Should taxpayer dollars help sponsor eclipse glasses and promotional materials?

Should taxpayer dollars help sponsor eclipse glasses and promotional materials?

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - At Motor Supply Company Bistro in the Vista, owner Eddie Wales is getting ready for a big August thanks to the upcoming August 21st eclipse.

"It's a lot of unknowns about how many people will be here, but it's going to be gigantic," he said. "It has to be bigger than a football weekend. It really does."

With so many eyes watching from Columbia, those eyes will need protection. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is ordering safety glasses like these. Because those glasses will draw attention from thousands of eyes themselves, the CVB is offering sponsorships at different price levels to help pay for them.

The City of Columbia has said "yes" to putting its logo on some of the glasses. Richland County is now trying to get some skin in the game too.

"The cities and municipalities are always doing things to promote themselves and tourism, and with this, you're having people coming already. Give them the nice glasses, and they've never been to Columbia before, they're coming back in the future," Wales said.

WIS is told the city spent $50,000 to get its logo on 100,000 pairs.

Richland County won't have its logo on glasses, because its waited too late. But now, the county is looking to approve $10,000 to have its logo on other items like the eclipse website and Facebook page.

"It immediately shows me that Richland County government does not understand priorities and what the role of government is," said Michael Letts, a citizen watchdog.

Letts thinks it's a waste of money. Councilman Seth Rose agrees.

"I think to the taxpayer – to ordinary citizens – $10,000 is a lot of money, and we should spend each cent of taxpayer money in a wise manner," Rose said.
"While we encourage everyone to take advantage of and enjoy this once-in-a lifetime event; as a City, it isn't part of our core government function to purchase glasses with taxpayer dollars," a spokesperson for the City of Cayce added in a statement.
Organizers, however, said this issue is more complex than simply putting a logo on a pair of glasses. They said it's about using national attention to grow business opportunities in the area. They also pointed out that the vast majority of these glasses will be given away for free.
Meanwhile, City Councilman Howard Duvall supports the effort to sponsor glasses and give them to visitors.

He said it's not about getting the area's name "out there." It's about providing a nice gesture to those visiting our area.

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