The dissatisfaction among some members of the Christopher Street West leadership with CSW’s relationship with the City of West Hollywood and the local business community has simmered quietly for some time. It finally reached a near boiling point recently when board members and others involved in CSW management spoke privately to WEHOville about the issue, raising the prospect that CSW would move its annual LA Pride march and festival from West Hollywood to downtown Los Angeles.
The response? CSW President Rodney Scott proclaimed everything was hunky dory. West Hollywood City Council members John D’Amico and John Duran, whose criticism of CSW and LA Pride in January prompted their appointment to a subcommittee to address their concerns, declined to comment on what progress the subcommittee had made. No doubt that is because, seven months later, the subcommittee has never met.
While those involved in staging LA Pride and members of City Council, which allocates substantial local resources to the event each year, dove for cover and obfuscated, members of the LGBT community and their friends, for whom the Pride parade and festival are intended, jumped at an opportunity for public discussion.
Commenters on WEHOville.com have complained about the $20 cost of attending the festival and about being badgered by merchants inside eager to sell everything from tacos to porn videos to credit cards. They have noted CSW’s inability to land the sort of major figures as grand marshals who lead Pride parades in San Diego and New York City. They have noted that the event focuses less on the political and social issues that LBGT people still confront than on partying. And they have complained that Pride isn’t especially welcoming to older LGBT folks or to young hipsters more likely to live in Silver Lake, Los Feliz or downtown Los Angeles than in upscale WeHo.
Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, it’s time for CSW and the West Hollywood City Council to publicly engage one another and the LGBT community in a discussion of what can be done to make LA Pride the best it can be. That conversation is essential to ensure that Pride remains in West Hollywood — which, given our concentration of LGBT people and our reputation for acceptance makes us the perfect location.
The City Council can start by actually scheduling public meetings of the subcommittee it supposedly formed in January. CSW’s Rodney Scott, dodging the question of whether the subcommittee has met, says CSW is always talking with individual council members. But such secret talks among the powers-that-be have done nothing to solve Pride’s problems and are contrary to the sort of openness one would expect of an organization that celebrates gay liberation.
For its part, CSW needs greater transparency and communication with those whose liberties it was formed to celebrate. Its annual claim that the Pride event attracts 400,000 attendees has no credibility. Pride festival revenue figures filed with the IRS show that ticket sales have been in steady decline for a number of years. CSW’s IRS filings, required of non-profit organizations, are murky at best, leaving it unclear who it contracts with for Pride services and what it pays those contractors, including Scott. CSW doesn’t release recent IRS filings, which means that the latest available for public inspection are two years old.
Let’s hope that by 2014, when LA Pride celebrates the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, CSW and the West Hollywood City Council will have come out of their respective closets and engaged the public in a discussion of what is arguably our community’s most important annual event. There is no reason we all shouldn’t be proud of LA Pride.