December 5, 2018 10:47:36 AM
The approval for Starkville Pride's second parade proved to be much easier than the first, but the vote still wasn't unanimous.
Aldermen approved a request from the grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) support group by a 4-3 margin Tuesday. The vote came with little discussion as aldermen pushed rapidly through the agenda en route to the end of Tuesday's brief meeting.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller supported the request. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn opposed.
Starkville Pride is holding its second Pride parade on March 30, 2019.
Starkville Pride's inaugural parade was held March 24 this year, after an initial denial of the group's permit by the board of aldermen grabbed national headlines and sparked a federal lawsuit against the city. Aldermen denied the request on Feb. 20, with a 4-3 vote that included Little's opposition. On March 7, Little abstained from a re-vote, allowing Mayor Lynn Spruill to cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the parade. During the second vote, Little cited the costs of defending the lawsuit, which might fall to the city to cover instead of its Mississippi Municipal League-provided insurance.
Little declined to offer much comment after Tuesday's board meeting. However, he said he was "pragmatic," in reference to the legal tangles from the year's prior votes.
"I didn't want to go down that road again," he said.
Perkins, who has always voted against the parade and has opposed any special event requests that have come to the city since the denial earlier this year sparked a lawsuit, said he believes the city shouldn't foot the bill for event in-kind services.
"I have consistently voted against all special event requests," Perkins said. "It is an enormous expense for the city, in my opinion, to provide in-kind services for all of these special event request related matters. If you look at the all the requests that come across our table in the course of a year, that is a very onerous burden on the taxpayers."
This year's Pride parade request includes $3,200 in requested in-kind services. The request for next year's parade, which organizers have said is more prepared for a large crowd, includes $6,100 for in-kind services. Most of that cost, $5,000, comes in police department manpower. It also includes $250 for the utilities department and $850 for the sanitation department.
The same trio of aldermen who voted against the Pride parade also voted against the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and rally, which was the next item on the agenda. Perkins said he voted against it for the same reason as the Pride parade.
The MLK event requests $725 in in-kind services from the city.
Spruill said Tuesday she is pleased to see approval for next year's parade come more easily.
"I'm delighted that we had no difficulties," Spruill said. "They will have a parade and it will be lovely and hopefully as pleasant as it was this year."
Bailey McDaniel, an organizer for Starkville Pride, said she and the handful of other Pride supporters who attended Tuesday's meeting weren't sure what to expect.
"I don't think any of us had any expectations," she said. "I think we were going to be surprised either way. We just knew we had to have a group come to sit in solidarity with us and be prepared for whatever happened. I'm actually really shocked that it was a 4-3 for, because we didn't expect that. We either thought it was going to be 4-3 against or 3-3 and the mayor decides."
McDaniel said the group started planning for next year's Pride parade in early July and wanted to come earlier to the board than for this year's parade.
This year's parade, which organizers originally thought might attract a few hundred people, drew thousands, and McDaniel said plans for next year's parade have better prepared for a large turnout. She also said this year's Pride event will extend to Sunday, with a unity event to bring members of the LGBT community, with or without faith, together.
Patty Latham, a Starkville Pride board member, said she was pleasantly surprised with the approval, though she questioned if it would have happened without the threat of another lawsuit.
Still, McDaniel said she sees Tuesday's vote as progress, and hopes it will it will help lay the foundation for Pride as an annual event.
"This is saying something," McDaniel said. "This is four people who said 'yes.' I think that's a step in the right direction."
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