Del. Pat McDonough issued the following response to Bel Air Independence Day Parade Chairman Michael Blum following Blum’s own rebuttal this morning:
1) OBEY THE RULES – Mr. Blum shouts, “Rules are rules.” It reminds me of the TV Show “Hogan’s Heroes” when Colonel Klink used to shout out, “These are the rules, Hogan.” The problem is, Mr. Blum, we have one big rule in the U.S.A. It’s called the Constitution. The federal courts have ruled that any regulation, contract, or rule related to an event that is subsidized by public funds shall be declared null and void if it violates the constitutional right of freedom of speech. Yanking signs from children in front of other children, telling parade watchers to put away their “I Love Ehrlich” signs, banning children from receiving candy or other goodies along the parade route, banning groups who advocate causes such as supporting the Constitution, and generally cracking down on freedom of expression is an insult to the theme of the parade, “Patriotism, Then and Now.”
2) This is supposed to be a privately sponsored event, but public taxpayers’ money makes it possible. The town of Bel Air alone contributes $13,400 in taxpayers’ funds. Harford County Government and the Sheriff’s Office also contribute large sums of taxpayers’ money and we are researching those numbers now. Clearly, taxpayers are contributing to the operation and existence of this parade. Therefore, Constitutional rights supersede any narrow rules.
3) The position of Mr. Blum and the parade leadership is in the extreme compared to other similar parades around the state. Actually, even parades in Harford County locally allow candidates, slogans, issue groups, and candy for children. The Kingsville parade proudly announced from the reviewing stand by the parade officials the sentiments that were on the signs including Delegate Impallaria’s “Support the Constitution” expression. All of the legendary great July 4th parades, like Dundalk and Catonsville, promote freedom of expression. Mr. Blum and his rules are out of step and marching to a different tune.
4) In our great Constitutional republic, politics and elections are the lifeblood of our system. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were all politicians more accurately, elected officials. Currently, during these difficult and challenging times, it is more important now than ever for citizens to see their public officials in person. I believe that not only incumbents, but challengers should have the same opportunity. Anyone who views politics or involvement in public service with disdain needs to rethink what our democracy is all about. It is just as important for the people to connect with their representatives as it is to view a truck that has a sign promoting “the best tree service in town.” People who would rather see a sanitized parade without the lively involvement of issues, ideas, or elected representatives can travel to Cuba or China to fulfill their wishes. I do agree that the elected officials should be more strategically placed in the parade and signs should be reasonable and prudent. Politics, public service, campaigns, elections, issues, slogans, Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and especially free speech are all symbolized by parades on America’s birthday.
5) Chairman Blum misled folks in his response by claiming that I greeted his request to remove my signs with obscene disrespect. Mr. Blum did not issue a request – he shouted a demand. My response was, “The Constitution and free speech are more important than your rule.” The only way this issue will be resolved is through legislation, judicial review, or a spirit of compromise.
Delegate Pat McDonough