BISMARCK – The Grinch showed up at Thursday’s Bismarck Board of Aldermen meeting when two community leaders verbally clashed over a calendar date both wanted for their respective Christmas events.
Bismarck Chamber of Commerce President Mel Jordan and Depot Committee Chairperson Liz Bennett butted heads over the date of Dec. 7 — the night he had planned the chamber’s Christmas in the Park program and she had wanted for the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at the Depot.
Jordan told the board he had been publicizing the Dec. 7 date in chamber handouts and brochures since March and thought the matter had been settled when he and Bennett had discussed the conflict at the chamber’s Fall Festival event on Oct. 5.
“She told me she would change the date of the Christmas tree lighting to the following week,” said Jordan. “Then she went over to city hall to get on the agenda for tonight’s meeting to put the Dec. 7 date on the calendar for the Christmas tree lighting.”
Bennett countered that, while she had initially planned to change the date of her event, she changed her mind when she realized that Jordan hadn’t officially confirmed the night of Dec. 7 with the city.
“The Christmas tree lighting has traditionally been set on the first Saturday of the month in December,” said Bennett.
Jordan disagreed, saying he had been the one who started the Christmas tree lighting and the event had no hold on that date. He reiterated that he had openly publicized Dec. 7 for Christmas in the Park for the past seven months.
Board member Carol Baker suggested both groups hold their event on the same night — giving people the choice of attending either one or both of the Christmas programs.
Alderman Aaron Radford said he felt both programs were good and that he hated to see the two in competition with each other.
Bennett said she didn’t think it best that both events be held on the same night because of one very important fact.
“You can’t have two Santas,” she explained.
At this point, a person in the gallery began making negative comments toward Bennett. Mayor Dennis Mayberry called the man down, warning that further outbursts could result in his removal from the meeting.
The man spoke up again and the mayor had him escorted out by a Bismarck Police officer.
Emotions began running so high that Mayberry exclaimed, “I started the Christmas tree lighting on Williams Street to bring some energy to the city during the holidays. It’s supposed to celebrate a time of peace and love, but there’s no peace or love or energy. As far as I’m concerned, you can shut ‘em both down.”
When Jordan responded that the mayor couldn’t cancel Christmas in the Park because it was a chamber event, Mayberry became incensed.
“Mel, I’ve known you for years and I’ve never disrespected you and I don’t want you to disrespect me,” Mayberry said. “Don’t disrespect me.”
Jordan replied that he didn’t mean any disrespect to the mayor.
After things settled down, Jordan said he would change the date of Christmas in the Park to the following Saturday — Dec. 14.
Several board members and Bennett said that, because Jordan had already rented a carriage ride for the earlier date, it would be easier to move the date of the Christmas tree lighting to the 14th and he could keep his event on the earlier date of Dec. 7.
“I just want to ask that next year and from now on that the first Saturday in December be reserved for the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Depot,” said Bennett.
The board and Jordan agreed to Bennett’s request.
In other action by the board, an ordinance was approved setting a tax levy of .4890 per $100 assessed valuation on all real estate property for general municipal purposes; and .1500 per $100 valuation on all real estate property for public health purposes for the year 2013.
Oct. 18 – 20 has been set for the city’s Fall Cleanup and Oct. 31 for the Annual Halloween Parade.
The board requested an ordinance be prepared to change Walnut Street to a one-way street in front of the post office, with diagonal parking installed across the street.