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At least keep parade, breakfast on 4th
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I grew up loving this country. Throughout my school years, as I learned more and more about U.S. history, my respect for and pride in the United States continued to deepen. Our country is not perfect. We have made missteps in our past and probably will make mistakes in the future. I don’t always agree with the direction or actions our country has taken. But in general, warts and all, the United States is an amazing experiment in government that continues to astound and set the bar for other nations.

Our national anthem celebrates “the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.” As Americans, we are fortunate to have so many important and protected freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and the freedom to disagree with other citizens or our government itself. So it saddened me that, in Manteca, “the land of the Free” has been reduced to “the land of the cut-rate” or “the land of the cheaper price.”

Instead of honoring our country’s founding on the designated day of Fourth of July, Manteca is choosing, due to budget considerations, to hold its celebrations on July 3rd. I  recognize the budget constraints, but I can’t support an action that ignores the true holiday. If money is that tight, don’t demean the symbolism of the Fourth of July by staging  elaborate celebrations on July 3rd instead. Shooting fireworks off on July 3rd for a lesser cost of $16,000 is still money the city can ill-afford to waste. Both Ripon and Lathrop had to eliminate their fireworks displays this year. Manteca should follow suit, especially in light of the increases state-imposed budget cuts and rumors of layoffs in safety personnel. In times of budget crisis, the planned Big League Dreams event seems overblown and, unfortunately, gives the appearance of crass commercialism.
People will be charged admission to experience the type of community entertainment that is free at the Pumpkin and Crossroads Fairs.

Once inside BLD, there will be a fee for children’s activities and events. No doubt people will be expected to purchase food from BLD concession stands which control most of the food and beverage sales available. Will outside food that people bring even be allowed inside BLD? And if not, isn’t having a captive audience to buy food and drinks and thus feed the coffers of BLD (the city gets a small percentage) somewhat disturbing? This can be costly for families. We need to turn away from promoting the Fourth of July as a money-making event and instead remember that it is a day to commemorate the past and current wisdom and sacrifices of our fore-fathers and countrymen in founding and protecting our nation.

Here are my suggestions: Have the official city parade and the Manteca Kiwanis July 4th breakfast actually on the Fourth of July. As much as I admire the worthy Kiwanis organization and its good work in the community, a July 4th breakfast isn’t affected by overtime police or firefighter costs and it is a disservice to hold it on the third of July. The financial impact of the July 4th parade could be lessened by having SHARPs volunteers do much of the pre-staging and aftermath clean-up (along with volunteer groups and non-profit organizations that sold fireworks as fundraisers.) This would free up paid police officers to work as crowd control enforcers during the parade itself which shouldn’t exceed two hours. Think about this: The non-profit organizations that, through city lottery, get the opportunity to sell fireworks can make thousands of dollars for their worthy causes. Yet they  weren’t even charged the $500 fee that it costs the city to provide services for these booths. Their fee was reduced to $300. In times of economic hardship, even non-profits must pay their fair share. If each of these groups paid the additional $200, wouldn’t that help cover police overtime for a two-hour parade?

City officials don’t mean to make a mockery of the Fourth of July. But that is what happens when the celebrations are switched to July 3rd. If money is the primary guiding force of city leaders and the 3rd of July is about maximizing profits, then Manteca’s citizens need to send a message to the city council and, as Steven Catalano suggested, boycott the BLD event. If this event is financially unsuccessful for the city, it is unlikely that the city will continue a July 3rd celebration next year. But for this year at least, have the Kiwanis breakfast and parade on July 4th. Hold neighborhood block parties or church-sponsored celebrations. Don’t let Manteca’s 2,000 flags fluttering in the breeze be the only mark that July 4th is truly a day worth honoring.
Karen Pearsall
June 10, 2009