Christmastime controversy: Should cities encourage people to gather as coronavirus cases spike?

Proposed drive-thru event raises questions

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Berries on a branch by @freestocks, via Unsplash

Briana Muñoz, Community News Reporter

This year, traditional holiday festivities and gatherings might have to be placed on Santa’s waiting list.

But that doesn’t mean La Puente residents will have to miss out completely.

At a November council meeting, a proposal for a socially-distanced winter attraction at city hall was approved despite some concerns and misgivings, including the $22,000-plus price tag. Most issues were addressed through amendments to the proposal.

Roxanne Lerma, director of Community Services, proposed her department’s plan: To decorate city hall and create a drive-thru with Christmas lights and musical elements, such as a live band performance.

“There are costs associated with both of these, of course,” Lerma said in the meeting. “The price range that we have before you for enhanced decorations would be between $20,000 and $60,000, and then to tack on a drive-thru debut…it could be at the most $12,000.”

Council Member John Solis and Mayor Charlie Klinakis said they supported the idea and felt it could help relieve some stress for residents feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic.

“I would definitely be in favor of doing a drive-by. I believe that all people want to get out. They want to see things,” Klinakis said. “It’s all families that are driving together. We just have to make sure that whatever we do, we do it safely.”

Council Member Valerie Munoz and Major Pro Tem Violeta Lewis voiced hesitations about the proposal because they worried it could interfere with potential lockdown requirements. They said the uncertainty may not be worth the financial risk.

Lewis said live entertainment could lead people to congregate near it.

“I’m not sure of investing money for a drive-thru thing. It may be canceled. We need to keep in mind that things are very tentative right now, especially because we have an increase in COVID infections and hospitalizations,” Lewis said. “If a lockdown happens, all the planning and finances that go into it…that’s going to be exhausted without any ability to conduct the event.”

In approving the proposal, the council removed the live entertainment idea and added language strictly enforcing folks to stay in their cars.