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Car club keeps permit

Amid much talk of communication and cooperation, the Dunkirk Common Council decided to table a motion to rescind a loudspeaker permit for a car club responsible for a controversial June 26 show at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds.

After Unique Car Club leader Juan Rivera and other supporters addressed the council — and after city officials emphasized they have no problem with car clubs having fun, just when they get loud — Councilman-at-Large Paul VanDenVouver proposed to put off a decision on rescinding an Aug. 14 permit for Rivera to have loudspeakers at a Point Gratiot event.

VanDenVouver said he wanted to organize a meeting with Rivera, Mayor Willie Rosas, Police Chief David Ortolano, and Chris Rodriguez, a community activist who spoke Tuesday on Rivera’s behalf, before the council decides on the Point Gratiot permit.

The council decided to put off a decision on the permit by a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Don Williams absent.

Rivera asked when the meeting will be, and VanDenVouver promised to meet as soon as Ortolano, who is on vacation, returns to town later this week.

Earlier, during the public comments portion of the meeting, Rodriguez, Rivera and the council had a lengthy, calm discussion on the matter.

Rodriguez, who runs several community organizations, spoke of “finding solutions rather than banning people from the jump.” He told the council Rivera was not planning any loudspeaker contest at Point Gratiot, which was a big source of anger over the fairgrounds show.

He added that it would be a good idea to have some kind of centralized community calendar so everyone could see what events were taking place in the city, and when. He explained that if such a calendar was in place, Rivera would have moved the date of his event because he would have seen there was a wedding at a nearby church on June 26, as well as Dunkirk High School’s graduation.

“I never saw a flyer (for the event),” said VanDenVouver. “By all means, I want people to have fun, but when the music got so loud that the whole city of Dunkirk heard it … you don’t understand what we went through that day,” referring to a deluge of complaint calls to city officials and police about the loud noise.

“Call me,” VanDenVouver continued, speaking of how he would like such situations to be handled. “Let’s a have a one on one sitdown. That would have worked perfect. I can’t read your mind.”

Rivera stated, as he did in an earlier interview with the OBSERVER, that he was deeply sorry the car show disrupted the wedding. He said if he had known, he would have waited until it was over to do any competitions with loud music or noises.

He said, as Rodriguez did, that the Point Gratiot event in August will not have any car audio events. He also offered to pay the wages for two cops to act as security for the event.

“I do it all out of pocket. It’s me, my wife and the club. There is not a lot of us… we’re not racing down the streets,” Rivera said.

Councilwoman Nancy Nichols (R-Fourth Ward) stated city officials had more than 500 complaint calls about the June car show, and the first one came at 8:04 a.m. the morning of the show.

“We need some kind of mutual ground where it can accommodate the exhibitors and the spectators, so it can be a fun time had by all without aggravation and grief,” she said.

Rivera said the June show was the first time his club sponsored a loudspeaker competition. “If I knew I was going to run into this much trouble and lose everything, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said, adding that “if you guys tell me, ‘You can do (a show) but you can’t do this,’ I’m fine with that.”

Nichols asked Rivera how many cars would show up to the August show, and Rivera guessed about 500. “The Point is not big enough for that type of a venture,” she said, asking Rosas if he agreed. The mayor stated that while past car club shows have had up to 700 cars there without incident, anything much more would be a problem.

“I think today we made progress. I would like to sit down and be part of the solution,” Rosas said later during his mayoral report. He thanked the council for allowing so much time to talk about the issue.

During his own report, Councilman Marty Bamonto (D-Second Ward), speaking to Rivera, Rodriguez and other car club supporters in the crowd, said, “Thank you for stepping up and talking … you all have a passion.”

He added, “We can do better with communication as a Council, as a city government.” After the meeting ended, he sat down next to Rivera to chat with him.

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