A measure introduced by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration to end subsidies to parades was rejected by the city council on Tuesday night after dozens of people connected to the Dominican Day Parade protested outside City Hall.
The measure sought to replace the existing ordinance that was put in place last year. Under that law, parade organizers would gradually take on 40-percent of the security and clean up expenses associated with their parade over a three-year period.
This year, the organizers had to pay 30-percent of the cost. However, due to financial problems being faced by the city, Torres wanted to avoid paying the city’s share for the parade costs. This year the city is to cover 70-percent of public works and police expenses.
Subsidies are “no longer economically feasible,” read the ordinance that was before the council for consideration.
Prior to 2015, organizers did not pay for police and public works, which sometimes amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, in 2013 the Dominican Day Parade cost the city $106,000 in police and public works expenses, said officials at the time.
Organizers of the parade point out the processions bring thousands of tourists to the city every year. Many of those tourists patronize local businesses and stimulate the local economy.
“It is an event that brings over 25,000 people to this city and with those people there comes money – money that is spent in businesses throughout this city especially in the downtown area,” said Joel Ramirez, spokesman for the Dominican Day Parade, prior to the council’s rejection of the measure.
Ramirez described the measure to end the subsidies that both the city and organizers agreed to last year as a “moratorium on free speech.” He was with a group of about 50 protesters, who rallied outside of the City Hall building and packed the council chambers in protest against the measure.
The ordinance died on the council floor for lack of a motion on Tuesday night.