If you pay any attention at all to Raleigh city politics, you are probably aware that there has been an ongoing controversy over this year’s Christmas parade. It’s a 75-year-plus tradition that not only kicks off the holiday season for Raleigh and Wake County but for North Carolina and much of the Eastern Seaboard. It’s the largest parade held between Washington, DC, and Atlanta. 

On September 14, the city announced the parade would NOT receive a permit for this year’s event due to the horrific accident during the 2022 parade that took the life of a young participant, Hailey Brooks. What was not clear at the time of this decision was why and how the decision was made and who was involved in making it.

What followed was a backlash from residents who spoke at City Council demanding the city give an accurate accounting of how the decision was made, who was involved in making it, and what, if any, actions have been taken since last year’s accident to develop improved safety standards for parades held in Raleigh.

Despite the city relenting and eventually allowing the parade to go on, but without motorized vehicles, there still has been no accurate accounting from the city.

Confusion still reigns as the city keeps adding new reasons (excuses) for the changes to this year’s parade – ultimately resulting, on October 31, with the permit revocation and the cancellation of the annual State of NC Veteran’s Day Parade a mere 4 days before it was to take place.

Let’s take a look at the timeline and ever-changing stories provided by the City.

Prior to the Christmas Parade being cancelled, several other parades were approved with motorized vehicles:

    • St Patrick’s Day Parade in March
    • Caribe Mask Parade in August
    • Broughton High Homecoming Parade in October
    • NC Veteran’s Day Parade originally permitted for November

September 14: The City cancelled the Raleigh Christmas Parade citing it was City Council’s and staff’s decision.

    • Mayor Baldwin claimed it was a decision made out of an abundance of caution due to an ongoing lawsuit. The city is not named in the lawsuit and has indemnification.  
    • Mayor Baldwin claimed it was out of respect for the Brooks family and the loss of their daughter. The Brooks family was never contacted by the City.

September 15: Parade was reinstated without motorized vehicles.

    • Several councilors announced they were NOT included in the decision-making and learned of the cancellation at the same time as the public.
    • We still have no idea which councilors, if any, were included in the discussion or decision-making.

October 10: At the City Council meeting, residents ask for explanation and reinstatement of motorized parade.

    • Robert Courts spoke to council and asked for an investigation and accurate accounting of how the cancellation decision was made, by whom, and what actions the city has taken to develop new safety protocols so parades may continue in the future. No investigation has taken place, and the public has never been told what actually happened.
    • Trey Brooks spoke before Council stating the family was not contacted or consulted about the matter, and they did not want the parade cancelled. They wanted sensible and reasonable changes to prevent this from happening again.
    • It’s clear Raleigh and the mayor have given no explanation as to why the city used the Brooks family as their excuse.

October 17: At the City Council meeting, residents once again asked for the Christmas parade to be reinstated with vehicles and floats.

    • The City’s legal counsel cited financial liability as the reason for the refusal to reinstate motorized vehicles to the parade. This makes no sense because the City has approved multiple other parades with motorized vehicles.
    • The City continues to refuse to meet with GRMA to discuss new safety procedures.

The public continues to question the hypocrisy. 

    • The public continues to question why the Christmas parade is held to a different standard than the other parades that have been held with vehicles.
    • The city ultimately issues an explanation for the different treatment, saying the other parades were small in comparison to the Christmas parade. 
    • The City continues to refuse to meet with GRMA.

October 30: The City now says it realizes the already-permitted State of NC Veteran’s Day Parade is not small.

    • The City is caught off guard again, when they realize the Veteran’s Day Parade, which has been permitted with motorized vehicles, is actually a rather large parade, and they feel compelled to make another change to cover themselves.
    • Raleigh announces the permit for the Veteran’s parade is modified to eliminate motorized vehicles — just 4 days before the parade is scheduled to take place.
    • The City claims this change is made for “consistency.” It is a consistency they haven’t been concerned with in this process until now.
    • With no time to make adjustments, the organizers are forced to cancel their annual parade. They need vehicles for transportation, because many of them are elderly or have other concerns preventing them from walking. This left the State of NC Veteran’s Day parade with fewer than 20 eligible entries, and canceling the parade was their only option.
    • Council has ignored GRMA’s repeated requests to meet with them to discuss the situation.

 Your guess is as good as ours, but…

    • Maybe, just maybe, this debacle all started with Mayor Baldwin seeing this as a convenient opportunity to take out her anger on the Merchants Association. The group and its members have been critical of Mayor Baldwin for her ineffective leadership and inability to protect and reinvigorate downtown and its businesses.
    • Perhaps Mayor Baldwin didn’t realize the amount of pushback she would get from everyone involved as this situation continued to snowball out of control requiring the explanation to keep evolving.

Let’s all remember the City has had nearly a full year to create new safety protocols so that these parade cancellations could have been avoided. As of this writing, they have made no public statements about what work they have done to develop the new procedures or if they have even started the process.

The mayor’s unwillingness to communicate with organizers or to offer true explanations for her actions to the residents of Raleigh should concern every Raleigh voter in next year’s mayoral election.

Livable Raleigh Editorial Team

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