Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Spring weather is finally beginning to break out in Minnesota — a sure signal for the start of warm-weather, outdoor celebrations. But in 2022 there will be fewer of those events in St. Paul because some have been forced to regroup, downsize or cancel altogether this year.

Many gatherings had to skip the summer of 2020 and even of 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns. But this year, in St. Paul at least, some organizers say the reason they won't hold events is the rising cost of police security and city requirements.

To help some of the celebrations survive, it's important for the city and the Police Department to make them more affordable. In addition to being fun and providing reasons to celebrate, some of these traditions have deep historical, cultural and neighborhood roots. Many of them invigorate the city's economy when vendors and small businesses are able to sell food, drinks and merchandise.

The Ramsey County Fair Parade, to take one example, is moving to Maplewood because planners said St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) security costs were estimated at nearly $15,000 this year, triple the $5,000 tab in 2019. "The costs would be astronomical," said Lisa Theis of the White Bear Avenue Business Association, which organizes the parade.

Other festivals that have canceled because of rising security and other costs include Cinco de Mayo on the West Side, Highland Fest, Rice Street Parade, St. Patrick's Day LuckyPalooza block party and Little Mekong Night Market.

SPPD officials acknowledge costs have gone up due to changing policies. They say safety standards have changed in recent years. Before 2020 they often provided some free service; budget shortages and officer shortages have made that more difficult. Now all shifts staffing festivals and parades are considered overtime work and stricter rules have been implemented for off-duty cops to ensure a clear chain of command at events.

City Council President Amy Brendmoen is wisely convening an event security work group to ensure that security costs and other city requirements are consistent and not extinguishing community and neighborhood celebrations. She told an editorial writer that the council will work with sponsoring groups, the administration, the SPPD, public works and others to determine the costs and how to help.

"We want to balance the need for safety and security with the need for community events that are accessible and fun," she said. "We don't want to lose great events because of security costs, but we should have a nice, level playing field so that groups of all sizes participate."

Among the questions they plan to consider are: How many police officers are needed for various sized events? Can more community members be involved in security? Should the city hire a liaison to work with groups to figure out the best ways to create safe events with lower security costs? And does the city need to create some kind of fund — perhaps through community or economic development — to help with festival and parade costs?

"If our tourism efforts like Visit St. Paul are using photos of community events to show off our city — implying the economic benefits — then should we be making more contributions to make the events happen?" Brendmoen asked.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter's spokesperson said the mayor is very concerned about the impact that security charges have had on events St. Paul residents look forward to, and that he'll help work to identify opportunities to safely address these costs.

"These last two years have shown that our ability to gather and celebrate together is vital," Carter said in a statement. "We can and will work together to ensure that dynamic events like the Night Market can thrive and grow in Saint Paul."

We hope so. The city should spare no reasonable effort to help keep the city's neighborhood, cultural and legacy celebrations going. Summer and fall in St. Paul just won't be the same without them.