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Scale back celebration & keep it on July 4th
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

The Bulletin headline states, “Celebrating July 4th early saves $17k.” My question is this: Is Manteca’s July 4th extravaganza all about attaining a profit and serving as a tidy money-making scheme for the management of BLD, or is it truly a patriotic celebration honoring our remarkable country and the dedicated citizens who, throughout the years have served it? It seems to me that the spirit of one overrides the other. I realize that, in these difficult economic times, the city’s financial concerns merit huge consideration. That is to be expected. Yet there are many compelling reasons to oppose celebrating on July 3rd, instead of July 4th. Let’s examine this in more detail.

The article asserts that the additional police officers needed for the “community celebration” and fireworks display increase police costs by an extra $11,405, which includes triple overtime. How violent does the “community celebration” get? Is it actually a dangerous situation that requires numerous extra uniformed police? If so, is this truly a family-friendly environment and safe event? If the extra police presence acts as a preventative measure to discourage potential trouble, could SHARP volunteers be used to supplement the regular on-duty police and reduce the need for paid overtime? My other suggestion is that if the celebration is held at BLD, then BLD management should pay for extra security details.

One of my biggest objections, besides the date change, is using the BLD site to nickel and dime the public to death. The Bulletin meticulously broke down the costs of a July 3rd celebration which totaled $45,005 in overall expenses, with $22,297 of that figure not offset by revenue.

Expenses included: fireworks, police park staff, entertainment on stage, kid’s zone activities, home run derby contest, marketing, portable toilets, health inspection, tent rental, and other costs. I understand the city’s desire to re-coup some of these expenditures. But look at the way they try to accomplish this. Adult admission is $2, with kids, ages 3 to 17 years old, only $1. Once inside, there is an extra $2 per child charge for the kid’s zone activities. In addition, and a significant omission on the Bulletin’s part, is the fact that no outside food is allowed on BLD grounds and the number of accepted food vendors is extremely limited. This, in effect, forces hungry patrons to purchase food at BLD concession stands, which can become costly for a family. Although the city does get a 16 to 20% share of the concession profits, most (at least 80%) go to BLD management.

That is why BLD should assume the costs for extra security for this event, since BLD stands to make the most money for the least expense. I wonder where the city draws the line at “bargain hunting” in this endeavor? The fireworks company will “knock $6,000 off the price” if we have the celebration on July 3rd. What if, instead, we held the event a week later on July 11th? How about in August? Maybe we would see even more reduced rates like January’s “after Christmas” sales.

Seriously, Manteca needs to celebrate on the true holiday of July 4th and scale back its celebration plans so that they are financially feasible.

Frankly, I would rather see an affordable “picnic at the park” theme, with low-key neighborhood gatherings at Woodward Park, Library Park, Northgate Park, or other larger community parks. Non-profit groups could sponsor booths to raise funds like they do at school carnivals with low cost activities like a fishing booth, ring-toss, bounce house, etc. High school choirs could provide leadership for a patriotic community sing-a-long.

Jazz bands could play. The MUSD could introduce an essay-writing contest with a patriotic theme that is judged before the school year ends.

Winners could read their essays at community events or have them published in the July 4th edition of the Bulletin.

There are many ways to honor the real significance of July 4th, without incurring huge costs. If the city can’t afford fireworks on the proper day, then skip them. Celebrating on July 3rd is a travesty in itself. It only compounds the insult to spend $47,000 in bonus bucks to pay for a July 3rd celebration in a year when city employees either lost their jobs, or took furloughs and pay cuts, and gave up raises.

There was one bright spot in this article. The pancake breakfast and parade will actually be held on Independence Day. Kudos to those groups who made that decision. As community members we should all support these two events and show our appreciation. Anyone who has a problem with a July 3rd celebration should share their thoughts and comments with the city council.

Karen Pearsall
Jan. 17, 2010