Note that this piece is redacted from Tom Campenni’s article published in Friends and Neighbors on Facebook on Jan. 6, 2020
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In case you were not in town during the 2019 Stuart Air Show, it was in fact canceled due to the accidental death of a pilot and then 2 days of torrential rain. This was the first time in its history that the Stuart air show has been canceled. While the cancellation was disappointing for many, is it the government’s responsibility to bail it out?

During public comment at a Board of County Commissioner meeting as part of what was obviously an orchestrated campaign, a number of Air Show board members and their supporters ask for $150,000 from County Government to book acts for the November 2020 show. The “show must go on” seemed to be the overarching justification for the ask.

Amy Bottigel, the president of the Air Show Board, stated that there were fundraising events planned but no commitments. She fears that if the board can’t promise that there will be a show, their sponsors will abandon them to support other nonprofits.

Chuck Cleaver, the treasurer of the air show, stated that the show has a $2.5 million-dollar economic impact on the County. The Air Show costs $1,050,000 to produce. It contributed $33,000 to charity from the proceeds in 2018. To put that amount into perspective, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Gross Domestic Product of Martin County was $6,946,903,000 in 2018. The links below are the presentations that our board member Tom Campenni received from the County with those facts and figures.

Some may ask why there was no “rain insurance?” Mr. Cleaver explained that the cost would have been $30,000 to $60,000. He went on to say that because you typically need to pick an exact time to measure the rain, the insurance company wouldn’t have paid in this instance anyway.

The ask from the Air Show was $150,000. This public comment period was not a surprise. For at least the last few weeks, there were discussions held by the Air Show with all the Commissioners individually. There were not 3 Commissioner votes to take the amount from the ad valorem. Pressure was placed on staff to find the money elsewhere. Money was offered from the Airport Enterprise Fund. This fund was also tapped a few weeks back to pay the customs’ fees for the Bahama rebuilding. Staff shouldn’t be making a habit of this. After all, shouldn’t the “Airport Enterprise Fund” be used for its initial purpose which is to enhance the airport?

It is true that $2.5 million is not much in Martin County’s economy when compared with the entire Treasure Coast’s GDP. And, there is a voucher exchange program so that those who bought tickets to last year’s cancelled shows could redeem them for 2020. But even if only 30% of the ticket holders do so, how is that income going to be made up in the future? Will there be another ask of the County? Are we setting precedent for other events, non-profits, organizations in need? Is the Airport Enterprise Fund becoming a “slush” fund for questionable wants?


Article by: Tom Campenni