With 19 days and counting til Jan. 1, it is still unclear what the Mummers Parade will look like.
Will the event be shortened from the traditional eight or so hours? Will the parade route be redrawn to steer clear of City Hall and, in fact, most of Center City?
A meeting meant to settle those and other questions was scheduled to occur yesterday afternoon between city officials and the Mummers Association - but it was canceled in the morning by the Mummers.
At issue is the amount of money the city is providing to cover costs for police, sanitation and other services.
Mayor Nutter in early November announced the city would eliminate its $355,000 annual subsidy for prize money - and provide no money at all for services for any parade as of Jan. 1.
That funding cut, in addition to closing libraries, swimming pools and more, was one of several steps Nutter took in response to Philadelphia's worsening budget woes.
The move, said the Mummers, has left them in a lurch: With police and other services for the parade totaling about $760,000 last year, they say there's no way to make up that shortfall in so little time.
After pleading their case to city officials, Nutter reconsidered and informed the Mummers Association on Monday that the city was willing to incur up to $300,000 worth of services.
"That was, from our perspective, tremendous news, given that no other parade has been given this consideration in light of the budget challenges we are facing," Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said.
The Mummers didn't see it that way.
"We're sensitive to the fact that libraries and pools are closing, but the Mummers is a different situation because it brings more money in than it costs," said George Badey, publicity director for the Mummers Association.
But unless the Mummers can identify additional dollars, Badey said, the city has suggested it find a way to live with the $300,000 cap - even if that means ending the parade at 12th Street and Washington Avenue, instead of continuing onto Broad Street and north to City Hall.
"The city is not mandating what the parade can look like," Oliver said. "But if Mr. Badey thinks a scaled-back parade doesn't make sense, then he doesn't fully understand the magnitude of the city's financial crisis."
In response, Badey said the city would actually lose money by not allowing the parade to go on as usual. He referenced an economic-impact study, commissioned a few weeks ago by the association, that found the Mummers generate far more revenue - think hotels and restaurants - than the city contributes.
"The Mummers absolutely want to march their normal parade route," Badey said. "Not permitting the Mummers to march in Center City would wind up costing the city."
Oliver said the city has prepared a breakdown of police, sanitation and other city-services costs, at Badey's request.
City officials expected to review that list with Badey yesterday. But Badey, saying the city refused to let him see the list first, canceled the meeting.
While the city wants the Mummers to sign a contract regarding parade costs, Badey said: "What happens if we sit down at the table and they dump some big giant thing on us? We want the costs in advance."