"We were blindsided by the impact the recession had on corporations' ability to purchase tickets," McMillan explained to the council. "We have 17 companies that have always traditionally bought corporate tickets who did not purchase corporate tickets."
Council President Carole Smitherman and councilors Steve Hoyt, Jonathan Austin and Carol Duncan were in favor of the bailout from the get-go, but all espoused support for a review of City Stages' funding after the festival.
"You have three years, starting today, to get City Stages financially sound," Smitherman told McMillan. "We can't continue to go this way. Every year we are back before the council and-"
"I can't go through it," McMillan interjected.
"We need to have, at the conclusion of City Stages,we need to have all of the expenses - we need to know exactly where all the money was spent and how it was spent immediately," Smitherman said.
Birmingham City Council President Carole Smitherman was one of four councilors that voted to bail out City Stages.
Other councilors were less than supportive of the increase in funding. Maxine Parker, who was the sole 'no' vote on the bailout, demanded to know how City Stages "got $500,000 in the hole," and whether or not McMillan would support this grant were he in her position. After rattling off a list of non-profits expected to receive cuts in funding from the City of Birmingham in next year's budget, Councilor Roderick Royal told McMillan that he was unlikely to vote for an increase in funding for City Stages.
"This is not Birmingham's festival. This is a privately-run, not-for-profit festival," Royal said. "I know you have a debt load, but I'm not interested in a grant for this amount." In lieu of a grant, Royal proposed that Birmingham offer City Stages a long-term loan.
"I would be misleading you to indicate to you that, in our present condition, we could repay a loan," McMillan replied. "City Stages is in a perilous situation. We need to have the festival this weekend, and then we need to agree whether you wish to have the festival in the future or not."
Hoyt said the economic impact of City Stages - expected to be between $10 and $20 million in local and state tax revenue - alone is reason enough to support a bailout, and took issue with Royal's comparison of the city's charity funding to this particular grant.
"I do know the economic impact of City Stages and you're going to have to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. If we're talking about a half-a-million dollars with respect to what it provides - a $20 million impact - then there's no comparisons to be made," Hoyt said.
At times, the debate in the council chambers took on a lighter tone. At one point, Hoyt said, "I want to go see Charlie Wilson," referring to the R&B singer who is slated to perform at City Stages. "I want to see some Charlie. Charlie helps you out at home," Hoyt said.
"TMI," said Smitherman, using the acronym for "too much information."
Smitherman, Hoyt, Duncan and Austin voted for the quarter-million dollar grant, which was transferred from an appropriation originally budgeted for Sloss Furnaces. Parker voted 'no,' and Royal and Valerie Abbott abstained. Joel Montgomery was absent from the meeting.
UPDATE: Wade Kwon talks about City Stages money problems and digs up some relevant documents.