On February 21st, 2012 the City Council of New London voted to make the New London Irish Parade a city-sanctioned event. What that means is that it should be treated as any other event that the City would put on.
On May7th, 2012 Daryl Finizio signed Executive Order #7 which says “No permit for any event, parade, or any other activity shall issue without a full cost accounting of the event’s fiscal impact on the City services. No permit for any event shall issue unless the full cost estimated for the event is paid, in advance, to the city, by the event coordinators;…”
Due to that order the parade committee started early working on its permit and as such filed its permit with the Administrative Assistant to the Mayor on June 26th,2012.
As we anticipated the response with the estimated costs, we also looked to the remarks that the Mayor had made regarding the 2012 parade costs in the press. Since the Mayor had made the parade committee the promise of “anything and everything you need” we were surely shocked at the over inflated invoices submitted for city services being discussed post parade. However, since we knew this was now going to be an issue we prepared ourselves for what may come.
The expenses to run the 2012 parade for the committee was $12,028 for what we proudly say was a 1st class event for New London. On July 2nd,2012 we received our first blow, which was the cost of police services. Since our parade route had not changed the cost of police services would be the same ($14,715.65), they didn’t even change the date on the invoice.
On August 6th,2012 we received the invoice for public works, which went from the 2012 cost of $1,050, which included hanging our parade banner on the pedestrian bridge, to $3,489.79, for a total of city expenses of $18,205.44.
These invoices include rentals of garbage cans, barricades and the reviewing stand. At this time the committee, knowing that there was no way we could fundraise that amount, started to discuss its options, one being to offer the city a realistic payment for city services.
The parade sent a letter to the administration on August 15th, 2012 offering a maximum of $7,500 to pay for city services, highlighting that the parade has become a signature event for the city, bringing in thousands of spectators to the city, generating business for local merchants.
In response to that letter the parade Vice President and a committee member met with the administration on August 29th, 2012 to try and work out a reasonable resolution to the permit process. At that time the administration suggested that the parade move back to an older parade route and staging area that was utterly insufficient for the number of participant for our 2011 & 2012 parades, let alone our number of anticipated 2013 participants.
At that time the committee members were given some estimates for routes they could use and ways to reduce costs, such as foregoing the reviewing stand, street painting, etc. The meeting concluded with the administration saying they would provide the committee with more figures within two weeks.
On 9/13/12, after not hearingback from them for two weeks the committee sent the administration another email with its concerns of not hearing back, and the time dragging on. Included in that email were proposals for additional compromised parade routes and a request for the administration to get back to us with the cost of those routes as soon as possible, as the parade was ONLY 6 months away and the committee was already behind on fundraising and securing sponsors.
Still we heard nothing and had to send yet another email a week later asking if they had received and were planning on answering our previous email. A follow up email from the Deputy Police Chief had a “rough first estimate” for the proposed 2011 parade route but with the disclaimer that “as the date of the event is closer we will firm up the details and submit a final cost which will need to be paid prior to the issuance of a permit”, “this is the minimum the bill would be at the present time…”.
Again, when the administration was told we needed final costs before we could move forward, the Executive Assistant to the Mayor replied in email to the committee “it is a rough first estimate because it is still months out and an exact cost would be difficult to predict today”.
When the committee told the administration we needed to secure our permit and firm numbers to take back to the entire parade committee for a vote for our meeting of 9/26/12 we were told that the numbers were still a moving target and the best we could get were “estimates”.
The frustration level of the committee members at this point was at an all time high. Months of trying to pin down the city to secure our parade permit so we could move forward with securing fundraising, participants, vendors, insurance and sponsors would be virtually impossible without our permit and the trust level that things would be as the administration claimed later was nonexistent. Members were sure that the rug would once again be pulled out from underneath us. At the meeting of 9/26/12 the committee voted to move the parade to another municipality, unanimously.
On Monday, October 1st, 2012 David Collins from The Day contacted the parade President for a comment on a rumor he had heard regarding the parade moving out of New London, the only confirmation that was given was that there was a vote taken but no confirmation on where the parade may go. Committee members asked Mr. Collins to give the parade time to continue negotiating and then we may have more information to give, but he was adamant that the story would run on October 3rd as scheduled.
Paul Choiniere called the committee President on October 4th to say the he had spoken to Daryl and that the City was still interested in hosting the parade, she responded that someone from the administration needed to reach out to the parade committee with that offer since Paul was not authorized to act on the city’s behalf.
Late on Friday, October 5th,on a 3 day holiday weekend, the committee received an email from Zak Leavy stating that the Mayor was prepared to sign the permit for the shorter, objectionable route for a cost of $7,500, with a deadline of close of business Tuesday. However, as this offer was being made the administration was already meeting with Barbara Neff and Sean Murray and putting the new parade committee together. How sincere was this offer as the new committee was already being formed?
As the committee struggled to reach its members, as some were out of town and one was even out of the country, the administration was forming a new parade committee and deciding that The New London Irish Parade, Inc. was no longer needed in New London. While we were able to reach some members and poll their views of the offer, it was clear that Daryl and his supporters were moving ahead with their own plans.
As the reporters called the committee members Wednesday for their reaction of the news that there was now a new New London St. Patrick’s Day parade and there was no denying that it did not just happen overnight. The New London Irish Parade, Inc. works all year long to put on a first-class event, promoting New London, and it’s businesses, we were in good faith negotiations with the city to try and work to get a final and concrete cost for its services.
However, since it was a city-sanctioned event there was something just not right with the need to gouge the parade by trying to charge them to RENT garbage cans, the reviewing stand and barricades that the city already owns, or to charge them for 6 hours of private duty rates for police officers for a parade that took just over an hour, when a city service rate would have been acceptable.
We weren’t asking for a free ride, but a realistic, affordable charge for an event that in 2012 brought in over 15,000 people into New London to generate business for local merchants long into the evening. This is a shame that this administration chose not to hold good faith negotiations and be so dishonest and devious. Had they been up front from the beginning and let the committee know they wanted to put their own team in this committee could have moved along some time ago.
The New London Irish Parade, Inc. will produce a first-class parade in another municipality, with our group of volunteers, who do this simply for the gratification of a job well done. There is no compensation, no pay, and no recompense except to see the enjoyment of the thousands of happy faces from the sidelines.
The show will go on, just not in New London, all at the hands of the administration.