For Profit City Government
Just what makes that little old ant
think he’ll move that rubber tree plant?
Everyone knows an ant, can’t
move a rubber tree plant.
But he’s got high hopes,
he’s got high hopes.
He’s got high apple pie
in the sky hopes.
There goes another rubber tree plant.
I found myself in a magical little home here in Safety Harbor back in the early nineties. I was a collaborator on a show called Entertainment Notebook back when Community Access TV was cool. With pad and pen in hand I took in the objects of that space. There were whole walls imbedded with bottle caps. There were Cootie bugs hanging down from the ceiling, and an end table that was also a whimsical zebra. The yard was bordered with colorful bowling balls.
Funny thing. The two artists I was there to interview, interviewed me. I didn’t think anyone could be that interested in me, besides my parents. (Even then I wondered sometimes.)
Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist have always been interested in everyone else, even though they have a million and one stories they could go on and on about, like the time they had lunch with Mohammed Ali when they were working on a fundraiser for the Boys Club of Chicago. They had passion then, and they have passion now. It has never changed. They want people to experience joy while inspiring them to be creative. They want us to find the imagination that we still have, but have pushed aside for too long. They want to help people see that life doesn’t have to suck.
For years, before they obtained their Non Profit status, they helped people in need all over the world, as well as individuals going through challenging times right here. They have created huge, magical environments during winter holidays to share with anyone who came, while also raising money for Multiple Sclerosis Research, Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots, The victims of the Tsunami, the victims of the government in Myanmar (the former Burma), the victims of Hurricane Andrew, and a friend who lost almost everything in a fire. There are many other examples, but I want to save words in order to get to the crux of the matter.
It’s not easy to contribute to the growth of a community from which its residents will derive pleasure and pride. Safety Harbor is becoming a real contender as an arts community. New restaurants and Bistros have popped up since I stood in that little house. Weekend events were born that are repeated every year. Cool little shops began to line the shady streets. This is what happens when people open their minds and hearts. This is what happens when you free those dusty imaginations. And the people of Safety Harbor are doing these things while maintaining the integrity of a beautiful little city rich with history, gorgeous trees, and public parks. We have a pretty awesome pier too. I can’t help but attribute some of these things to two artists who decorated a little house on 12th and 3rd.
I wrote this for three people, without their knowledge, because they are non-political and non-confrontational people. They might be mortified to know that their very political and confrontational friend is at it again. So Todd, Kiaralinda, Heather… please forgive me.
I don’t know very many individuals who work harder than these people, to the point of total exhaustion. They have a vision for an art and music center that everyone can enjoy. Soon it will be a reality. Then there’s the Music Fest. It’s almost impossible to create a major event that will put a town on the map. And it continues to get better and better. It takes months of planning, and begins the day after the festival for the following year.
They are not in it for the money. They have regular jobs. (Yes, being an artist is a regular job when you have to earn a living.) They would never have been able to accomplish everything they’ve done without lots of help from volunteers and local vendors. People like and have faith in them, or there wouldn’t be so many volunteers. People have chipped in as long ago as the Silver Lining installation in the nineties, to as recently as the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center and Song Fest. People get tired. Tempers can run high. But in the end it’s worth it to know that the public had a good time.
They don’t like to ask for help, but they can’t do it alone. They need to keep their eyes on the prize, even when things look a little bleak and the nasties complain. There will always be nasties. It’s a fact of life.
I took offense when I read our Mayor’s comments. (I wonder where he was in the nineties.) It almost sounds as though he thinks the Non Profits, particularly SHAMc, do what they do for themselves, to the exclusion of others. It seems like he thinks they’re on the dole, or they are asking too much of the City. Now I understand the popular opinion that Safety Harbors’ government is not progressive. And for the record, people could still use their boats during Song Fest.
I wonder at the notion that charging Non Profits for the use of public spaces will somehow fix the budget. What else was potentially on the chopping block when the suits met to discuss where to get the money? Who got a reprieve? It would be interesting to hear if any of the local shops and restaurants experienced an increase in business during the Song Fest. Do any of their profits make it to the City budget?
Non Profits have to make money. They make money for the benefit of others. In order to accomplish this there are expenses like advertising, organizational fees, and musicians fees. Musicians do not perform for free. They are For Profit entities. There are overhead expenses and so many more that I can’t fathom. How does SHAMc accomplish this? They have fundraisers. They enter contests. They sell stuff. They rely on benefactors. Some musicians, like Jeff Daniels, played for free so that the ticket sales would go to help the cause. We crawled through dumpsters looking for Pepsi bottle caps so that they could win a grant in order to keep the vision alive for everyone and bring more creative venues to this town. No one crawled through more dumpsters than those three, except for maybe Nancy. Some people think they should pay for what they do out of pocket? That’s called Philanthropy. That’s different. Look it up.
We are a community rich in Non Profit organizations. These organizations exist because the Federal Government cannot possibly provide funds for all the services that are needed to enrich people’s lives. There are too many to mention, but here are a few:
The Harbor Dish, Cornerstone Ministries, The Rotary Club, The Lions Foundation, Parbawatiya Buddhist Center, The Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History, and the Safety Harbor Little League. I urge you to go to Safety Harbor Non Profits and see what’s out there.
They operate for the benefit of the community. Community is a wonderful concept, and rare these days. These organizations give to us. I’m going to write it again because it’s so simple and so important. THEY give to US. And now we’re going to bill them for it. I recommend that we submit a Kickstarter fund so that the Non Profits can pay their bills, set up tables on the street, entertain on the Gazebo, and basically stay afloat, because the City of Safety Harbor is so strapped.
~written by Deborah Klein, Safety Harbor resident blogger
I am enjoying the discussion here. But first, let me just say that the typos in my story are driving me INSANE. I can’t fix them!!! I’m NOT STUPID!!! Ok. Now that I’ve gotten THAT off my chest, there are questions that I have concerning this whole non-profit issue, which is why I posed a couple in the article. They may seem like antagonistic questions, but I really want to know what, if anything, the City of Safety Harbor gets from the businesses here? If the City benefits, wouldn’t big events, or more people coming to visit, be a common goal? Also, I understand that some non-profits get a pass on fees. Is that true? If it is, how do you decide who pays and who does not? Does the City Government think some N.P.s are just a pain in the ass?
A few thoughts to add to the discussion… First, the city itself essentially functions as a nonprofit. It operates for the good of the citizens of Safety Harbor with the financial goal to break even. Second, most nonprofits charge a reasonable fee for use of facilities, even to other nonprofits. If you want to have a wedding at any church in Safety Harbor there will be a rental cost. There are churches that pay fees to meet at Countryside High school and the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch. Third, the city already has a history and policy of assessing nonprofits a usage fee for other facilities.
It would seem inconsistent with what the city and other nonprofits are already doing for the city to not charge for use of the amazing locations we have like the marina and gazebo parks.
Well done. Non-profits can be a huge benefit to a community and there is no doubt many towns and cities are well served. But Safety Harbor does assume costs involved when a for-profit OR a non-profit uses the city to put on an event. Nobody will deny the efforts the leaders of most non-profits are altruistic and are aligned only with the greater good of the community. But where to draw the line? Do some organizations offer better or larger benefit thereby deserving a pass on any fees? Does the city pay for the additional police presence during these events, or should the organizers? Or should the two share the burdens? How about trash removal? As most of us do when asked for a donation the city needs to investigate and determine if the donation is aligned with and complementary to the goals of Safety Harbor before investing. Certainly some are worthy!
Bravo, Debbie – to community and sharing, to the arts and to Safety Harbor!