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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UPDATED: Hales Backs Down on New Last Thursday Restrictions

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Update, 5:34 pm: Hales Spokesman Dana Haynes takes issue with the characterization that the mayor backed down. He says Hales' office was making suggestions about the event, and Friends of Last Thursday abruptly quit. The mayor's office didn't have the time to communicate an earlier closure to the public, so Last Thursday will stay open til 10 pm.

"Backing down suggests there's a dialogue," Haynes says. "They did quit. We have responded. I fail to see where anybody backed down from anything."

Haynes has steadily characterized the proposals to shrink the event as mere suggestions. Friends of Last Thursday called them conditions for receiving a permit.

[Originally posted 10:21 am]

Mayor Charlie Hales is pulling back on new proposed strictures for Alberta's popular Last Thursdays, after the volunteer group that oversees the event loudly resigned Monday.

According to Hales Spokesman Dana Haynes, the city will close the event at 10 pm, rather than a proposed 9 pm ending. And Last Thursday will stretch its traditional 15 blocks, from NE 15th to 30th. The mayor had told Friends of Last Thursday, the volunteer group, it would end at NE 27th.

The increased restrictions prompted Friends of Last Thursday (FoLT) to throw up its hands and resign, telling reporters in a press conference the mayor's office had acted unilaterally in creating the requirements, rather than working with them. The group had paid for street barriers, toilets and security at the event, so its absence this week will leave the city holding the bag.

Haynes says the mayor will direct city staff to close off Alberta, but no determination has been made about porta-potties. And the mayor's office has had no contact with FoLT since yesterday's press conference.

"We don’t know who to work this out with but are eager to work with whomever," Haynes tells the Mercury in an e-mail.

He continues: "The goals laid out by the city – the same in May as now — were for adequate volunteers, security and porta-potties. We understand (FoLT members) Jeff (Hilber) and Maquette (Reeverts) considered these 'unsavory' and 'demands.' We disagree. We will work with whoever becomes the volunteer coordinators of Last Thursday to achieve these goals."

Update, 2:31 pm: Hilber, of Friends of Last Thursday ramped up the rhetoric a bit in a conversation with the Mercury. He says the city's capitulation is well and good, but his group wants to solve larger issues surrounding the event.

"We've not heard from the city one bit," he says. "The fact they're still trying to spin the story and make it seem like our fault is what you would expect from them."

FoLT's demands, it turns out, are larger than they communicated at yesterday's press conference. The group's tired of being attacked, Hilber says, when it's trying merely to dig Last Thursday out of trouble that existed long before it took over in 2011.

"We want the city to respect the effort we put in," Hilber says. "We want to be given a permit for one year, unrestricted. Right now they're dangling the permit for one month in front of our face. I'm tired of being treated like a kid in the corner."

This is the first year the city has required Last Thursday, begun in 1997, to be permitted.

With both the mayor's office and FoLT offering relatively entrenched statements today, it's unclear if or when dialogue will continue. Hilber says he's heard Hales will reach out to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods to ask if there's interest in running Last Thursday. He's dubious of that effort.

"Name one thing in the past two years that they've done to manage this event," Hilber says. "This is like turning it over to the worst of the worst. We know that there is nobody else."

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