Last summer, the Council passed a law amending the part of the city code (Chapter 199) that has to do with mass gathering permits. Mayor William Hallenbeck vetoed it. The Council overrode the mayor's veto, and the amendments were enacted as of June 17, 2014.
Even after his veto had been overridden, the mayor continued to agonize about the new requirements for mass gathering permits. Responding to the mayor's concerns, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), chair of the Legal Committee, who drafted the amendments, stressed that the amended law contained the same mayoral discretion that existed before the law was revised. Council president Don Moore pointed to this sentence in the law: "Exceptions to this application process may be made for good cause shown upon petition to the mayor."
It seems that in the intervening year, the mayor has gotten comfortable with his mayoral discretion when it comes to granting mass gathering permits. Yesterday, he granted a mass gathering permit for a block party that will close Warren Street to vehicular traffic between Second and Third streets for six hours--from noon to 6 p.m.--this Saturday, the first day of the last holiday weekend of the summer.
The first three hours of street closure are for set up. The party, which celebrates Savoia owner Jake Walthour's 74th birthday, begins at 3 p.m. The mayor himself will be there to present Walthour with a "Life Time Achievement Award."
The news of the mass gathering permit for this event reportedly caused quite a stir at the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee last night. It was the first any of the committee members had heard of it. It also seems that the owners of several businesses on the 200 block of Warren Street were unaware of the plan to shut down their block. The amendments to the mass gathering permit process were made with the goal of preventing businesses from being blindsided by such events. They require that applications be submitted at least 120 days prior to the event and that the public be notified. Chapter 199-7 of the city code states:
If the parade or special event requires a street closure(s), the applicant must cause to be posted in the newspaper of record notice of such application within seven days of submitting an application for a special event or parade to the City Clerk. Said notice shall be published for two consecutive days. . . . Written public comments regarding the special event or parade application may be submitted to the Clerk within 10 days of the first publication of said notice.Curious to know the history of this mass gathering permit, Gossips went to City Hall this morning to "inspect the application." I discovered that it was submitted on Wednesday, August 12, just 24 days before the event not 120 days. But the law states that exceptions can be made "for good cause," and there was a handwritten note accompanying the application explaining a reason that the mayor had obviously accepted as "good cause." There was also documentation that notice had been duly published in the Register-Star.
The notice appeared for the first time on Saturday, August 15, and would have appeared for the second time on Tuesday, August 18. Comments had to be received by August 25, but the city clerk reported that no comments had been received. One can conclude from this either that no one has a problem with shutting down a block of Warren Street for six hours on Labor Day weekend or that no one saw the notice in the Register-Star.
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