The concept of having an event virtually without rules scares the City. Charlie Hales is now the third Mayor doing his best to tame the event. In working with Sam Adams we found two areas of agreement that were implemented immediately. We agreed to close the event at 10 PM which was hours before it had previously closed. We also agreed on a zero tolerance on open containers. Neither was especially easy to implement but both were. By the time Sam got involved we had provided porta potties and trash removal for years and already figured out a way to close off the street to car traffic- maybe not quite by the rules but it worked.
At that point we wanted Sam to back off and call it good but he viewed those agreements as a mere beginning and spent the rest of his tenure trying to gain concession after concession. To us the plan was not an opening position but the structure we wanted for years to come. We've been fighting City Hall since. A short list of “demands” from the City we rejected was corporate sponsorship, charging the art vendors, screening the art vendors, registering the vendors, closing the event earlier and the list goes on. I used the frog in boiling water analogy often enough to where people started rolling their eyes each time I used it. I still think it's an appropriate analogy. For years we tried to create a plan that the City would sign off on once and for all to where they would stop asking for further concessions but we were never able to get them to agree to such a plan. They would agree to a one month plan but we'd always be back fighting next month when they'd want to modify what we had agreed to only a few weeks earlier.
Once again the City is trying to wrestle control away from the neighborhood group and have their cronies take the event over. There is a meeting scheduled by the Mayor for Monday July 1 where the event adversaries have been invited and presumably will be offered to run the event. FoLT is invited but more as an afterthought then as the group that is recognized as the official organizers. The key players invited are representatives from ONI and NECN. Those two organizations have have all along been the strongest adversaries to Last Thursday and the biggest proponents of “neutering” the event. Hopefully Charlie is somewhat naive thinking we'll just lay down and play dead. I keep telling City Hall that 1,000's of us will fight for this event. We're about to see if I've told the truth.
Blabby- It was never the intention to make Last Thursday a venue for "real" vendors. We welcomed artists selling their art, street performers and buskers. The "real" vendors, especially the ones selling commercial goods, never did all that well financially during LT, other then food vendors. Many of them would love it if they were allowed to reserve a space, even if it cost some money. That would drive the more marginal vendors away and leave more money for the commercial vendors. Most artist vendors come specifically cause it's free. Last Thursday was always meant as a cool place for art and artists, not a place for consumerism.
Last Thursday may not be everyone's cup of java, but the 10-15,000 people that show up each month sure seem to be having a good time. Over the years, the volunteer event organizers have been adamant that it remain organic and horizontal. All along, we have insisted that vendors not be charged and that there will be zero corporate sponsorship. Plenty of individuals and businesses have happily contributed time and money toward an infrastructure that has been strong for years. The port -a-potties have been where they need to be for 7 to 8 years and the trash has been picked up by 9 am Friday morning for at least the last 4 years. Having a good infrastructure has allowed the event to appear completely unorganized, which always was the intention.
A few neighbors don't like Last Thursday; however, a poll a few years back showed that the vast majority do--with many citing the event as the specific reason they selected Alberta as their home. Blabby, whom I know well, bought a house four doors from Alberta, right by a noisy bar. If peace and quiet was a goal, that might not have been the ideal location. Many of the complaining neighbors moved here after Last Thursday started growing larger. To me that is a bit like buying a house in the flight path and then whining that the planes are too loud.
That Last Thursday continues into the wee hours is just plain inaccurate. By 11 pm, or shortly thereafter, the street is empty. Many of the LT participants go to local bars and taverns, which are packed into the night. If they're loud, that does not imply that Last Thursday continues until the bars close. I'd love to see every single bar on the street packed seven nights a week. Drunks make noise. For that reason, I won't be buying a house next to a bar.
Much of the politics of Last Thursday has taken place behind closed--and sometimes not so closed--doors. Most of it is never publicized. The dialogue the Mercury article provided is typical of the tone that has been ongoing since at least 2007. Tempers have flared on many occasions and, from what I can tell, will continue to do so. There have been at least three hostile takeover attempts, but here we are: The vendors are not being charged and no corporate sponsors so far.
FoLT is made up of a great group of people who are doing their best to make this work for everybody. Both Blabby and I myself prefer that I remain at the sidelines.
The need to fund Last Thursday is always brought up as a reason why the event needs to be changed. Money is not now, and never has been, the real issue, just a red herring the City uses as an excuse to grab control of the event. For over a decade we, the community, funded the event and are happy to continue to do so. The City rents barricades for $3500/month, but the same amount of money, or less, could have bought them outright--another thing the community supporters always had the funds to do. I heard FoLT is building them this season and, if so, good for them.
Prior to the City forcing their way in, we covered porta potties and trash pickup for years. That being said, since this power play started 4 to 5 years ago the City has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and may continue to do so, from the look of things. They can't get things done cheaply like we can. Bringing in corporate sponsors and making the vendors pay will change the flavor of Last Thursday and within a year or two it will be just another boring fair like most every other one out there. We are only talking about a lousy five days each year. Why can't they just let us be?
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