Dan Fumano: Play ball – the city’s little league parade after all

Opinion: No municipal politician or bureaucrat is actively trying to suppress community events. But if that’s what’s happening as a result of new policies, those policies probably need to be reconsidered.

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Graham Collings fondly remembers walking down West 41st Avenue as an eight-year-old in uniform in the Kerrisdale Little League opening day parade more than 30 years ago.

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On Wednesday Collings, who is now the league’s volunteer president, was thrilled to learn that his own little sluggers, ages 10 and 5, can once again follow in his footsteps this year – the Little League Parade, a tradition of six decades, had been given the green light by Vancouver City Hall, a month after receiving a disheartening red light.

“For a lot of kids, the parade is one of their highlights,” Collings said.

Earlier this month, Postmedia News reported that bureaucracy appeared to have stifled this year’s parade. City Hall’s events department told parade organizers in early February that this year’s edition could not go ahead for opening day in April because new policies had changed deadlines for event requests. .

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It was a bitter disappointment for the Little League volunteers, parents, neighborhood business owners who sponsor the teams and the children. The parade’s cancellation, while not a matter of life and death like other things going on right now, struck a chord with readers, and many contacted the paper to express their displeasure. One reader emailed the entire council, then told this reporter that one councilor replied saying he had been “inundated with emails”.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart learned of the parade’s problems when he read the story in the Vancouver Sun on March 4, and later that day published a public statement saying he had spoken with the city manager who assured him that “staff are aiming to shorten the timelines for upcoming events if necessary”.

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Kerrisdale Business Association executive director Terri Clark, who has organized the Little League Parade for two decades, applied for permits in January this year, as she does every year. In early February, Clark received an email from a senior city official saying that new city deadlines meant it was not possible to have an opening day parade for the baseball band. junior this year, adding, “I don’t say lightly that we can’t set deadlines for your application.”

Then, on Tuesday, March 14, Clark received an email from the city thanking her for her patience, informing her, “I am pleased to announce that we will be able to proceed with the Kerrisdale Little League Parade this year, and I want acknowledge and thank the Vancouver Police for being able to help make this possible.

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Reached on Wednesday, Clark called the turn of events a “magnificent victory.”

“It’s just a hometown parade, but it’s more than that — these kinds of neighborhood events bring the whole community fabric together,” she said. “The little things are the building blocks, and the little things matter.”

Other community groups trying to hold events this year also reported encountering roadblocks with increased bureaucracy at City Hall.

Obviously, changing public health restrictions from COVID-19 had made it difficult for everyone to plan events, but other than that, the City of Vancouver had new internal policies. Organizers of Cambie Village’s annual Easter event have said in previous years they filled out a three-page online application form, but this year they were directed to a special 82-page event allowing a manual explaining how to complete the new 17-page application.

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This week, the same day Little League Parade organizers received the good news from City Hall, the Mayor unveiled a proposal to spend up to $5 million in public money to incentivize the FIFA, a multi-billion dollar international organization, to host part of the Men’s World Cup, one of the biggest events in the world, here to help the hard-hit local tourism sector.

City Hall seems to appreciate these big international projects, and Vancouverites appreciate them too. Prior to the 2010 Olympics, approximately two-thirds of Vancouver voters supported the idea of ​​hosting the Games. After the Vancouver Olympics, polls showed higher rates of residents believing hosting the Games was worthwhile. Many people like the fact that living in a growing city and region means that we can attract all kinds of international cultural, artistic and sporting events.

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But Vancouverites also love small neighborhood get-togethers like Little League parades and Easter egg hunts. The town hall should not neglect relatively small things in favor of large ones.

City Hall “can hit the home run at big events,” said Kerrisdale BIA President Glenn Knowles. “But they kind of gave up on the smaller events, because they lost them, they fell through the cracks…when everything got too onerous.”

Knowles, owner of Gem Chocolates, applauded the town hall for this week’s “very good news”.

Reached Wednesday, Lisa Parker, Vancouver’s director of public space and street use, said the city “has heard a lot of concerns” in recent weeks and is redoubling its efforts to work not only with organizers of Kerrisdale, but also with other community groups.

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“We’re not looking to prioritize just the biggest events,” Parker said. “Little ones, we really want to elevate these event planners to get going. And I totally understand how all the issues over the past few weeks have really thwarted that, but we’re working fast to fix that.

No municipal politicians or bureaucrats are actively trying to suppress community events. But if they’re hearing widely about what’s happening as a result of new policies, those policies probably need a second look.

In the meantime, it’s a good thing that City Hall has found a way, regardless of what the fine print of politics says, to green light the Kerrisdale Parade and hopefully other similar events . Everyone could use more this year. Especially the children.

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