published Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Bessie Smith Strut gets $10,000 donation from City of Chattanooga


by Cliff Hightower
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  • photo
    Crowds fill M.L. King Boulevard during the Bessie Smith Strut in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Bessie Smith Strut now only needs $10,000 to make sure there is a June party.

Organizers found the Strut was in the hole $60,000 even after an anonymous donor contribution and went into fundraising mode collecting almost $40,000 over the last few weeks, said Rosa Martin, director of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

The City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to kick in an additional $10,000 as a contribution.

But some council members wanted to institute it as a loan, not a donation.

"It's not new for the city," said Councilman Jack Benson. "We have given a line of credit when we see there is a necessary need."

Councilman Andraé McGary, who represents the district the Strut is in, said he would not support any resolution that had the words "line of credit" in it for the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

"What I'm hearing from my colleagues is they want to be your creditor," McGary said. "What I'm saying is we should be a partner."

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center has taken on the role of providing insurance for food and beverage for the event. Mayor Ron Littlefield announced a month ago a plan to move the Bessie Smith Strut to the riverfront in Riverbend. But Friends of the Festival voted it would not put on a Strut-like event, and the cultural center stepped in to help organize the event, held on June 11.

Martin told the council the center has been under a lot of financial constraints because of the short timeframe in getting the event together. Many corporations the group has sought funding from have said their budgets are already set.

She said this was the first year the center ever did the Strut, so there are a lot of unknowns.

"We have no idea how this is going to turn out financially," she said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert said he thought the city needed to help out at this point.

"I think one of the problems is time," he said. "If they had time, they probably would have raised the money."

In other news:

• The City Council voted 7-1 to approve a lease for the Neema Resettlement Outreach for $1. Councilwoman Deborah Scott voted against the resolution, and Councilwoman Sally Robinson abstained because her daughter, Susannah Murdoch, is director of the program.

• The City Council also voted 7-2 in support of a resolution asking TVA to scale back its tree-cutting program in Chattanooga.

A TVA manager told the Chattanooga City Council that the power provider looks carefully at every tree it cuts within its rights of way.

"We don't have an interest in cutting trees for the fun of it," said Jason Regg, manager of line-applied services, which is in charge of vegetation management.

The federal utility has said it needs to cut down trees in its rights of way that are or could reach more than 15 feet tall or it could face federal fines for vegetation-related outages should the trees fall on power lines.

But Councilman Peter Murphy said those standards apply for higher-voltage lines not found in Chattanooga and the tree cutting TVA is doing is beyond the standards.

"It's not even required by the standards we have now," he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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