A veteran organizer of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade is promising to meet with downtown merchants who complained to the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday the annual festivities are disrupting their businesses.
Steve Schlegel, owner with Schlegel Bicycles, 900 N Broadway, pleaded with the Oklahoma City Council to reconsider next week's parade route to prevent hardships for the growing number of retailers along Automobile Alley.
“Based on our past years' experience, the parade is very detrimental to our businesses,” Schlegel said. “There has been a lack of communications from this specific event.”
The Oklahoma City Council unanimously approved the parade application despite the objections.
Schlegel said he and other merchants embrace the holiday celebrations honoring the civil rights legend but added the street closings, and the hours the streets are shut down, are challenging.
“It will cause me a $5,000 to $10,000 loss of revenue,” Schlegel said. “We've had issue of crowd control at our stores. Broadway Wine Merchants has had incidents of being verbally harassed.”
Roosevelt Milton, a longtime civil rights organizer, said he's eager to improve communications with area merchants and agreed discussions shouldn't be attempted just a few weeks before the 2014 parade.
“We hope to move it next year so it won't cause as many problems for the merchants as it does now,” Milton said. “We're going to meet with them, avail ourselves to them earlier so they can know what's going on. And we'll have more communication than just in the last month.”
The assurance follows reports given to the city council that they were unable to get such changes in advance of the 2013 parade, which will be held on Monday.
Police Chief Bill Citty and city permit staff informed the council they unsuccessfully attempted to draw up alternate routes with parade organizers over the past few months.
“We looked at a variety of routes through the downtown area trying not to displace the parade significantly,” he said. “We did come up with some alternatives. We met with organizers of the parade on several occasions. Those recommendations were what they felt were not acceptable.”
Citty told the council “historical” considerations were cited by parade organizers in declining to change the route.
Skip Kelly, the only black member of the city council, said he shared concerns about the parade's operation, adding a few years ago a child was almost killed trying to catch candy being thrown by drivers of parade vehicles.