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Freemasonry Watch

City Questions Continuation of Large Shriner Parades after inconvenience and expense complaints

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Rapid City Journal

Parade routes under scrutiny

By Scott Aust, Journal Staff Writer

October 6, 2005

RAPID CITY - Traditionally, parades in Rapid City have used Main Street through the downtown area.

But the traffic snarls and inconvenience caused by the Sept. 1 and 3 Midwest Shrine Association parades has prompted the Rapid City Council to start considering other routes for future parades.

Alderwoman Deb Hadcock and Alderman Bill Okrepkie have been discussing alternate parade routes with downtown businesses recently, but potential changes likely won't be brought to the full council until November.

Police Chief Craig Tieszen provided an overview of the parade permit process to the city's Public Works Committee on Tuesday. Tieszen said that by ordinance, permits are required for any activity that interferes with vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

"We always encourage people who call to ask if a permit is needed to come down and get a permit. It's good for us because it tells us when the activity is going to take place and gives us an opportunity to plan whatever resources might be necessary," he said.

Applicants complete a form explaining what they want to do, Tieszen said. The police department's traffic section managers confer and then send the application to Tieszen for approval. If there are 70 or more entries in the parade, it goes to the city council for approval.

Forty-five parade permits were issued in 2004. Of those, five were large enough events to warrant city council approval, Tieszen said.

Those 45 events included large events such as the Parade of Lights during Christmas season and small marches in support of a particular cause that included only a few people marching down the sidewalk. Both large and small events need permits, Tieszen said.

"There is a basic right to assemble and hold these kinds of events. As with all other rights, the rights of the individual are balanced with the rights of others and the rights of the community," he said. "We have to take into account public safety, as well as to some degree public inconvenience. We try to balance those two."

Tieszen was criticized this month in the aftermath of the Shriners' parades, which had more than 900 entries and caused Omaha Street and Main Street to be closed between Third Street and Mount Rushmore Road.

The city council approved the parade permit for the Shriners' parades in December 2004, but Alderman Ray Hadley criticized Tieszen on Sept. 6 for bringing the parade permit forward.

Tieszen said the police department's pre-parade analysis of the amount of congestion turned out about as expected.

"The part that was maybe less on target was our analysis of what the community, or certain members of the community, or part of the business community, might think of this inconvenience and congestion," he said. "In this case, the police department, at least, had a pretty good idea of what would be the result."

Contact Scott Aust at 394-8415 or [email protected]

Rapid City Journal

Parade routes under scrutiny

September 8, 2005

By Scott Aust, Journal Staff Writer

RAPID CITY - Last week's "Mother of All Parades," which shut down two major routes through Rapid City for a few hours on Thursday and Saturday, has Rapid City officials pondering alternate parade routes.

The two parades part of the Midwest Shrine Association's annual convention that brought about 3,000 Shriners to town caused Omaha and Main streets to be closed between Third Street and Mount Rushmore Road.

Alderman Bob Hurlbut was caught unaware about which streets would be closed and experienced almost an hour delay Thursday night to meet friends for dinner.

"I was quite distressed by it," he said.

Alderman Ray Hadley questioned why the parade route was switched from Main and St. Joseph Streets, traditional parade routes, to Main and Omaha.

"It basically disabled traffic going west," Hadley said. "The main arterial, east-west, is Omaha Street, and that was closed down at the busiest time of day on a weeknight."

Police Chief Craig Tieszen said the entity that requests a parade permit specifies the time and date they would like to conduct the parade, and the police department's traffic section consults with them to try to make it work.

"In the case of the Shriners, because this parade had approximately 900 entries, it was necessary to stage them in the lots around the civic center, which necessitates crossing Omaha Street," he said.

Because the parade had to cross Omaha Street, it was decided to close Omaha and Main and leave St. Joseph open, Tieszen said.

Hadley also raised concern about the amount of overtime the city has to pay police to staff blocked-off intersections.

Tieszen said overtime is going to be necessary for any parade. About 40 officers were used for the Shriners' parades, but he hasn't tallied what the overtime will cost.

"I'm not sure a different route would have any fewer number of officers unless the parade was very small. But every intersection does require some sort of presence," he said.

Though the council approved the parade permit on Dec. 20, Hadley disliked hearing from some who have criticized the council for closing the streets. Hadley blamed the police department for bringing the parade permit to the council.

"I have a little concern when it's the city council taking the blame here, and we only act on recommendations brought forward by the chief of police," he said.

The parade permit appeared as part of a group of items on the council's consent agenda, a procedure used to approve routine business items in bulk and without discussion. Council members can remove items from the consent agenda if they wish to have a discussion.

On Dec. 20, Hadley made the motion to approve the group of consent agenda items that included approval of the parade permit.

For large parades in the future, Hadley said, there should be more thought put into the ramifications of closing major streets before the council deals with the issue.

Alderwoman Deb Hadcock defended the police department but suggested holding future parades on streets other than Main Street so street closings don't always affect the same businesses.

"I thought it was an awesome parade, and the Shriners are a great group," Hadcock said. "I see nothing wrong with how the police department runs the parades, except for if we could do it somewhere else, in different areas."

Alderwoman Karen Gunderson Olson said the city works hard to attract conventions such as the Shriners.

"I would not like our city council to be on record as opposed to parades or even make the suggestion that we think any one of these wonderful conventions isn't a benefit to our community," she said.

Hadcock said some council members just want to study alternative routes, not ban parades.

"We're not saying parades are bad," she said. "We don't have a problem with parades downtown; we'd just like to see alternative routes."

The city council's public works committee will have more discussion about parade routes in the near future.

Contact Scott Aust at 394-8415 or [email protected]

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