Although Council President Jeffrey Turco may have had all the right intentions when he came up with an idea to bring a carnival to Ingleside Park to help raise funds for the Winthrop Parks and Recreation Department, the failure to obtain a permit with proper notice to residents, especially abutters, displays a willful failure to follow any semblance of procedure.
The idea of bringing a carnival to the town may have a lot of merit. What adult doesn’t have fond memories of attending a carnival in his/her childhood and the enjoyment they experienced from the rides and attractions and just being in a fun-filled atmosphere? And the fact that the Parks and Recreation Department would benefit financially from the event lends even more credence to the idea.
But having said that, Council President Turco should have informed his fellow council members and townspeople of his proposal before just going ahead and doing it without telling anybody anything about it. Moreover, the town bylaw seems fairly clear about the need for a permit to be obtained from the Licensing Board, with 30 days notice and a public hearing. Town departments generally are not exempt from the town’s bylaws and in any event, the carnival operator certainly is not exempt. Town employees or volunteers are not running the carnival. The carnival operator is doing so and the by law that specifically addresses carnivals operating in the town clearly is directed at the party who is operating the carnival.
Indeed, we believe that the Town Manager has no authority to sign the contract with a carnival operator who has not obtained the necessary permits. Can anyone imagine the liability that the Town Manager is opening up for the town (and himself) if he were to sign such a contract without the by law having been followed?
Long time residents will recall that through the early 1980s, a carnival at Ingleside Park was an annual event sponsored by the American Legion, but rowdy behavior and vandalism made the event intolerable for residents of the Ingleside Park area. The carnival in Revere, where Council President Turco is from and with which he may be familiar, operates at the Showcase Cinemas, which is surrounded by highways and operates in a completely different environment.
Winthrop residents also will recall that the Parks and Rec. Department sponsored a small circus for a few years in the 1990s as a fundraiser at Ingleside. But in contrast to the present situation, that event was vetted by the selectmen and at a hearing at which residents could express their views. Moreover, the circus was more family friendly, unlike the carnival atmosphere usually engendered by a typical carnival.
To announce that a carnival is coming to town at a public meeting just two days in advance of the event and not even to have a contract signed between the carnival operator and the town manager — well, the residents abutting the site certainly have legitimate reasons to be upset with how the whole situation was handled.
For Councilor Jeanne Maggio to call the whole situation “a disgrace” and another councilor to say that the whole matter could have been handled better demonstrate that this is not one of our new town government’s proudest moments, to say the least.
And while Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers may be right that the Town Council doesn’t have the authority to do anything to prevent the carnival from happening, there has to be a better way to bring such a major event to town without the internal bickering (and Mrs. Maggio was as professional as one could be in this situation) and the bad taste that has been left with residents.
When you see a longtime resident like Peter Gill leave his seat from watching the meeting at home and come to the Joseph Harvey Room to complain about how things are being done, you know that the situation could have been handled in a much better way.