Auburn city officials made two bad decisions last week: Cutting funds for police services to the Great Falls Balloon Festival, and cutting the man hours to close Goff Hill for spectators of the Fourth of July fireworks display.

The first sent the balloon festival vendors and entertainers packing —  across the river to Lewiston where the environment for such community events is apparently more hospitable. 

The second will likely force determined fireworks spectators onto private property, irritating landowners at best, and causing disturbances at worst; but in either event, necessitating police presence to deal with complaints.

Whether they are there to manage the street closing, or responding to spectator problems, police will  be investing man hours — and money — on Goff Hill on Thursday night. We will have to see how much money is actually saved by the move.

Not wasting taxpayers’ money is a good thing. And making decisions in a fiscally responsible manner is, of course, to be applauded. But so is having the wisdom to avoid making shortsighted moves that cost a city more in the long run than is saved in the moment.

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald wisely said last week, when faced with a similar budget-cutting dilemma, “If we want to become the city that attracts people, then we’re going to have to invest.

“They can call me a conservative Republican, but the labels don’t mean anything. If we don’t invest in this city, it’s going to go down.”

We have called Mayor Macdonald to task on other points, but he was spot-on this time.

The municipal decision-makers and the private parties invested in the city of Lewiston have shown a high level of commitment and understanding of what it means to have a well-rounded community. Having good schools, good roads and smoothly flowing traffic are part of the whole. But so is offering residents a chance to get together for some community bonding.

Festivals, art walks, community concerts and all manner of community activities are parts of what it means to be a community. And from this shared experience they build a sense of community. 

Running a city is a serious matter. But smart cities know that creating opportunities for their residents (taxpayers) to get together, to get to know one another, and to have fun, pay off.  

In other words, the community that plays together stays together. 

A city, town or village is so much more than the sum of its parts. Supporting opportunities for residents to gather together to share a common experience is both the stuff of making great memories and wise decision-making.  

For more than 20 years, the city of Auburn has touted itself as home of the successful Great Falls Balloon Festival. And while the city has spent money to support it, the festival has been good business for the city, too.

Local nonprofits have raised thousands of dollars over the years, and area businesses have enjoyed the benefits of thousands of folks meandering through the downtown, as well as other parts of the city.

Seems a shame for the city that birthed the festival to be the one to banish it, especially at a time when there is talk about more cooperation between the L and A. 

For the past several years, the Twin Cities have shared a single slogan, if not a single vision. “It’s happening here,” is being put to rest. We’d like to think that it would not be replaced in Auburn with: “It’s happening over there.”

We encourage the city to consider the value of these events and the services that support them, and not simply target them as easy budget cuts.

Come on, Auburn, your residents deserve better.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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