Tosa officials agree safety, not politics, should be focus in managing large events

July 18, 2012

A rally in support of Gov. Scott Walker held at Hart Park early this year has since caused a lot of debate within the city about how it was handled.

More than six months after it was held, the discussion continues. However, the city should be focusing its concern on communication and safety, not politics, Wauwatosa officials said Tuesday.

"It's not about free speech," Police Chief Barry Weber said. "I keep a copy of the Constitution on my desk. I don't care who it gets rented to, my only issue is overtime costs."

The Police Department incurred several thousand dollars in expenses to have officers on hand. That's money that was not required to be reimbursed by event organizers.

Since then the Common Council has changed it permit ordinance so the police can review special events and determine what kind of police presence will be needed and what that would cost. Applicants would be charged up front for the police service, as has been the case for parades and walk/runs that have occurred on city streets.

Weber said he never turned down a permit request. Even if he did, the applicant has the right to appeal to the council, he added.

Even Hempfest, which turned out to be a blues concert, could have raised eyebrows but was permitted and resulted in no problems, the chief said.

"We just want to have our expenses covered," Weber said.

The chief asked the Parks Board on Tuesday for better communication about events planned at the Rotary Performance Pavilion, which is managed by Tosa Tonight, and the Muellner Building, which is handled by the Parks and Forestry staff.

On Saturday night, dispatchers got a call about 50 people involved in a fight during a gathering of 200 at the Muellner Building. It turned out to be a minor incident, but some prior notification of a high-turnout event would help with planning for staffing certain shifts, Weber said.

Mayor Kathy Ehley said she has contacted Tosa Tonight and asked them to let key department heads - including police, public works and fire - know when the pavilion will be in use.

A recent charity Koncert for Kaylen that draw a couple of thousand people had been news to the fire chief when Ehley talked to him just before the event. Due to the extreme temperature, he sent a truck to tend to people with heat-related illnesses.

"The real issue here is not politics, it's communication so everyone knows this is a public safety issue and then we can determine the step to take," Ehley said.

The Parks Board said it, too, would like to have be made more aware of the rentals Tosa Tonight is booking. The board plans to ask representatives of the group to come before board members more often.

Board members also had questions they would like to address at future meetings, such as what should be the capacity of an event at the pavilion.


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