The Live on the Square concert, run by Boston.com's internet radio station, is free and will include five local bands and a beer garden.
"We're not a rubber stamp"
Part of the problem for some members of the Board was that the event permit was brought before the Board of Aldermen without much notice.
"We are not a rubber stamp here," said Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, who ultimately supported the concert's event license.
"We're voting on something on Oct. 10 that's happening on Oct. 13," said Ward 5 Alderman Courtney O'Keefe.
"The carriage was put in front of the horse. If I were chairman of that committee, I would be very upset," said Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente.
Concern about public safety, road closures
The chairman of the committee in question, the Licenses and Permits Committee, is Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan, who objected to the fact RadioBDC advertised the concert before the Board of Aldermen granted permission for it to take place.
Sullivan also had concerns about public safety, the concert's beer garden, the cost to the city of running the event, the concert's sponsor—Budweiser—and the "threat to the quality of life in Union Square" that could be caused by a potentially noisy all-day outdoor concert that required road closures.
The concert will require the same road closures as the Fluff Festival.
Gewirtz pointed out that the HONK! Festival parade was also scheduled for Oct. 13, causing more road closures in Davis Square.
Arts events critical to Somerville, says mayor
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, whose administration worked closely with concert organizers, spoke to the Board of Aldermen about the importance of cultural and artistic events in promoting Somerville's brand.
"Arts and culture in Somerville, that's our DNA, that's who we are," he said.
"Ten years ago, Union Square wasn't even on the map," the mayor said, adding later, "These social events are critical." He mentioned ArtBeat, Fluff Fest and HONK! as events that promote Somerville.
The concert would cost the city about $12,000, the mayor said, most of it money spent by the Department of Public Works for cleanup. RadioBDC agreed to pay for police details, and the whole cost of the concert is over $100,000 he said.
The debate took a lengthy digression while the Board of Aldermen decided whether or not to let Ken Kelly, owner of The Independent, a restaurant, make a short statement in favor of the concert on behalf of business owners in Union Square.
The digression stemmed from some parliamentary maneuvering, a rare occurrence for Somerville's legislative body. When Ward 7 Alderman Robert Trane sponsored Kelly to speak—only members of the Board of Aldermen can speak at meetings unless non-members are sponsored—Sullivan objected. That meant two thirds of the Board needed to vote in favor of Kelly speaking. Sullivan and Gewirtz voted in opposition, but the other aldermen voted to let Kelly speak. He said the concert would benefit local businesses.
The aldermen also heard from Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello, who said he felt confident in the "incident action plan" the police department created for the event. The department is expecting between 3,000 and 5,000 people to attend the concert, but it planned for 6,000 Pasquarello said.
Support for the concert
Ward 3 Alderman Thomas Taylor, who represents much of Union Square, didn't think the RadioBDC event was like Fluff Fest and other city events. "Rock concerts have a different [connotation] of attracting a different element," he said.
What's more, not giving the aldermen ample time to scrutinize the concert was "a slap on the face of this Board," he said.
Taylor ultimately supported the concert, though. "Let's try it. If you don't try something, how are you going to know," he said.
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston, who represents the southern part of Union Square, also supported the event. "It's not an unusual occurrence to have bands in Union Square," she said.
"Are we expecting Woodstock?"
Some aldermen indicated the concert wouldn't be a significant burden on the city.
"Are we expecting Woodstock?" Alderman At-Large Bruce Desmond asked, facetiously.
In Ward 7, Tufts University has "national acts, big acts" play on campus every spring, and everything goes smoothly, said Trane.
Said Connolly, "There was a little band called U2 that showed up in Davis Square one day," and it went well. U2 played at the Somerville Theatre in 2009.
"We should try it. Absolutely we should try it," he said about the concert.
In the end, nine aldermen voted to grant the concert an event permit, and two—Sullivan and Alderman At-Large William White—voted not to.
Oh, right, HONK! needs a permit, too
Later in the meeting, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to grant an event permit to the HONK! Festival, which needed permission for outdoor events on Oct. 12 and 13.