Three cheers for Beaufort City Councilman Mike Sutton for saying what needed to be said: The Independence Fund does not deserve special treatment just because its Lt. Dan Weekend aids a worthy cause.
This year's event, Sept. 14-15, will bring injured veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to Beaufort for a weekend that includes musical performances by actor Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band and others. It will be held at the city's Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
The Independence Fund will get some last-minute financial help from the city -- about $10,000 in police, fire, parking and other services will be donated, and $4,400 in fees will be waived. Last year, the city gave about $9,670 worth of similar, in-kind help.
But Sutton and other council members told organizers Tuesday to expect no such quarter in the future: It must formally apply for an accommodations tax grant and prove the festivities bring visitors to the city. Many worthy organizations ask the city for money, Sutton said, but Beaufort "can't do everything for free."
And he is correct: The Lt. Dan Weekend is a worthy cause, but it is one of many worthy causes vying for attention and funding.
To organizers' credit, the weekend is no longer fledgling. It's financial margins might be thin, but the group has been around long enough to have established a volunteer and donor base, not to mention Sinise's admirable commitment to perform gratis.
But with growth comes added responsibility, and the Independence Fund has been around long enough to understand what is required of those seeking public money.
Indeed, just this past September, the Beaufort County Council's Finance Committee drove home that lesson when it refused to overturn a recommendation from the county's accommodations tax committee to deny the group funding. The committee's justification: The Independence Fund submitted a sloppy application.
A group spokesman, pleading the group's case to the Finance Committee last fall, said the group would gladly "wake up tomorrow morning at 0500" to clean up the application.
But 5 a.m. tomorrow was not the application deadline, and the Independence Fund, which already had been around a year by that time, was not entitled to a do-over other rejected applicants would not get.
The group fared better this year, receiving $15,000 from the county, a grant approved at Monday's County Council meeting after getting unanimous support from the Finance Committee.
The group's pitch often invokes the virtues for which wounded veterans have so nobly sacrificed. But these warriors hail from a world in which protocol and chain of command are respected and exemptions and privileges shunned.
Godspeed to the Lt. Dan Weekend's organizers, but it's high time they raise money and follow rules the way other worthy organizations do.