Editor: Last week’s July 4th parade in Leesburg was very good and despite the oppressive heat, there seemed to be a very nice turnout.
The Town of Leesburg set up a cute trailer toward the front of the parade with a young man dressed as Uncle Sam and woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty. But there were no councilmembers present. In past years, the Mayor Umstattd and the council would walk in the front wearing no political stickers or anything. This showed camaraderie and helped make the parade more positive.
But this year right behind this official town float was Kelly Burk sitting like the Queen Bee in a convertible, adorned with campaign signs and volunteers handing out her stickers and pencils. The other candidates for the council, including incumbent councilmembers, were placed toward the back of the parade, which I feel is unequal treatment of candidates.
As I arrived to join the Republican float, I was warned by a Republican official not to engage with the “man in the pink Planned Parenthood shirt,” because he was harassing Congresswoman Comstock and her supporters. Then, during the parade, a few folks watching were giving us the thumbs down and shouting anti-Comstock stuff. And, I am sure a number of people did the same to the Democrats and Democratic candidates, which is equally wrong.
I wonder if the Town of Leesburg needs to start setting some guidelines on the participation of political floats and presentations in all these parades. Nobody likes infringing on free speech, but town taxes help run these parades and a number of governmental organizations (i.e. the public schools) have restrictions on politics.
For one, no candidate or elected official should be allowed to be in the official town contingency if they wear or bring any political signs. All the political floats should be together (not first come, first in line) and limited only to candidates on the ballot in that year’s election. Ms. Burk, aided and abetted by the town staff, got front-row treatment for the 2017 parade, even though she was not on the ballot last year. The current “open door” policy of the town also means hate groups might start showing up, which will only anger parade watchers even more.
Given how politics enrages people today, we don’t need people shouting at each other especially in front of children, on what should be a day of enjoyment.
It also would help the spirit if there were marching bands as there were in previous years, or at least, some recorded music blaring. Music is uplifting and puts people in a good mood. I hope the town and the political participants will do better for the Kiwanis Halloween Parade in October and the Town Council will consider some new guidelines.
Ken Reid, Leesburg
[Editor’s Note: The writer is a former member of the Leesburg Town Council and former Leesburg District supervisor.]