters of Jazz Fests past on display in 2017, the last year the festival was held.

Onondaga County lawmakers just might be moving the Syracuse Jazz Fest a little closer to reality for this summer. The group’s Ways and Means committee Tuesday approved a measure that would match county funds to the $125,000 the City of Syracuse already pledgedto the event. Legislator Brian May supports using a portion of the Room-Occupancy Tax budget to help the businesses that stand to benefit.

“We heard from the hospitality industry a little bit over the past week. Wonderful that it’s a possibility..." May said. "But to allocate those funds, I think it’s really, really important that we invest or target a certain amount of them to ensure that the event is also trying to draw people into our community.”

A number of lawmakers echoed what members of the community are saying: that they long for a return to normal. And Jazz Fest would be part of that. However, Mary Kuhn would like to see the county go a step further with the Room Tax – or ROT – account.

“When we have a surplus of ROT [Room Occupancy Tax], that’s where our arts do get funded. Perpetual is the moment..." Kuhn said. "...Whether we’re talking about museums, we talked about theater, we’re talking about music. So I’m hoping that, I’d like to put it on the table, that we have for consideration also bumping up our CNY Arts who also suffered.”

Some of her colleagues agreed, and wonder if a commitment is made to Jazz Fest, other events should be supported as well. The funding would have to be approved by the entire legislature before it’s final. That vote would be early next month. Jazz Fest Organizer Frank Malfitano is also seeking financial support from the state in order to have a large enough budget to stage the event.

The committee is also considering borrowing up to $1.1 billion to move the county’s Emergency Operations Center. Deputy County Executive Ann Rooney explains the current location, in the basement of the Civic Center, could become problematic at the height of an emergency.

“What we’ve seen with the pandemic, it’s really important that we have our command center be at an off site location. While it’s convenient that it’s in the basement of the civic center, in an emergency that could affect Downtown Syracuse. It doesn’t make the best sense to have your emergency operations in the basement of that same building,” Rooney said.

She adds Congress member John Katko is trying to bring in another $1 million for the project from Washington. Rooney told county lawmakers that if the federal money doesn’t come through, they would not go through with local borrowing.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.