Taking his cue from an insurance company commercial, Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley on Monday engaged in a little political theater to accentuate his opposition to the county granting $25,932 in seed money for a new African-American Cultural Festival.
Shortly before cast the lone no vote against the proposal, Gurley placed a bound stack of cash on the ledge in front of his commissioners' desk and then added a pair of eyes and quizzical brows. The prop borrows from television ads for Geico, where the stack of bills follows around potential customers to represent the "Money you could be saving with Geico."
With the county facing deep budget cuts triggered by the recession, Gurley said it was the wrong time to be giving money for a new street festival that would be highly likely to require additional government support in the future.
"I think we're wasting taxpayer money to plan a party," said Gurley, a Republican. "Our responsibility is to meet the needs of our community first, not a party."
The proposed festival has been backed by board Chairman Harold Webb and Vice Chairman Lindy Brown following the departure of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball tournament from the RBC Center to an arena in Winston-Salem two years ago.
The tournament, which drew thousands of graduates of the conference's historically black universities to Raleigh, was supported with $500,000 in county funds. Webb and Brown have suggested the proposed African-American Cultural Festival would also require taxpayer support for a few years, until it could become established enough to become financially self-sustaining.
The pair won the support of a majority of commissioners for the festival by getting Artsplosure, the non-profit organizer of the city's annual arts festival, to sign on as the new festival's professional organizer. The Raleigh City Council will match the county's expenditure to provide an initial $51,864 to plan a framework for the cultural festival.
What WakeWatch finds interesting is that Gurley, who makes a lucrative living as a pharmacist and lawyer, appeared to use a $500 bundle of real $20 bills to make his point.