The Mesa City Council on Thursday endorsed spending $75,000 on holiday lights downtown, hoping to avoid a public outcry after funding for elaborate Main Street displays was cut last year.
"In . . . one of those parades that we were in, while we were riding in the truck, we had people coming up to us with comments that we should have (put up the lights) — why didn’t you do it?" said City Councilman Kyle Jones, who represents downtown, after the meeting.
The expenditure, made possible by a slightly improved budgetary picture, passed by a 5-2 majority. The tentative budget that includes the funding will be adopted during the June 7 meeting, and the final budget on June 21. Tom Rawles will be replacing Dennis Kavanaugh on the council at the June 7 meeting.
If it wins final approval, city funds will pay for up to half of the costs of a downtown lights display, with Mesa Town Center, an agency that serves merchants within a special downtown district, taking the lead in raising up to $75,000 more.
Mesa Town Center executive director Tom Verploegen said that while the lights will be downtown, he envisions a communitywide fund-raising drive for a display that will help the image of the entire city.
Downtown merchants are already chipping in for other projects, such as Sculptures in the Streets, which do more to help their bottom lines, he said, adding, "I don’t think you can pinpoint (the lights) as specifically driving sales."
Mayor Keno Hawker and Councilwoman Janie Thom voted against the plan. Hawker said after the meeting that he would prefer the city hold off on funding any lighting displays until the grand opening of the Mesa Arts Center in the fall of 2005.
Last fall, Councilman Mike Whalen led a drive to raise $41,000 from private sources for a lights display.