Some Jefferson Parish krewes cry foul after being shut out on subsidies

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Members of two Jefferson Parish Carnival krewes that aren't receiving newly approved subsidies are speaking out about a policy they consider unfair.

Four krewes are now getting tens of thousands of dollars - either from council member discretionary accounts or from tourism funds - in order to make ends meet. It's a move that bucks a time-honored New Orleans tradition. For 175 years, Carnival has been paid for by private contributions. But now that's changing.

"Honestly I don't like it at all," said Hattie Williams of Metairie.

In Jefferson, the greatest free show on earth, isn't free anymore.

"I just felt when Centurion called me up and asked for assistance, I figured I would help them out," said Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul Johnston.

This week, the Parish Council unanimously approved spending $85,000 to subsidize four Carnival krewes: Caesar, Centurions, Athena and Adonis.

"I don't think it's fair," said Sherell Gorman, who  leads Jefferson Parish's oldest continuous krewe, the all-female Isis.

"I challenged a council member. How can you give to one and not to all, and I was told ask for it, and I did, and they said the money was already spoken for," said Gorman.

The Krewe of Pandora has also been shut out. Its captain, Julie Lea, tells FOX 8, "We are struggling to make it."

"I think if the Jefferson Parish Council is going to give money, they should give it to everybody. And they should give the same amount to everybody," said Lea.

"I don't see this as making Mardi Gras better, I see it as helping individual krewes," said Gorman.

She says if Jefferson Parish really wanted to help Mardi Gras, they could pay for events that benefit everyone. Gorman  said a 4-year old Jefferson Parish band competition that pays thousands of dollars to support band programs is a better way to go.

"For me it's either one or all. I'm more comfortable doing Rhythm on the Route, which helps all parades," said Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken.

Though Van Vrancken has not used any of her discretionary funds for krewes, she and Jefferson Parish council members say the expenditure may be justified.

"The most recent UNO study found a $24 million impact for Carnival in Metairie," said Van Vrancken.

"This is to continue the parades in Jefferson Parish. We don't want to lose them to New Orleans," said Johnston.

Others aren't so sure.

"To have this hit us as an organization, it's hard, it's tough," said Gorman, who said she's heard from dozens of her members.

"To me, it's a waste," said Hattie Williams.

While Jefferson Parish is so far the first local government to start paying subsidies to Carnival krewes, others may soon be asked to.

We spoke with a captain in Mandeville's Krewe of Orpheus this afternoon. Otto Merghut told us that his krewe is struggling too, and he says getting a subsidy might be vital to its ability to survive.

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