Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

A Christmas parade of interest


Burr Deming commented on the controversy regarding the treatment of the Girl Scouts who marched in this year’s Waukesha Christmas Parade. (I wrote about the scouts in my Waukesha Freeman column and followed up with a response to the Chamber of Commerce.) Deming wrote,

  • Conservative James Wigderson has complained about the mishandling of a parade and how some Girl Scouts were mistreated. A public official says he’s wrong and so, the entertaining debate is on. An implied side note: it appears to the casual observer (which is to say me) that James is actually complaining about the privatization of the parade, which had previously been run by local government, and is now in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce. If true, James is staking out a lonely conservative position.

Heh. Um, no. Some background is needed.

The parade was run by a public-private partnership before, the Waukesha Business Improvement District, an organization publicly supported by an assessment on downtown property owners and run by a combination of downtown property and business owners appointed by the mayor. Our short-sighted mayor, and a few very short-sighter business owners (including the unethical Norm Bruce), first attempted to take the BID funds to promote their own self-interests. When that failed, and the unethical behavior and the abusive behavior regarding the staff began to surface, the mayor’s appointees (including Alderman Roger Patton, the un-prosecuted destroyer of public records).

Until the BID was set on this self-destructive path, they did a very good job of running the Christmas Parade.

This is the first year the Christmas Parade was run by the Chamber of Commerce. I think some slack should be given. It was also understandable that they continued to charge the businesses to participate, especially as they did not have the budget for a parade and needed the cash for the parade to be successful. It’s less understandable that they charged the non-profit service organizations to participate for the first time, but apparently they deemed it necessary for the first parade. I sincerely hope that they can avoid such a charge in the future.

What is not understandable is the subsequent behavior of parade officials towards the Girl Scouts. To request they apply for a permit the day before the parade, a Saturday, to collect money for charity is ridiculous. Parade officials cannot claim that they were taken by surprise by the intent of the Girl Scouts since, 1) the Girl Scouts have collected money in the parade for charity before and, 2) their charitable efforts in the parade have received press coverage before (including in my newspaper column).

Then the amazing and unprecedented last-minute attempted shakedown of the companies that loaned the trucks to haul the parade floats, followed by the obnoxious behavior directed towards the scouts, certainly put the Chamber of Commerce in a bad light.

The organization does not help themselves when the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, rather than respond to the issues raised or even return my call before the column ran, decides to attack the messenger instead without any supporting facts.

It’s not a matter of private vs. public, as the BID was almost completely privately run. If anything, there was even more efficiency with the Chamber running the parade this year, as Santa Claus made his annual ride through our city streets in record time. I doubt city government could do as well in moving the parade. Although, as we learned this year, when running a parade, efficiency is not necessarily better.

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