Oakland’s ‘First Fridays’ In Danger Of Never Happening Again
Last Friday would have been the first First Fridays event in Oakland since the pandemic, but even though they could have had a First Fridays on July 2, they did not. “As the pandemic recedes, we are working diligently on bringing First Fridays back,” organizers said on their website. “We’re currently sorting out a number of challenges (from changes that were made to Telegraph Avenue last year to securing funding to support the relaunch). We will NOT be hosting a July event. We miss you and hope to be back soon!”
Oakland spends 18% of its budget on police. But the city wouldn't give First Fridays an event permit for July unless the organizers agreed to pay OPD $24,000 to send 45 officers to the event https://t.co/xWoj3rsmUe
— Nastia Voynovskaya (@nananastia) July 1, 2021
KQED dug a little deeper and found that exorbitant police fees are threatening First Fridays’ survival. According to KQED, First Fridays’ organizer “couldn’t get a special event permit for the anticipated July 2 relaunch unless she agreed to pay the OPD $24,000 to send 45 officers to the area.” First Fridays has never had to pay for the police officers in the 15 years the event has been thrown.
$24,000 seems like an astonishing sum to charge a community arts festival, even though First Fridays is now organized by the nonprofit group Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District (KONO). “We were told that the city of Oakland will no longer cover the police and fire costs for this event, which they have done from the beginning,” KONO executive director Shari Godinez told NBC Bay Area. “It would only make sense for the city to invest in something that would help after coming out of a pandemic, to help these businesses get back on their feet.”
The city of Oakland has paid for police coverage since back in 2006 when the monthly festival started, but that money came from hotel taxes, and the city isn’t pulling in any hotel taxes lately. “Hotel tax revenues were decimated by the collapse of the tourism industry during the pandemic,” Oakland Economic & Workforce Development Department spokesperson Harry Hamilton told KQED.
He also said that First Fridays could be funded through a future arts grant, but the city won’t decide how to spend that money until October. “For these additional funds, staff anticipates returning to City Council through a Life Enrichment Committee in October with a detailed, equitable plan on how to expend these new monies,” he said.
So First Fridays might get a grant to return in the fall, or it might not ever return. But in the meantime, you can help keep it alive by supporting the Support Oakland First Fridays Programs GoFundMe, which they say is “continuing to offer programming to support Oakland creators, but we can’t do it without your help. By supporting Oakland First Fridays, you’re supporting Oakland creators.”