Freeport, Illinois — Over the past couple of years or so talk of no more fireworks in Freeport has been spread all over the city and region. “Freeport might not have fireworks” we have all often heard.
But while the thought of no more fireworks to some may not amount to a hill of beans, not having fireworks goes beyond just the lighting and launching of explosives in the air.
No more fireworks in Freeport means, no more Independence Day in Freeport. What it means is, Independence Day will not be celebrated in this city. For whatever it’s worth, (equally as much as yours we suppose) we’d like to offer some of our thoughts on the matter.
In years past, (as in the five decades we remember at least) we’re pretty sure the city of Freeport has fully funded (your money) and organized (their time) the annual event for Freeport. Citing growing budget concerns and the amount of time it takes to organize the event, over the past couple years the city has partially funded the event, with citizens of the community organizing and fundraising the rest. If it weren’t for hundreds of citizens, businesses and others who did help over the past 2 years, Independence Day may have ended in 2016.
For Freeport to be the central hub of an entire county and not celebrate Independence Day, we think leaves a pretty bad mark on the city we all care about. Even just saying that evokes a sick feeling in our stomach. We love Freeport but the thought that our nations very foundation of freedom will not be celebrated in our own hometown leaves us feeling pretty sad.
To us there doesn’t seem to even be a question here as to whether Freeport celebrates Independence Day. Of course it does.
See, whether you pay taxes throughout the entire year for the $18 million dollars worth of other stuff in the city, (salaries, road salt, tar, vehicles, pensions, clothing allowances, etc…) or whether everyone donates an extra $1.00 or $2.00 from March thru June for an Independence Day celebration, it’s all taxpayer money.
What’s the difference. It’s all your money to begin with.
Fireworks, as in the entire celebration of food, music and vendors would be about $25,000-$30,000 a year. If you divided that up among taxpaying citizens it might be $2.00-$3.00 per taxpayer per year, we’re guessing. Or about $1.00 per person based on population.
As far as we’re concerned, the citizens have already paid for that day.
Citizens pay for it with their lives, hopes, dreams, their blood, sweat, hard earned money, taxes, fees and they pay for it in war. Wars we’re still fighting, truth be told. People in this country have had to fight for their independence and freedom along the way as well. Freedom isn’t pretty, nor has it ever been.
But this isn’t ground hog day. We’re not Stockton, Illinois. This isn’t Oneco.
To say that Freeport, a city of 25,000 people with an $18 million dollar annual budget, cannot afford $25,000, (out of the money its citizens have already given to them) to celebrate our nations independence seems a little embarrassing.
It also isn’t Mothers day or Fathers day. In fact, it isn’t Valentines day, Halloween and it isn’t Black Friday, Cyber Monday or even Christmas either.
It’s Independence Day.
The city of Freeport (on behalf of its citizens) has written the check (and organized) the Freeport Independence Day celebration for as long as we can remember. No one has complained about them writing the check that we recall.
We’re not aware of anyone taking up the fight against paying for fireworks. We’ve never heard of a group, an effort, a committee to stop, a fundraiser to end or for that matter, even a Facebook post from anyone rallying to end all Fireworks in the Port. Have you? Is there a Freeport fireworks fizzler out there we’ve never heard of before?
We don’t think so.
Seems to us it isn’t the kids who enjoy it every year or the parents who enjoy it with them, (or the local businesses) deciding they no longer want to give up a couple bucks for Fireworks. It doesn’t seem to us this is the citizens taking it away from the citizens at all.
No, it is Freeport, the city, (which has been run by varying people over the past 3 years or so) who gave its people the overnight ultimatum.
An ultimatum that said pickup the entire thing on your own backs (added costs and all), because we’re taking that part of Freeport away. We’re sorry, but there will be no celebrating of your independence in this town. It isn’t in our budget.
It’s funny too because we’re pretty sure all the extra taxes and fees and infrastructure payments Freeport citizens are obligated to pay, aren’t in their budget either but they seem to manage just fine. They hold up to their end of the deal. Freeport citizens never get to use the excuse that it’s not in their budget. They just have to pay.
But we do have to at least view this from a city perspective for a moment. Not as a citizen, but as someone charged with doing what is best with citizen money. That means your feelings do not matter for a moment. From just a city operational viewpoint, does Freeport need fireworks.
While no, you probably can’t tie a fireworks expense to any operational benefit for the city, you can certainly tie it to pride people have in the city they live in. You can at least strive to be the central hub of entertainment in the county and our nations Independence is certainly a part of that. What you lose by not celebrating America is a far greater price to pay than the few pennies you’d spend on your citizens to keep it. There’s certainly no benefit to the city by losing it, and the people will never see what Freeport received for that $25,000 savings anyway.
It is convenient though.
We doubt this was planned at all but since the city put it on its own citizens plate of responsibility, you do realize any complaining the citizens do, the city can now just blame you as the reason Freeport doesn’t have fireworks any longer. They offered. It will be written as the city didn’t have it in its budget, and the citizens didn’t want them.
Our view on the whole matter, we don’t think the citizens should have to fund Freeport fireworks again. We think the city of Freeport should just write the check out of the money its citizens have already given them. If this were $25k for a Tutty Baker birthday celebration, we’d probably say ditch it. Don’t spend the money if the city is that tight on money. But it isn’t $25k for a Tutty Baker birthday celebration.
If the city wants help just organizing the event each year, we have teams of people all over this city who do just that. We can’t fathom the community development folks wouldn’t jump at the chance to find a few people to get things set up. We’re pretty sure that’s what they’re here for anyway. (Some we think we even pay to do stuff like this.) We’re sure even a number of citizens would be more than happy to pitch in some time as well each year.
If nothing else, at least allow the citizens the time to get it self-funded and organized. You can’t drive the car for someone for over 50 years, and expect them to be a perfect driver once you finally let them take the wheel. Give your citizens time. Don’t carry your citizens along by the pre-paid city tax teet and then set them up to fail, after you just don’t feel like doing it anymore. Give it five years or so with no restrictions on who can form a committee to keep it going. (Don’t restrict it to just a non-profit).
Sad part is, in 50 years from now no one will even remember the time Freeport had Fireworks if it isn’t saved right now. Instead, it’ll be memories of downtown lofts and city streetscapes with painting events and beer gardens. If the city doesn’t have the money now, it never will because that’s just how the system works. You will never see Fireworks in Freeport again is our prediction. We hope we’re wrong.
While downtown lofts and city streetscapes with painting events are all fun and exciting too, Fireworks and the subsequent celebrating of our Independence is an American tradition. We’re sorry you can’t make money off us on this day, and we’re sorry you can’t sell us tickets to the show. But you could, Freeport, find $25,000 a year of money your own citizens have paid in to fund fireworks. You could at least give your people proper time to decide, as citizens, if they’d like to do it all themselves.
You’re going to lose the faith of a lot of good people in the city over stupid decisions like his, all over pennies of other people’s money. Money we’re pretty sure your citizens, as a majority, have no problem you spend each year. After all, tens of thousands of people don’t usually show up to things they hate, despise, or don’t agree should be celebrated in Freeport.
What’s the saying anyway. If you build it they will come? Well, on the other side of that coin is if you don’t build it, if you tear it down, they will leave. Your people want this Freeport.
Shame on you for not hearing them.
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