This is not a new complaint, but — once again — Columbia’s First Night fails to “bring the whole community together.” It is divisive.
The city of Columbia is one of the major sponsors of the event. The City Council allocates thousands of taxpayer dollars, authorizes hundreds of staff hours and provides multiple taxpayer funded services, including free bus shuttles, for First Night.
However, families with limited incomes are left out of almost all programs because they cannot afford to buy the attendance “buttons.”
We and the council are told that a limited number of free passes/buttons are available, based on income.
But information as to how, when and where one might apply for/obtain these “buttons” are not mentioned in their advertisements (or in the 12/20/11 Missourian article, “Columbia annual First Night aims to ‘make some noise’) and are hard to locate.
Here’s the solution: Do what, for example, Austin, Texas, does. Start the new year off right by getting rid of the buttons and giving full access to everyone to share and enjoy this artistic, cultural and fun celebration.
Prior to approval of public funding for 2012, the City Council (as well as the many private sponsors) should insist that the First Night board stop excluding families.
Let's embrace a welcoming First Night for all.
Mary Hussmann is an organizer with GRO — Grass Roots Organizing