Fairview council votes 4-3 not to fund the Chili on the Green

The Fairview City Council has officially pulled funding for the town’s Chili on the Green festival, despite droves of support from people far and wide, pleading with the council to save the city’s signature event.

The decision passed with a 4-3 vote during the Feb. 20 council meeting, leaving some council members, as well as the mayor, stunned.

“It’s important to me that Fairview has an event that puts the spotlight on our city,” Mayor Mike Weatherby said. “It’s sad and difficult to understand because it was really something that was so good for the city.

“It’s not the best day for Fairview.”

The decision was in contrast to the recommendation from a special committee that Weatherby appointed to examine the financial feasibility of holding special events this year.

A committee consisting of Council President Lisa Barton-Mullins and first-year Councilwoman Tamie Tlustos-Arnold, presented their recommendation to the council during Wednesday’s meeting.

They revealed that the city never spent $5,000 it had allocated for the Chili on the Green festival during a prior year’s budget. So, in order to fund the Chili Festival this year, the committee recommended that the council vote to supply $2,500 from the city’s general fund, which consists of approximately $3 million.

The council did approve, 6-1, to spend $300 on the annual Easter Egg Hunt, $600 on the Bike Rodeos and $2,000 on National Night Out.

But the council rejected the committee’s suggestion for the Chili Festival, with Tlustos-Arnold voting against her own recommendation.

“I don’t understand it,” Barton-Mullins said. “When we were having our meetings, she seemed like she was all for all of the events that we proposed to bring back.”

Barton-Mullins and Tlustos-Arnold twice met to discuss the future of the city’s special events, and during those meetings, Barton-Mullins never thought Tlustos-Arnold would disagree with their proposed suggestions.

“I’m stunned,” said Barton-Mullins, who called Tlustos-Arnold the “tiebreaker” vote. “Of course, I’m very disappointed that the four councilors wouldn’t support the Chili on the Green. I’m surprised that Councilor Arnold, who put together the proposal with me, decided to change her mind.”

But Tlustos-Arnold said that she didn’t see the proposal until it was made available to all the council members prior to the meeting.

She added that after reviewing the proposal, she was in favor of spending $2,900 on three separate city events, but her “sticking point” was the Chili Festival.

“I had an issue with where the funds were coming from,” she said. “And in our climate, I’m not in support of spending funds on events that don’t directly support our citizens.”

Tlustos-Arnold also said that she believes the Chili Festival should be privately funded, and she didn’t want money for that one event coming from the general fund.

But Councilman Ken Quinby, who also voted against the recommendation, said he thought Tlustos-Arnold didn’t want to impede the recommendation that only Barton-Mullins wanted to present.

“Basically, the mayor put her on the committee hoping to sway her to be in favor of that recommendation,” Quinby said. “She wanted Lisa to bring her proposal forward. She just played the nice guy, but I don’t think that’s what she wanted, obviously.”

Regardless of the outcome, Barton-Mullins and Councilman Steve Owen both questioned councilors who didn’t provide reasoning for voting against the proposal.

“That was the other disappointing part,” Barton-Mullins said. “Not one of them explained why they weren’t going to vote for it to the people of Fairview.”

Owen, who voted to fund the festival, said it was “irresponsible” not to do so, and believes the vote was influenced by political agendas.

“Some people have some hard feelings,” he said. “This is some spillover from the election year and they’re acting out.”

This is the second year in a row that the council has voted against funding Chili on the Green. Last year, though, the vote was unanimous.

But this is one of the first times in the history of Fairview that the council has been nearly split on a decision involving special events, said Samantha Nelson, city administrator.

Quinby said the festival benefits plenty of people from neighboring cities, but he doesn’t believe Fairview residents reap enough rewards to justify funding the event.

“Absolutely every one of us wants as many events as we can, and none of us are against the Chili on the Green,” he said. “But the issue is more along the lines of what are we buying and for who with the tax dollars.

“I want to do what’s best for the people I represent, not what’s best for people from Gresham or Troutdale or Eugene or Washington.”

Quinby wants to spend city funds — recommended to be spent on the Chili Festival — instead on Park Cleone, which he said needs new playground equipment.

“I represent those people and their children, and I want to give them a place to play, not a festival that’s gone in one day,” he said.

However, Barton-Mullins said Quinby “has never mentioned” purchasing playground equipment for Park Cleone.

But she said there are “definitely enough funds to do both projects.”

Weatherby agreed that the city could afford to fund its signature event.

“I know this is a money issue, but given the relatively small amount and the positive report from the committee, there’s a lack of understanding,” he said.

Brian Cooper, a former Fairview councilman, had been one of the most outspoken Fairview residents trying to save the festival.

He said he was “deeply saddened” by the vote and upset with Tlustos-Arnold’s decision.

“What had happened last night was a complete betrayal of that committee as Councilor Arnold worked to undermine her own recommendation that led to officially killing the 2012 city-sponsored Chili Festival,” he said.

Cooper created a Facebook page to save the festival and inspired many people to write the city and express their desire to see the council fund the event.

But Quinby didn’t believe the letters and support were an accurate portrayal of the city’s general consensus.

“The vast majority were either person friends of that (former) councilman or stated that they live outside of Fairview,” he said.

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