Keeping the parades marching

In a city that loves a parade but has serious fiscal problems, figuring out how to pay for annual celebrations and ethnic festivals hasn’t been easy.

Fortunately, Mayor Nutter and City Council made progress this week. They needed to find a way for the parades to march on without costing taxpayers thousands of dollars or risking the cancellation of traditional events.

The annual Dad Vail Regatta nearly left the Schuylkill for Rumson, N.J., and last year’s Columbus Day parade was called off, underscoring the need for a better system and uniform policies.

Parade organizers have been in an uproar ever since the city said last year that it could no longer afford to pick up the annual parade tab of about $3 million.

Council has the right idea with a move to cut costs for the organizers of the six main ethnic parades — German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Polish, and Puerto Rican. The plan involves shorter routes and earlier starting times to avoid costly police shift changes.

That makes sense; it shouldn’t take all day to have a parade.

One wonders why another good idea wasn’t implemented long ago — figuring out the actual cost to the city and billing each parade sponsor accordingly. Last year, parades were charged for police officers who were already on duty.

To avoid charges of favoritism, the same cost-sharing options should be extended to the organizers of the smaller parades and festivals that celebrate the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Even with cost-cutting, parade organizers need to tighten their belts, too, and find more creative ways to put on parades and cultural events. They also need to recruit more private sponsors and increase support from followers.

Council also suggested the city do an economic-impact study to see whether the parades’ costs are exceeded by the economic activity they create. That may be worthwhile, but a study isn’t needed to implement cost-saving ideas that can keep the parades alive.