Somerville Aldermen frown on public funds for private benefit

On October 16, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
Several city officials, as well as concerned citizens, have been questioning the role that the city should play in funding and approving certain privately produced events.

Several city officials, as well as concerned citizens, have been questioning the role that the city should play in funding and approving certain privately produced events.

By Harry Kane

The Licenses and Permits Committee sanctioned an Internet Radio Station Concert in Union Square on Sunday, but many of the Aldermen disagreed with the last minute process for pushing the event through, arguing that the Board was not allowed adequate time to examine the event details.

“Radio BDC is Boston’s only live hosted, streaming alternative station,” according to their website. On Oct. 13 the radio station held a festival in Union Square. Hundreds attended the first Live on the Square free music event.

“One of the reasons we’re succeeding now in Union Square and across this city is because our investment in these community and social events,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “These social events are critical.”

Business owner Kenneth Kelly addressed the Board of Aldermen during the Oct. 10 meeting in support of the Radio BDC Concert. “Its events such as Fluff Festival and the event we’re speaking about tonight that help promote and spotlight places like Union Square.”

Not everyone shared Kelly’s sentiment. Even though the aldermen collectively understand that festivals are beneficial to the local economy, there was a consensus that more preliminary talks should occur before approving events like the Radio BDC Concert.

Several aldermen took offense to the publicizing of the concert before the Board could discuss the intricacies of event. “I think that’s a major problem,” said Ward 3 Alderman Thomas F. Taylor. “People come before us and say they want a permit, and they’ve already advertised for the event.”

“I really think it’s really a slap in a face to this Board,” Taylor added. He suggested more “lead time” was needed for requesting permits so that the Board can act appropriately. “People need to understand that this Board is a final granting authority for these permits.”

Taylor recommended that the Board of Aldermen set up a policy to handle non-Somerville organized events, adding that the city should not be responsible for any funds associated with “non-Somerville, profitable events.”

This event cost the city approximately $12,000, according to city officials. The applicant paid for police detail and portable toilets.

Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah L. Gewirtz encouraged the Board to be careful about spending city money on private events. “I support the chairman of the committee,” she said. “I don’t see this as similar to the Fluff Festival or the Honk Festival or Artbeat, which are patently Somerville events.”

During other previous non-Somerville events the city wasn’t responsible for any costs, she added.

“As a city, we shouldn’t be picking up the costs for this event,” said Alderman At Large Dennis Sullivan, who is the chairman of the committee for licenses and permits. “The majority of the money is coming from taxpayers, and that’s why I oppose this.”

Even though time was limited, Aldermen made sure to discuss public safety, crowd control and traffic and parking concerns with Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello during the meeting. Pasquarello fielded the questions and concerns from the aldermen, assuring them that he had confidence in his plan to protect the residents. “I think it covers everything that needs to be covered from a security perspective,” he said.




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