I noticed this little tidbit in the minutes of December's City Council meeting…and to say that this move from Mayor Boughton is outrageous is an understatement.
That's right folks…Mayor Boughton just dissolved the ad-hoc committee that was assigned to fix the numerous problems with the parade ordinance…problems that the mayor and Council President Joe Cavo insisted would be addressed back when the ordinance was rammed through the council in what many considered a very dirty-handed manner.
It's been YEARS (3 and a half to be exact) since the parade ordinance was talked about so there is a GREAT deal of background that the public needs to refresh themselves with in order to truly understand the severity of Boughton's latest move. Luckily, I was on hand with my camera at City Hall back in 07 and videotaped every meeting that had to do with this ordinance as well as did some rather extensive blogging on the topic. For now, I'll try and keep things as simple as possible.
When the idiotic ordinance was passed, according to several people who witness the vote, Mayor Boughton and Council President Joe Cavo promised that an ad-hoc committee to fix the problems with the ordinance. Although the committee was formed, in the three and a half years of it's existence, the committee NEVER MET to address the problems with the ordinance.
What's the big deal you ask? Trust me, if you understood the ordinance, then you would consider this legislation a REAL BIG DEAL as it infringes on your first amendment right to assemble in public.
…okay, here's a small background (I promise I'll do this is MORE detail in a future post):
Back in 2007, as a result of the celebrations during the World Cup games of 2006, the city council drafted and passed a highly controversial piece of legislation which was aimed at regulating public assemblies.
The parade ordinance legislation was criticized by many who called the measure an attempt by the mayor to promote fear into groups that held rallies in opposition to the city's anti-immigrant policies (you can view a copy of the ordinance, as well as an explanation of the origins of the legislation by corporation counsel Rick Gottschalk, by clicking here).
Critics of the legislation also stated that the bill will have no effect of the spontaneous forms of expression seen during the 2006 games (which is protected free speech) and instead will infringe on people's right to assemble at public places. The ordinance makes it a requirement for organizers to obtain and fill out a parade ordinance application if the size of the crowd is more than 25 people AND interferes with vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
Here's part of the language:
Sec 11-15 (a):
Parade means any march, demonstration, procession, or motorcade, which the parade permit applicant believes will consist of more than twenty-five (25) persons, animals, or vehicles or a combination thereof upon the streets, sidewalks, parks or other public property owned by or under the control of the City of Danbury, for a common purpose as a result of prior planning that interferes with the normal flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic upon said streets, sidewalks, parks, or other public property.
In laymans' terms, if you organize an even that has 25 or more people, AND it's on public property AND it interferes with vehicular or pedestrian traffic…you need to go to the police station and fill out a parade ordinance application. If you don't go to the police station and will out an application AND you know that the parade ordinance exists, the city can fine you 100.00 dollars.
What does that mean you ask? Well, if you plan an event (ANY EVENT) and it's on public property AND it interferes with the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, you need fill out an parade ordinance application. Again, this goes WAY beyond parades and technically infringes on all forms of assembly. Think about all the forms of assembly that would fall under this ordinance…crazy huh?
Wait, it gets better!
In 2007, Boughton was questioned and put on the defensive by News-Times reporter Elizabeth Putnam about the ordinance and the origins of the legislation…and his response was laughable to say the least.
PUTNAM: Now the impetus for the parade ordinance however was impromptu celebrations, this does not really address that. Is there a way to address that?
BOUGHTON: I would disagree with that statement that it doesn't address that. I think this ordinance could be a better tool in the tool box in looking at impromptu celebrations. That wasn't the whole impetus, that was only part of the impetus and I'll explain why.
If you're talking about the parades after the World Cup game that were very controversial that happened in 2006, those are not impromptu parades. We spend a lot of time planning internally for those parades. If you know that is a World Cup game coming up on Sunday…the chief and I probably had two or three discussions/meetings about how many police officers we're going to bring in…and what type of enforcement activity we're going to have. So there is planning going on…
PUTNAM: …there's planning going on with your side…
BOUGHTON: …and there's planning going on their side as well. Those individuals know that when the game is over that they're going to be in the streets. We would take this ordinance, in addition to writing tickets for not being properly seatbealted and all the other issues that came up during that time period, we would also cite people for not having the proper permit for not being on Main Street if they're blocking traffic and/or holding up public safety vehicles so I think this is another tool in the toolbox to do that and I don't' necessarily agree with that statement that it won't do that.
Since this he utter this laughable statement regarding the origins of the ordinance, Boughton has flipped-flopped on his stance on the world cup celebrations not being impromptu events as well as the rationale of the ordinance in the first place…which I also videotaped.
A year after the passage of the ordinance, and the creation of the ad-hoc committee that to that date DIDN'T MEET, at a public forum I questioned Mayor Boughton about the status of the ordinance and the ad-hoc committee. In this never before seen video footage, take a look at the mayor's response.
Boughton on parade ordinance, public forum, mid 2008
BOUGHTON: …the bad news is we probably run up about 150,000 in police charges for all the parades and things that go on in the city…those numbers, they escalate quickly, so that's been a problem….there are other questions about the amount of people, and I think one of the things that we'll look is for recommendations from the chief [Al Baker] is "is this working, are you turning people down", I don't we ever turn someone down but the good news is that people have been really good about coming in and getting a permit so we've been able to organize…I'll talk to the committee chair and if there is a burning issue, I sure we can look into that
Now, by the mayor's OWN ADMISSION, the parade ordinance has costed the city of Danbury 150,000 thousands dollars…and that was back in 2008. Based on his own words, if you leap forward to 2010, that figure would be estimated at 450,000 ('08, '09, '10)…and that's on the low end.
Given the cost and the other problem with the ordinance (problems that the mayor admitted to your truly back in 2008), and the fact that he and Council Presdient Cavo PROMISED members of the committee that an ad-hoc committee would be formed to fix the problems with the ordinance, the question one should ask is simple: "Why did Boughton go back on his word?"
MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more later…