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Mayor: Future of Longview's July 4 celebration uncertain after this year

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LONGVIEW (KYTX) - One week after reports the City of Longview paid rocker Ted Nugent $16,250 not to perform at the Fourth of July Celebration, Mayor Jay Dean tells CBS 19 the celebration's future is uncertain after this summer.

"Hopefully, maybe another nonprofit or service organization will step forward, because it is a good event for the community," Dean says.

After at least two years of contributions from the City of Longview to AMBUCS for the annual celebration, the city took over operating the festival last July, because AMBUCS said it couldn't afford the estimated $50,000-plus needed to put on the event, Dean says. "It turned out really successful," he says. "We added a few little cover bands and, I think, some kid games and rides and what-not, to try to, you know, kind of enhance just the firework thing.

"So the thought this year was, 'Well, what about if we bring an act in of some kind that could, you know, give people something extra to do," the mayor says. "It was intended to be sort of an all-day, good affair for the community."

Problems arose, mostly because the city lacks experience in hiring and contracting for professional talent. Dean says no binding contract was ever signed with any musical act, but when city administration tried backing out of talks with Nugent's promoter, the promoter felt there had been enough communication between the two sides that Nugent was owed at least half of his booking fee. Rather than risk a lawsuit that likely would have been filed in New York, the City of Longview agreed to pay the promotion company more than $16,000 to effectively keep Nugent from performing at the event.

"What is a conceived contract when you're trading, you're trading emails and conversation, although you've not signed anything, in that business it constitutes a contract," Dean tells CBS 19. "This act was very polarizing, and it's almost 50-50. You know, 50 percent of the people were saying, 'What were you thinking? Why would you have something like that come to the community?' and the other half saying, 'Wait a minute, what about the First Amendment? What about freedom of speech?' And I get both sides of that.

Reprimands were handed out to city employees involved in the potential booking, including Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Complex Manager Dixie Golden, and her boss, Community Services Director Laura Hill. Dean says Hill was given a written reprimand and will no longer be in charge of Maude Cobb.

"Obviously, mistakes were made, and it was all due to lack of experience and lack of communication," Dean says. "I apologize to the community, you know. Unfortunately, you're trying to do something really good for the community, and we hear all the time, 'Well, there's nothing to do.' You know, our young adults, young married couples, 'We don't have anything to do in Longview,' and it's an issue."

Now, Dean has taken more of a hands-on approach in booking a musical act for the celebration. He says he was on the phone with a promoter Wednesday, and there could be an act announced soon. The mayor acknowledged that pop artist Chubby Checker, best known for his 1960 release of "The Twist," has offered to perform in Longview's Fourth of July celebration at a $16,000 discount - obviously meant to make up the difference for the city's payment to the Nugent camp. Dean says he believes Checker's booking fee is at least $27,500 - and some local entertainers also offered to perform - but at this point, the city is already in negotiations with other performers.

"This is our mess," Dean says, "and we've got to get it straight. But next year, this gives us some options now.

"I want to apologize to the community that we let this happen," he goes on to say. "I'm the mayor, and the buck stops with me, and I agree with the decision we made, and that decision was the right decision, but at the end of the day, you're trying to put together something good for the community, and I want to see that that happens at the end of the day."
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