U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Mayor Nutter are working on raising money from corporate donors to create a permanent fund that would offset some costs of staging events including the Mummers Parade, the Dad Vail Regatta, and the pro cycling championship.
If it is established, the pool of money, which Brady is calling the Philadelphia Traditions Fund, could help solve what has become a recurring, and at times embarrassing, problem: The threat that the events that define Philadelphia may end, or move elsewhere, in part because the city has begun charging for costs such as extra police staffing and cleanup.
"If you lose your traditions, you lose your identity," Brady (D., Pa.) said yesterday in explaining his motivation.
Nutter, who alluded to the idea in announcing the retention of the regatta, said, "Our goal is to have a regular, stable funding source to preserve these events.
"Even in this economy, you still have to be able to have some fun, and these events are an important part of the quality of life for Philadelphia."
The idea is in the early stages. Brady and Nutter had hoped to announce it when it was further along but decided to discuss it yesterday after getting questions about the concept from The Inquirer.
"We're still figuring out how to do this," Brady said.
He said he had not determined exactly how much money he will need to raise, but Ken Smuckler, one of his political advisers, said the amount would be in the "six or seven figures."
Organizers also have not determined exactly which events would get the funds, but Brady listed the Mummers, the Dad Vail, the TD Bank International Cycling Championship, the Welcome America Fourth of July celebration, and the six ethnic parades.
Organizers of the Columbus Day parade canceled their event this year because they were short $30,000 of the $50,000 they needed. Of that, city costs accounted for about $12,000.
The cancellation came during a year in which the bike race and the Mummers came close to canceling their storied events and the Dad Vail Regatta nearly moved to Rumson, N.J., because of funding problems. City costs were not always the primary cause. For the regatta and the bike race, losses of corporate sponsors were bigger problems.
Nutter said he hoped the fund would not only defray the city's costs but also would help create a more stable source of funding than the year-to-year search for corporate money.
Dave Chauner, cofounder of the bike race, who separately floated the fund idea, said he favored moving forward. The bike race, for example, is an event that defines Philadelphia, he said.
"You can't take the Manayunk Wall to Rumson, N.J.," he said. "The idea would be to fund events that symbolize the values of the city." His organization also is developing new ways to help pay for the race, including a bicycle show at the Convention Center on June 4 and 5, followed by the June 6 race.
Brady declined to name any potential donors to the fund yesterday. Ben Armstrong, a spokesman for Peco Energy, which has sponsored Welcome America and the Mummers, said his company supports Brady's idea but has not been approached.
"We are one of the region's most active corporate citizens, and we would review supporting the organization as part of our overall community-giving program," Armstrong said.
City Representative Melanie Johnson said the city would continue to work closely with event organizers to lower costs. Sometimes, small changes can lead to large savings. A shortened St. Patrick's Day parade this year saved money, though Johnson said she was not sure how much.
"We'll look at every element that they have and see whether there are any cost savings," she said.