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Amy Valentine

City of Plattsburgh councilors rejected a plan to change a popular Halloween event, saying it is fine just the way it is.

"This is a great event, and I just want to leave it alone," Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6) said Thursday night.

Councilors were considering changing the Trick or Treat on Safety Street event, which has been held by the city the past seven years.

Crete Memorial Civic Center is transformed into a quasi-neighborhood, with booths staffed by local businesses that give out candy to visiting children and their families.

This year, about 2,500 people attended the event as lines stretched outside the Crete down to the Dog Park near the Crete entrance.

COMPROMISE OFFERED

Councilor Amy Valentine (D-Ward 5), who is leaving the council at the end of the year, said two weeks ago that she did not think the city should be in the business of handing out candy when the community and nation are struggling to deal with childhood obesity.

She wanted to ban the event altogether but settled on a compromise that would call for the city to purchase half the amount of candy it normally does and supplement it with healthy snacks or non-food items.

3-2 VOTE

At Thursday night's meeting, councilors voted 3-2 to reject Valentine's compromise, with George Rabideau (R-Ward 3), James Calnon (I-Ward 4) and Jackson voting against the plan, and Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) and Valentine supporting it.

Councilor Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 10) was absent.

FAMILY EVENT

Jackson said Halloween was more about kids dressing up, and the candy was a minor part of it. He said that most of the candy is forgotten about a few days after Halloween.

"As for obesity, that's for the parents to decide, not us," he said.

"This event sees mostly kids 2 to 8 years old. This is a nice family-oriented event."

COUNCIL CHANGE

Rabideau said any issues that will change the way the city does business should be voted on by the council that takes office on Jan. 1, 2011.

Valentine and Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.

"The new council should be voting anything that changes past practices," Rabideau said.

He also said the city should be concentrating on more important issues, mentioning it has spent time in recent years on impeaching former President George W. Bush, fluoride in the water supply, raising chickens within the city and "now candy."

"We need to concentrate on running the city and the issues the taxpayers want us to," Rabideau said.

RECREATION DECISION

Calnon said Recreation Director Steve Peters does a good job of operating city programs and that he should decide how to run the Halloween event, not the council.

"I prefer it be left to the discretion of the department head," Calnon said.

"Healthy snacks and things like that should be considered, but I don't want to tie our department head's hands."

'GIVE IT A TRY'

Kelly said the issue has been blown out of proportion, questioning the abundance of local media coverage.

He said issues like this have people running scared of making changes.

"People are so afraid to try something new. This isn't going to hurt anybody. The kids will still be happy, and if it is a disaster, then you can do something else the next year. Just give it a try."

WORE WITCH HAT

Valentine, who donned a witch's hat during the discussion to laughter from the audience, said her compromise was reasonable and easy for the Recreation Department to administer.

"We are leaders of this community, and we have a role, and we have to make decisions that are not always easy.

"We have a responsibility as leaders to do what is responsible, and I don't believe the city should be hosting an event that provides candy to children."

Following the meeting, Valentine, a nine-year member of the council, said she was glad to have initiated a discussion on the issue and that she would continue to offer ideas until she leaves.

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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