I n response to an announcement by York City officials that the city would no longer be picking up the costs of holiday events, the York Dispatch editorial board posed this question on its Web poll:
"If no one steps forward to save it, there will be no tradi tional New Year's Eve cele bration next month in York. Officials in the cash-strapped city cut the event to save $35,000 in this year's budget.
"Who do you think should pay for events like these -- municipalities or private groups?
And the two options it offered as responses were: "Municipalities have no business spending money on anything but the necessities. If people want them, they should find a way to pay for them," or "Events like these are important to communities, and local governments are better able to afford them than anyone else. They're just being Scrooges."
York City's public works director, Jim Gross, even wrote a letter to the editor suggesting it's time for nonprofits to step up to the plate to fund these events, some with a long history in downtown York.
The cost to fund it all, he suggested, would be somewhere in the vicinity of $200,000 to $250,000 per year.
I don't know about anyone else, but in my neighborhood that's a lot of money.
And it's money that should not be coming out of the budget of any municipality or government agency.
Call me a Scrooge if you want, but that's not the purpose of government and not a reasonable use of taxpayer dollars.
So for me personally, there is only one solution to this crisis of funding for special events during holidays or at any time of year.
You want it, you pay for it. Consider it a user fee if you want.
Municipalities should not be picking up the tab. The function of governments, all of them including municipal, county, state and federal, should be focused on meeting the needs of society as a whole -- public works, streets, sidewalks, sewer systems, snow removal, public buildings, police, fire, the courts, parks, etc.
You'll notice I didn't include recreation or fun special events on that list. Providing a good time is not a government function. Not in my book anyway.
And no, I don't believe it's the responsibility of nonprofits to use money donated to them for any purpose other than supporting their core programming.
So where do we go from there?
In my mind, it's pretty simple. If you want an enjoyable afternoon or a fun night out, you should be willing to pay your own way.
No one has a right to expect someone else to put up the cash so you can have a good time for free. That's free-loading. And it's unacceptable.
Yes, it happens all the time. But it doesn't make it right.
People don't think twice about spending $50 or $100 a month to pay for a cell phone, but ask them to cough up $5 to enjoy the Halloween Parade or the Fourth of July concert/fireworks celebration and they act like you're asking for the world.
There are lots of folks out there who willingly pay $20 for a case of beer or $60 for a carton of cigarettes, but would refuse to pay $5 to attend a community special event.
The New Year's Eve celebration, for instance. Or YorkFest, the Olde York Street Fair, Bike Night and Light Up Night.
So what's the problem? Well, people are spoiled. They've become accustomed to going to almost every community event for free because someone else -- usually a government body, a business or a private donor with deep pockets -- has always picked up the tab.
They must think the money to pay for all these fun things grows on trees.
The bottom line is the funding of special events is a matter of priorities for those who attend. Apparently their priorities include attending these events, but not paying for them.
So yes, York City officials are doing the right thing by slipping this noose before it chokes them to death. What little money they have to work with should be used for more important things.
And if the citizens of York County want these special events to continue, they'll pay for them. Out of their own pockets. No more mooching.
If it's important enough to them, they'll do it.
Or do without.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.