Battling for the band

DeWayne Bartels
Second District councilwoman Barbara Van Auken, left, and Kenny Carrigan talk before the Oct. 27 Peoria City Council meeting. Carrigan is lobbying for no cuts to the municipal band budget.

Kenny Carrigan did not go out to dinner or a party on his 75th birthday Oct. 27. Instead, he spent his birthday sitting in the gallery at the Peoria City Council meeting.

Carrigan has been in the audience during the past several meetings on the chance the city council would discuss cutting funding further for the municipal band.

Carrigan, a North Peorian, is a municipal band commissioner. He calls himself a “gray head,” his term for retirees. When, and if, the topic of cutting band funding further to close a budget deficit arises, he is prepared to fight back.

Consequences

Carrigan’s argument in support of the band  has nothing to do with sentimentality, history or love of music. His battle cry is economics.

“At the Sept. 8 city council meeting, Mayor Ardis spoke of concern for ‘unintended consequences,’” Carrigan said. “Councilman Ryan Spain spoke at this same city council meeting about the importance of retaining and expanding Peoria’s existing businesses as the fist rule of economic development.”

The band, Carrigan is prepared to argue, represents economic development. He is further prepared to argue that de-funding or economically crippling the 73-year-old band will come with unintended consequences. He said the gutting of band funding could result in a departure of some of the 50,000 retirees who live in the Greater Peoria Area and pump more than $1.5 billion dollars into the Peoria economy each year. 

“If ‘Gray Heads’ are important to the financial success of your business, or the continued existence of your job, you need to write to the Peoria City Council in support of the Peoria Municipal Band and the Peoria Arts Partners,” Carrigan said. 

There is a huge need for no health related activities fir retirees, Carrigan said. These activities keep retirees engaged and connected to a community. He said Peoria certainly cannot compete with many other locales when it comes to weather, so it has to compete with activities.

“I’m not asking for special treatment. I say it deserves fair treatment,” Carrigan said.

The band has been asked to trim its budget by 10 percent, like other city departments, from $94,996 to $90,246.

Asked if the band being requested to take cuts equal to what other city departments are taking, Carrigan said, “I do not know what fair is. I won’t be bitter with whatever cuts the council deems necessary. At some point tough the law of unintended consequences will kick in. The band can live with any cut. The question is will the retirees live with the cut?”

He added, “At some given point when you start cutting you can trim too much. Often you don’t know until it is too late you have reached that tipping point.”

A lone voice

Carrigan expects to be a lone voice. His fellow band commissioners and band members are staying out of the fray.

“This is my kickoff effort to try to educate people to the importance of of retirees in this community.We are important to car-dealers, stockbrokers, mechanics and restaurants,” Carrigan said.

“My concern is we don’t communicate that enough. (Others) in the band are used to this. It’s not their style to speak up. I, however, don’t believe things just happen.”

Carrigan has not yet addressed the entire city council on this topic, but he has spoken to at-large councilmen Eric Turner and Jim Montelongo. Her said they asked for more clarification on his position. 

Carrigan said his hope is he can get the message out that every business depends on the spending of retirees.

“I want every person with a job to become an advocate for the band,” he said. “Without the band it’s like Peoria erected a flashing red sign to retirees saying, ‘Get out, We don’t want you.’”