Parade amendments tabled, raise freedom of speech concerns

Protesters follow Betsy DeVos’ entourage as it moves to the side door of Woods Learning Center on September 12, 2017, in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The City of Casper’s parade ordinance could see some amendments.

But those will not happen immediately after Councilman Ken Bates offered a motion to table the vote indefinitely. Council voted to pass this motion and will bring the issue back up after further discussion.

One of the major changes would clarify that the Special Events Planning Guide and Policy applies to those seeking parade permits. Council may also modify the guide via resolution later in their Tuesday, Aug. 6 meeting.

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Casper citizen Paul Paad said that the way Council is approaching the changes are inappropriate. That is because the Special Events Planning Guide is passed by resolution whereas laws need to be set by ordinance, he said.

By making reference to the Special Events Planning Guide as a stipulation in the ordinance, Council would give itself a means to change aspects of the law by resolution.

Resolutions can be passed on only one vote whereas ordinance changes require three separate readings and votes.

Councilman Mike Huber said he did not think it was an issue if the resolution was “fleshing out” an ordinance.

Councilman Steve Cathey said that Paad’s concerns may be legitimate since future councils could change the special events planning guide by resolution.

Others also spoke in opposition to the changes.

“I don’t understand why council believes or whoever believes parades should fall under the event guide,” citizen Pat Sweeney said. “I have a real problem with the language. The way I read, if the police chief disagrees with the parade, he can boot it.”

He said that there was no need for the changes.

“I think you are over-complicating things,” Sweeney said. “I believe some of this should be good, community policing. My belief is we’ve gone too far. I don’t believe it has any place.”

Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson asked whether the permit requirements could apply to protests. City Attorney John Henley said he thought they could.

Johnson and Casper Mayor Charlie Powell said they thought there was concern that the changes to the ordinance could potentially be used as an excuse to limit free speech.

That is because the definition of parade includes any march or procession on public property.

“There certainly have been places where a permit has been used as an excuse to squelch public speech,” Powell said.

Johnson pointed out this happened to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilman Steve Freel offered an amendment to the proposal that would require people denied a permit receive notification the same day their application was denied. This amendment passed.

The proposed changes grew out of questions about whether the city could rely on the planning guide to require parade organizers to obtain insurance.

During the July 9 work session, Council decided to reimburse the cost of insurance that organizers of a May motorcycle parade were asked to purchase.

City Attorney John Henley suggested some possible amendments to Casper’s parade ordinance to avoid a lack of clarity moving forward.

One such change would be to add into the ordinance references to the City’s Special Events Planning Guide.

He said that his proposals would help clarify some possible inconsistencies in rules pertaining to parades.

Henley’s proposed amendments would address some of the possible inconsistencies which he has outlined for the Council in a memo. He told the Council that he didn’t think there was anything inappropriate about how the motorcycle parade was regulated.

While another place in the ordinance would still state that parade permit fees may not be collected, Henley proposes amending it to include the following language: “fees and charges to help pay for staff time and overtime and the requirements for insurance, as set forth in Casper’s Special Events Planning Guide and Policy shall be collected and obtained as required therein.”

Another pending change to the ordinance would make it so that the Special Events Planning Guide would establish the timeline for which parade permit applications need to be filed.

Henley also proposes amending the appeals process in the ordinance. His suggestion would allow people to file appeals if they are denied a parade permit within three days or receiving notification of the denial.

The City Council would then consider the appeal at their next regular work session or meeting.

There are other language changes included in Henley’s proposal. He said that the changes would help harmonize the ordinance with the Special Events Guide policy.

To review all of the proposed amendments, access the Council’s Tuesday meeting packet.