Commissioners gridlock on Junkanoo license

ALBANY, Ga. -- Commissioners gridlocked Tuesday on whether to allow a downtown businessman organizing a new festival to have an alcohol license and whether he should pay full price for hosting the event.

Businessman Omar Salaam wants to bring Junkanoo, a festival indigenous to the Caribbean Islands that celebrates the end of African-American slavery, to Albany April 21.

In planning the event, Salaam has requested a one-day alcohol license to allow vendors to serve alcohol on downtown streets to people wearing armbands.

But while commissioners were deliberating whether to allow Salaam to sell adult beverages, the conversation shifted to whether Salaam should pay city fees that cover the costs associated with closing down streets and the overtime from city staff to clean and secure the festival area. That amount is a little more than $1,200, Downtown Manager Aaron Blair said.

The issue further digressed when comparisons were made between Junkanoo and the city's largest festival, the Mardi Gras street festival, which occurs downtown annually drawing tens of thousands of patrons.

Currently, city staff doesn't charge the organizers of the Mardi Gras festival because, as City Manager James Taylor said, the organizers have formed a non-profit organization that has put on the event for ten years at no real cost to the city.

Mardi Gras organizers, Taylor said, put on the event each year in a way that is meant to pay for the next year's event, not to mention the festival draws hordes of people downtown which provides an economic impact.

Junkanoo, by contrast, is in its first year and is being organized by a group of private individuals who hope to make a profit from the event.

Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell asked Salaam if the city agreed to wave the fees and cost for hosting the festival this year, if he would be better prepared to pay them next year, to which he answered yes.

Postell then offered a substitute motion to one that was already on the table that would grant Salaam the license and waive the fees.

The substitute motion failed 3-2-1, with Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines abstaining, Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard and Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff voting against. Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike and Postell voting in favor.

The original motion -- which was to grant Salaam the license based on his ability to pay the fees -- was then voted on. It too failed 3-2-1, with Howard and Postell voting against, Hubbard, Pike and Langstaff voting in favor and Hines abstaining.

Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta was absent from the meeting.

Regardless of the how the vote turned out, commissioners will still have to take up the issue at a special called meeting which has been set for April 17 at 8:30 a.m.

Work session votes are non-binding and since the Junkanoo festival is scheduled for April 21 -- three days before the city's voting meeting on April 24 -- a special called meeting has to be called for any action to be taken.


LuLu 3 years, 7 months ago

Why did Ivey Hines abstain from voting?


Bubbavet_rureel 3 years, 7 months ago

Politics at best, start right and you will end right everytime, start wrong and you know the rest of the story, just read the comments.

Be my friend, can you do that?



whattheheck 3 years, 7 months ago

If it is a "for profit" event, the organizers can pay the costs incurred or not do it. Waiting until 3 days before it is to occur to make a decision is rather ridiculous, don't you think? Also ridiculous, Tommie, is asking a promoter if he would be in a better position to pay fees next year if costs are waived this year. What answer did you expect to get?

Sounds like the city doesn't want it, and Ican see why, so please tell Omar and let him chase other windmills. But bear in mind we don't need to set a precedent for passing out free services and closing streets for every dream that comes along.


VSU 3 years, 7 months ago

Sounds to me like he is trying to weasel out of paying any fees leaving the City Of Albany to foot the bill. Yeah, I can pay next year. Yeah Right!


Cartman 3 years, 7 months ago

I couldn't stop laughing when I read the article this morning. Why would a "for profit" venture even expect that the fee be waived? And if this race-themed event will "officially" involve drinking; then the city will expend more costs in APD man hours than the racially benign Mardi Gras. If they get past the embryo stage, then it has the potential for becoming Freaknik reincarnate. ...and the commission is considering waiving the fee. Heck, they need to triple it.


TrixibelleBento 3 years, 7 months ago

There we go again, wanting something for nothing. City of Albany, stop selling yourselves short! Charge for the manpower and services that the City expends, PERIOD. If an organizer doesn't want to pay it, then they can go elsewehre. Mr. Salaam, have a block party instead. Better yet, hold it at your house.


Somebody 3 years, 7 months ago

Think anybody would be upset if we were to have a Dixie Festival? Celebrating Dixie and waving the confederate flags singing Old Dixie? I think we all know the answer to that.

Celebrating the end of African-American Slavery? Arn't they about 150 years too late for that?


tywebb 3 years, 7 months ago

to answer your first question......YES....if they were trying to hold it in Albany. BUT NO if held in putney, leesburg, etc. And it's strange that they want to celebrate ending slavery here when their brothers and sisters back in Africa are still being enslaved


jglass 3 years, 7 months ago

I think he should be charged the fees and be liable if any damages are incurred. (Normally when drinking alcoholic beverages, incidents do happen.) This event will more than likely have police working longer hours, the city cleaning up who knows how much trash around the entire area and the closing of roads, someone will have to put barriers up and take them down, etc., etc. Since this is for profit, he needs to pay the fees. The fee doesn't seem to be unreasonable at all.


Cartman 3 years, 7 months ago

Cliff Notes: He will be serving alcohol on the public streets, for profit, and wants free bouncers at taxpayer expense. And the commissioners are gridlocked on what to do.


VSU 3 years, 7 months ago

Our commissioners have been gridlocked on what to do since they took office, but you are right, it shouldn't be that hard for the obvious.


Abytaxpayer 3 years, 7 months ago

Couple of thoughts:

  • If the Junkanoo organizers are on such a tight budget what else are they cutting corners on?
  • Is Junkanoo dependent on the sale of alcohol to make this event a success? If so let the alcohol vendors pay the $1,200, why should the city give away $1,200 to subsidize the sale of alcohol?

The City should be open to Private Investment Groups looking to find that widget to sell or idea to promote. But the whole idea of a Private Investment for Profit is just that Private and Profit. Lack of planning or lack of private investors does not constitute a need for waving of fees by the City. Hopefully if Mr. Salaam can get Junkanoo off the ground maybe it will entice more Promoters to look at Albany for their events.


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