CP file photo by Mike Schwarz
Pittsburgh City Council representatives in Council Chambers
According to an audit of Pittsburgh's Sports Exhibition and Stadium Authority released in December, country musician Kenny Chesney paid $131.50 to the city — in the form of a facilities usage fee — for his 2013 performance at Heinz Field. That same year, pop star Taylor Swift paid a little more than $70,000.
Chesney is frequently the target of criticism
for his yearly visit to the Steel City. At this year's concert over the July 4 weekend, seven were arrested and 37 were hospitalized according to local police. And officials estimate 48 tons of garbage were cleared from North Shore parking lots by city officials.
While the city can do little to stifle the chaotic revelry at Chesney's yearly visits, a new ordinance introduced in Pittsburgh City Council today could ensure performers like him are paying what they owe for performances in the city.
"Performers need to pay their fair share for the right to use taxpayer-funded facilities," Finance chair Natalia Rudiak said in a statement. "Taxpayers should not be picking up the check for regulating crowds, cleaning up, and wear and tear on these facilities. This fee will pay taxpayers back, and that is the bottom line."
The ordinance, being introduced by Mayor Bill Peduto's administration, would close a loophole that allows performers to hide income they make from performances at taxpayer-funded facilities. The statement released today says performers were hiding earnings from the city "by paying themselves a small amount and utilizing a trust account to shield the remainder of their earnings."
Currently, visiting athletic teams, musicians and other for-profit performers are required to pay a 3-percent-facilities fee on their earnings from use of a taxpayer-funded facilities. Controller Michael Lamb discovered the loophole in his audit released at the end of last year. In the audit, he said the loophole could result in the city losing out on tens of thousands of dollars every year.
"We are closing any loopholes that would allow performers to dodge paying when they are legally and ethically required to do so," Finance director Paul Leger said in a statement.
According to the statement, the new city ordinance "will make sure that taxpayer dollars are going toward paving roads and maintaining our parks instead of crowd control and clean up for special events."