Jazz Fest fee waiver

The Sonoma Jazz Fest should not receive a fee waiver for $50,000. If the Jazz Fest needs money they can borrow or raise their prices. If the City grants the Jazz Fest a waiver for $50,000 it should come with a number of provisions that serve the interests of all local citizens.

The mission of the Jazz Fest, it seems, is not to bring music to the people but to cater to the rich. Community benefits are targeted on a closed-loop relation between elite tourist taxes for the city and some commercial renters’ and business’ high-end tourist income. The people of the Sonoma municipality, whose taxes would pay for a waiver, whose income would be lost from a waiver, do not benefit from nor participate in this elite tourist economy. In fact, Sonomans who are not in the tourist loop lose out totally because the nature of this economy drives up prices all around. Food, farm stand produce, gas, restaurants, rent, lodging, services, are all more expensive in Sonoma because of this luxury economy.

Given that Sonoma and Aspen, where the Fest is centered, are two elite tourist towns where everything is more expensive, and that advertised patron ticket packages range from $1,250 up to $5000, $10,000 and $25,000, why would the Jazz Fest be in need of money? Maybe the mission is over-extended and they can cut back on the gourmet catering to meet the bottom line of putting on a music show? Maybe the artists are over-priced? The status of the Fest’s finances cannot be known until they are made public and audited by the City or independent entities. Granting a waiver of $50,000 amounts to the City paying the Jazz Fest to be here.

If the local government is willing to forgo legitimate costs and income and provide this subsidy, taxpayers deserve to know the exact financial status of the Jazz Fest. A detailed audit of Jazz Fest finances, expenses, salaries and income needs to be obtained to ascertain if the subsidy is justified.

It is plain not fair or just, for an organization that primarily serves the wealthy to get public support when the whole state of California is going down the tubes and the middle class is getting squeezed from all angles. The news from around the state is serious; in Sonoma news is a fantasy about cheese and wine tasting. Where is any news about obscene rents on the Plaza?

With all the obvious wealth in Sonoma where is a commensurate public good (like KSVY/ CommonBond) to show other than stoking more high-end tourism? If a waiver is granted, inflated costs all around have to be reduced. Here are some suggested conditions: musical artists get a much lower rate, a public audit of Fest finances, provisions for voluntarism throughout the Fest, discounted tickets offered to low-income locals.

The essential problem with an outfit like the Jazz Fest and with Sonoma and Aspen in general is of unequal access based on economic class. The poor and the servants are disenfranchised and the purveyors live in an elite, aristocratic world apart.

The bottom line, it is not worth it to the bulk of Sonoma citizens to pay the Jazz Fest to have an exclusive festival that caters to and celebrates only the rich.

Fred Allebach

One Response to Jazz Fest fee waiver

  1. Dennis Hipps says:

    The fee creeps up and the access and quality creeps down.
    The current product compares poorly with the first couple years. I just don’t know if the regional economic impact is
    1. enough to justify the expense and 2. only Sonoma’s responsibility.