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City festivals to get fairness check 

Rochester is known for its festivals, and the annual Jazz Festival is the undisputed jewel in the crown. But some people, including a member of City Council, say that the festival is treated like a favorite child and that it's time to insist on more transparency.

The City of Rochester will put together a committee to review all of the festivals that get city funding, including the Jazz Festival. And groups for the first time will have to fill out an application to request that funding.

The city's process up until this point has been much more informal, says City Council member Elaine Spaull, and that has led to questions of fairness. Spaull chairs council's Arts and Culture Committee, which will be involved in the festival review.

Of particular interest are the in-kind services that the city provides to some festivals, such as police, fire, and clean-up, and whether some festivals get more assistance than they should.

"That's really the scope," Spaull says, "to find out if there is inequity and how we're going to deal with it."

The review committee's findings are due in February.

The committee will also look at transparency, Spaull says. Some people say, for example, that since the Jazz Festival gets money and support from the city, that festival organizers should reveal how much money the festival makes each year.

"My issue is that they've never done that, and they're a for-profit entity," says City Council member Adam McFadden. "I respect what they do. I respect the Jazz Festival. But the accommodations that we make for them, we don't do for anybody else. If you look at something like SummerFest, we have that information."

Marc Iacona, the Jazz Festival's co-producer and executive director, says that the city's support, including police services, is critical to the event.

"We simply cannot deliver free shows that attract these large audiences to our city without the city's support," he says.

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