Snafu 2000

Phoenix officials told volunteers planning an expensive millennial downtown bash to think big. It seems as though nobody was thinking at all.

"Suggestions and timelines presented by staff in an effort to get things moving have been essentially ignored until recently," Stillwell wrote in analysis of the Celebration 2000 volunteer committee last June.

The reluctance to involve the city, which has an experienced staff that routinely organizes special events, slowly diminished, but only as panic set in.

"This is beginning to change due to a new sense of urgency among committee members when it became clear that there were only six months left to prepare," Stillwell stated in her June memo.

Organizational problems have plagued the CCC throughout its existence.

The CCC still doesn't have a chief financial officer to oversee its budget. That oversight has proven costly. Although the CCC steering committee approved spending $500 for a filing fee to receive formal nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service last July, the check was only mailed to the IRS in early October. As a result, the CCC has no legal authority to describe itself as a nonprofit organization and cannot entice contributions from corporations as being tax deductible, says IRS spokesman Bill Brunson.

The CCC's chief fund raiser, Charlie Thompson, says he was telling prospective donors that their contributions could be tax deductible. He was unaware that the IRS has not approved their application and that the filing fee had not been sent until October.

In retrospect, Woods said the event would have been better handled by city staff alone.

"The city has the expertise on these events and they should simply put it on after receiving input from citizens rather than the other way around," he stated.

Ifs and buts aside, the CCC volunteers have focused the community's attention on downtown Phoenix in a way that has never been done before. Whether the event is a success will depend on how many people decide to come downtown and celebrate the new century.

"There are worse ways to enter a new century than to be surrounded by a diverse and cohesive community brought together to enjoy music and look to the future with optimism and hope," Woods stated. "And if it doesn't come off, at least it will have been a nice try."

Contact John Dougherty at his online address: john.dougherty@phoenixnewtimes.com

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