Another Labor Day weekend has arrived and just as much as you can count on it being a long-weekend, you can count on the Newport Firefighters to be out on the streets holding their annual ‘Fill The Boot’ fundraiser the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
As is customary, Firefighters will be out collecting donations over the Labor Day Weekend at “Voluntary Toll sites” located at America’s Cup Avenue & Long Wharf, Memorial Boulevard & Bellevue Avenue, and possibly at Touro Street & Bellevue Avenue. The collection started on Friday between 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. and will continue on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and on Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
2016 brings new ‘Fill The Boot’ concerns among residents, following lengthy discussions locally in Newport and in Providence regarding panhandling, traffic issues and safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
The safety concern also comes just 24 hours after, a Firefighter was struck by a vehicle while collecting for ‘Fill the Boot’ campaign in Columbus, Ohio. That campaign has been suspended.
“I cannot believe that the fire department in this city is allowed to stop traffic at a major intersection (Bellevue at Memorial) on Friday night of a holiday weekend to pass the stupid boot around begging for money. As if the traffic here isn’t screwed up enough. If I wanted to put money in your stupid boot, I would go to the fire station,” Jack shared with What’sUpNewp on Friday evening.
What’sUpNewp observed the intersection of America’s Cup Avenue and Long Wharf on Saturday morning and talked to those walking by, during our time there we witnessed many kind folks donated money while stopped at the red light.
Evelyn posted on our Facebook Page that she sees no problem with it – “I don’t see anything wrong with it. They have signs and cones…people just don’t pay attention anymore. FF been doing this for as long as I can remember.”
What raises concern among some residents are the 12 cars we witnessed (within 20 minutes) stop or slow down while the traffic light was green, “I know it’s a good cause, it’s a great cause actually. But, it would be illegal for me to stand in the roadway, collect money or stop traffic like that, why is it any different for the Fire Department? It’s a safety concern for those firefighters and those driving,” Tim shared with us in front of the collection site located at America’s Cup Avenue and Long Wharf.
Newport City Ordinance (12.16.110. – Vendors in public roadways) does state “No person who is within a public roadway may solicit or sell, or distribute any material to an occupant of a public roadway, unless that person is on the surrounding sidewalk, median, island or unpaved shoulder and not on the roadway itself.”
“Can’t be any worse than the beggars with signs slowing traffic at every intersection whilst sipping their venti Starbucks,” Derek shared with us on Facebook.
What’sUpNewp reached out to Newport City Council and Newport’s City Manager on Saturday morning regarding the concern that some residents had raised and whether or not the Fire Departments were approved to hold a “tag day”.
Newport City Council Ordinance (5.80.090. – Tag days) states that “No “tag day,” so called, for street solicitation for a charitable or other purpose shall be held unless the organization conducting the same has obtained a written permit therefor from council.”
Only Councilor Kate Leonard has responded at this time, first telling us she would look into it and then following up that she had spoken with the City Manager and they did have a permit to hold the fundraising drive.
“Why on the busiest weekend of the year would you add even more confusion and traffic congestion to the Newport roadways, I understand it’s a great cause but wouldn’t it be better for the Firefighters to be outside of somewhere like Stop & Shop where they wouldn’t be impeding traffic and putting their life on the line?,” John T. wrote to us (tell us we could use his quote but not full name).
What’sUpNewp watched once cyclist just narrowly miss a Firefighter as he stepped back into the bike lane after collecting a donation from a vehicle.
Part of the Facebook Post shared by Newport Fire Department talked about Safety;
We ask for the safety of the Firefighters, while performing this charity work, that you be aware of their presence. If so inclined please donate to the extent that you can and for those who do not wish to take part when approached please just say no thank you and we will move along. If you should donate please lay the decal you receive on your dash and we will try not to bother you further. Thanks in advance for your assistance with this Charity Drive and hopefully reaching a new record of total monies collected for this worthwhile cause.
While some are concerned, there’s many that share Brian’s thoughts – “Of all the things that cause traffic in Newport – this is what raises concern? Those residents should get over it.”
Since 1954, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) members across the country have shown an unwavering commitment to defeating muscular dystrophy and related life-threatening diseases. Funds are raised primarily through MDA’s signature Fill the Boot campaign, in which member firefighters gather on streets across the country collecting money in their boots from neighbors and passersby. For 60 years strong, our nation’s heroes have raised more than $558 million to save and improve lives of families fighting muscle disease. Dollars collected in boots throughout the decades are translating into game-changing research progress today.