The volunteer group that runs Oakland's popular, but underfunded, First Fridays festival is teaming up with a merchants group to hire a professional manager to help the event finally pay for itself.
The manager's key responsibilities will be to raise money for the festival which routinely draws 10,000 people to Oakland's Uptown District the first Friday of every month, but has relied almost exclusively on city subsidies to stay afloat.
The city, which has spent more than $500,000 over the past year on the festival, is trying to wean organizers off public funds without dooming the event that brings in business to local merchants.
City officials recently backed off a pledge to stop public subsidies this month. The city agreed to pay for about half the estimated $25,000 costs for July's event. Additional city funding could be forthcoming after the City Council approved $200,000 to support cultural events in the city's recently adopted budget.
The volunteer group organizing First Fridays has shrunk to about a half dozen regulars who lack the time and expertise to collect sponsorships needed to pay for the free event.
—Fundraising is essentially what we need," volunteer organizer Edward Yoo said. "I think having an event coordinator will activate a lot of the revenue sources that we haven't gotten.""
Currently, the group has a $1,000 dollar sponsorship over two months from the app maker Uber. Ex'pression College for Digital Arts did not renew its $5,000 sponsorship from June, organizers said.
In an attempt to sustain the event, the volunteer group is forming a six-member oversight committee with the city and the Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District. The committee will hire the manager, who will receive a three month contract.
San Leandro to consider civil ceremonies at City Hall
The city may offer civil marriage ceremonies at City Hall later this month after court rulings that allowed same-sex marriages in California to resume.
The council discussed the matter Monday, following last week's action by the federal appeals court to dissolve its stay blocking same-sex marriages in the state. The city staff is expected to bring a proposal to the council July 15 for a marriage ceremony day before the end of the month.
Council members discussed having someone, perhaps a councilmember, become a volunteer deputy marriage commissioner. Once deputized by Alameda County, the commissioner could then officiate marriage ceremonies at City Hall.
If approved, same-sex and heterosexual couples interested in getting married would still have to obtain a marriage license from the county. A couple council members suggested offering the ceremonies on a more regular basis, rather than a single day, but Mayor Stephen Cassidy suggested starting with a single day to gauge demand.
The cities of Alameda and Union City currently offer civil marriage ceremonies at City Hall. Last week, marriage equality came to the steps of Oakland City Hall when Mayor Jean Quan, Assemblymember Rob Bonta and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan began officiating wedding ceremonies free of charge. Oakland is also planning a week of additional weddings. No other cities in the county currently plan to commemorate the rulings with a special marriage ceremony day, San Leandro city staff said.