Newly released emails show that St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter declined several offers to privately fund the city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display, an event he cancelled this year due to financial concerns.
According to The Star Tribune, which obtained emails and voice mails pertaining to the matter through a public records request, Carter received offers from the St. Paul Saints baseball team and the Hiway Federal Credit Union to privately fund the event. Council Member Jane Prince even offered to lead an effort to solicit private donations.
“I’m moving on from this and not going to ask anybody for money for it. Let’s not make competing asks,” Carter said in response to the offers, according to an email he sent to Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher.
The city’s Democratic mayor initially received some support from across the aisle for his decision, writing in a June 27 Facebook post that he “can’t in good conscience support spending tax dollars on a fireworks display.”
After his announcement, offers began to pour in from the private sector, with Hiway Federal Credit Union Vice President Bill Wagner offering to match $50,000 in donations to help fund the event. Peter Leggett, Carter’s communications director, responded to the offer in an email chain, writing that the mayor “has expressed his thanks but is passing on this.”
Prince’s offer to help solicit donations for the event was also turned down, according to emails she sent to Tincher.
“I fully understand Mayor Carter’s reluctance to spend any public funds on a fireworks display this year. I write to see if I might be part of trying to find private funds to arrange for this annual celebration,” Prince wrote, though her offer was declined.
The St. Paul Saints baseball team made a last minute push to round up sponsors for the event, but the effort fell through “because it was such a quick window of time that everything needed to be pulled off.”
Leggett responded in a Thursday statement by suggesting that offers to privately fund the event did “not yield the necessary support.”
“The mayor was encouraged by interest from private sector partners, [but] those discussions did not yield the necessary support to cover the full costs of hosting and securing an Independence Day celebration without pulling public safety resources from St. Paul neighborhoods,” Leggett said. “The mayor looks forward to continuing these discussions for next year.”
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