‘Stockton is Magnificent’ Event Hit By City Red Tape

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The community organizers of a festival that celebrates their city say permits and insurance requirements are jeopardizing the event.

Organizer Denise Jefferson has a laundry list of obstacles placed in front of them.

The event was moved from the Miracle Mile on Pacific Avenue to Victory Park because the city charged so much for the street closure. One day business licenses were required of 152 vendors, most of them non-profit groups. And insurance requirements are placed on volunteer entertainers.

"That's just ridiculous," Jefferson said.

She also complained about sanitation stations and insurance required because a booth wanted to display a caged chicken. And food trucks that already had inspections and licenses were required to set up two hours earlier and undergo another inspection. Jefferson said half the trucks dropped out of the event.

But city officials say part of the frustration was because there were last minute changes to this year's event that required new guidelines to ensure the safety of participants, something Jefferson denies.

"The only changes we made were dropping things because it was too hard to comply with city demands," said Jefferson.

City spokesperson Connie Cochrane said all even organizers are treated the same and that insurance protects organizers and participants as well as the city.

"Insurance is one of those things that no one likes until they need it and then they're happy they have it," said Cochrane.

She said food trucks placed in a concentrated area are treated differently than when they are alone on the street. She said requiring early set up allows organizers to change the footprint of the area before people get in the way should a truck not meet safety standards.

Wes Rhea, an event supporter and CEO of Visit Stockton said it's hard for small event promoters who may be underfunded to comply with all the rules. But he also said other event organizers have complained about city red tape.

"I definitely think there could be definitely improvements made. We hear a lot of feedback about the challenge of working through the city process," said Rhea.

He said business groups may use the recent problems to examine city procedures.

The city says it will attend a meeting by organizers who are considering whether to continue the event for a fifth year. Ironically it was organized to counter a Forbes Magazine article that ranked Stockton as the among the most miserable cities to live in.