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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

Toledo drops funds for jazz group after suit

Performing off key usually gets musicians in trouble, especially when they want money in return for work.

Toledo City Council wasn't about to excuse any sloppy playing yesterday from the Toledo Jazz Society, which wanted $6,000 in city funding even though it started a legal challenge only days earlier over the city's smoking ban at most public establishments.

With a simple motion to amend made by Councilman Karyn McConnell, council yesterday dropped the society's request that was part of $361,500 in grants to some of the city's most prestigious arts groups.

The loss might last little longer than a musical intermission, however. A jazz society official has assured the city that it will bow out of the lawsuit so it can receive the grant, Ms. McConnell said.

If so, she said she would support the grant.

"I just thought it was a conflict to take money and then turn around and sue," she said. "I felt we owed it to the taxpayers to disclose that."

Jon Richardson, president of the jazz society, said last night the society will withdraw its appeal. The jazz society is at odds with the city over the proportion of space it must set aside for smokers and nonsmokers at the bingo games it sponsors. The games help support performances such as the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival set for this weekend at International Park.

The society wants to comply with regulations, he said. It doesn't seem hypocritical to try to contest regulations with the hope of reaching some type of agreement, he said.

"It seems to me you can agree on some things and you can disagree on other things," he said. "You shouldn't have to agree across the board that you are with me."

The jazz society along with the Toledo Celtics Soccer Club, Alano Step One Club, International Boxing Club, and Chapter V Club filed a lawsuit after they failed to get approval this month from the city to allow smoking at the bingo games they sponsor. The case will be heard in Lucas County Common Pleas

Court.

The contributions to the other arts groups was trimmed 22 percent from what they received a year ago, reflecting the city's tight financial condition.

Council President Louis Escobar warned this year's grants could be the last ones that arts groups will see for some time to come.

"More than likely, this money will not be available," he said. "This may be the last year we can do this."

The Toledo Symphony and CitiFest Inc., which hosts the Friday night Rally by the River events, received the largest sums, each getting $78,000, down from $100,000 a year ago.

Other large recipients were the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, $66,000; Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, $35,000; Valentine Theatre, $22,000, and the Collingwood Arts Center, $16,000.

In other business, council approved a labor agreement giving employees of the municipal clerk of courts a 4 percent wage increase over three years, plus a 1 percent lump sum payment in the last year of the contract.

The one-year wage freeze for this year, to be followed by two 2 percent wage increases in the second and third year, generally follows agreements reached six months ago with other city unions.

Council turned back an agreement late last year covering the 73 deputy clerks that would have provided a 10 percent pay raise over three years.

Former Clerk Theresa Gabriel, a Republican, approved the agreement on Nov. 14, 10 days after she lost her election bid to Vallie Bowman-English, a Democrat. Ms. Bowman-English then called the agreement "sabotage."


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