Burbank is contributing about $16,000 to cover the losses of a concert last month starring Bob Hope that was intended to raise money for a sculpture commemorating war veterans.
After a lengthy, bitter exchange, the City Council voted 4 to 1 early Wednesday to forgive $16,000 of a $25,000 loan it made from general funds for the staging of the event, which doubled as Burbank's salute to the 200th anniversary of the U. S. Constitution.
Mayor Michael R. Hastings organized the concert and expected to repay the loan with proceeds from ticket sales. He expected to have enough profit to pay for the sculpture and for a means of displaying it. The abstract sculpture by artist Erwin Binder is titled "Defenders of the Constitution."
Burbank officials had not set a target amount for the fund-raiser but had hoped at least to break even.
The Sept. 27 benefit at the Starlight Amphitheatre drew about 1,500 spectators, a quarter of capacity, and raised about $19,000, said Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom. Although Hope and other entertainers appeared free, the production could end up costing about $35,000, leaving a deficit of $16,000, officials said.
When Hastings proposed at a council meeting Tuesday night that the city absorb the $16,000, Councilman Robert R. Bowne lashed out at him, calling it "a gift of public funds."
Bowne maintained that the show was a "Michael Hastings production, with his name on all the posters and advertising." He said Hastings put together the show without asking for approval or advice from council members.
"We should not tap the taxpayers for this," Bowne said. "Had this been a city-sponsored event, it would be different. We should raise that $16,000 from the private sector. There's a principle behind the way it should be funded."
Hastings replied that Bowne had deliberately avoided becoming involved because he was upset that Hastings had taken the leadership in planning the show. He said that Bowne, unlike other council members, had not helped to sell tickets or volunteered to pay for the six $20 tickets allocated to him.
"He saw me sweating bullets trying to put this thing together, and he just stayed back," Hastings said. "My door was always open. If he had a problem with the way the show was put together, he should have come to me before.
"The city held this concert as a birthday party for the Constitution," he said. "It was for the community. And now he's saying that it would be a gift of public funds? Give me a break."
The argument continued for about an hour, and lasted past midnight.
"It's appropriate for the city to spend that money," said Vice Mayor Al F. Dossin. "It was ambitious for Michael to take this on. But he is not to blame that it didn't work as well as it should have."
Bowne said he would personally contribute $100 toward erasing the deficit, and said that other city officials should solicit $100 contributions from the private sector.
Hastings said he would hold another fund-raiser for the sculpture, without city involvement. The sculpture, which could cost as much as $50,000, is not completed.
Bowne has a long-standing feud with Hastings and the council. He refused in May to attend the changing-of-the-guard ceremony in which Hastings was appointed mayor and Dossin was appointed vice mayor. It was the third time that Bowne had been passed over in the yearly mayoral rotation.
At the time, Bowne said the council was guilty of "political cronyism and back-room dealing."
Hastings also claimed that Bowne had boycotted other projects of his, including an anti-drug program and a Run for the Hungry earlier this year.