By Charles Sercombe
You’d think that after 20-some years of city officials and the Polish Day Parade Committee doing this dance, the routine would get tired.
But politics and parades seem to go hand-in-hand.
This year’s yes or no vote on whether to allow the Polish Day Parade to take place on Labor Day danced once again to that familiar beat. On one side you get one or two city officials in a huff about having the city cover the cost of police and DPW overtime for the parade.
On the other side, there’s the parade committee saying no pay, no parade.
The cost in question is about $1,100. City Councilmember Cathie Gordon insisted during Tuesday’s Council meeting that the parade committee ought to cough up the money since Hamtramck is a “struggling city.”
Hamtramck is indeed struggling financially with a projected $3.3 million deficit this year. The city was forced to lay off several employees, including the special events coordinator who organized the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival last year.
The festival, which is being organized by volunteers this year, coincides with the parade.
Parade Committee Chairman John Chmura, who is a district judge in Warren, said the committee does not have the money to handle overtime costs, plus he said it’s the responsibility of the city.
“It’s what Hamtramck should do to promote the city,” he said.
Chmura also pointed out that since most of Jos. Campau is closed for the festival, there is little extra cost for the parade.
City Manager Bill Cooper pointed out during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that in years past when the city demanded payment for its overtime costs the parade committee has countered by saying it will take the parade to another community.
When asked about that, Chmura said the committee hasn’t seriously talked about moving – or threatening to – in awhile, but conceded that in “theory” that could happen.
“Nobody wants to do that,” he said. “We want to be in Hamtramck.”
In the vote to approve the parade, Councilmember Mohammed Hassan also objected. He said he knows a donor who will cover the expense.
The festival is not just an outlet for Polish pride. The parade annually attracts local, state and national politicians – including the City Council. Neither Gordon nor Hassan could be reached to find out if they plan to sit out participating in the parade this year.