City Council members John D’Amico and John Duran proposed Monday that West Hollywood help secure performers and celebrities for LA Pride, contract with an event planner for the event and be allowed to appoint a city staffer to the board of Christopher Street West, the non-profit organization that stages the LA Pride parade and festival each June.
Those proposals are included in a report that the two council members presented to the full council. The report also suggests CSW extend the festival, which now occupies West Hollywood Park, to the area in front of the MTA depot on Santa Monica Boulevard and possibly to Robertson Boulevard.
CSW’s management of the annual Pride event has come under criticism often over the years, with major complaints in 2000 leading to the resignation of several board members. D’Amico raised concerns about the Pride event last January, saying he had heard residents describe the event as “lame” and “tired.”
“The politics have drained out in favor of commerce,” he said.
In response, the council named him and Duran to a sub-committee that would meet with CSW to address complaints about the event.
Community members have complained about the $20 admission fee to the Pride festival, noting that San Francisco Pride attendance is free. There also have been complaints about the quality of celebrities secured as parade grand marshals, the quality of parade floats and “time gaps” in the parade that leave viewers waiting for the next float to appear. In their report, the council members suggest that the festival provide free admission only to a part of the festival area and to an area for sober visitors.
The Pride event also has been under financial pressure. Figures released by CSW to WEHOville show that revenue from the Pride parade and festival has declined by four percent over the past five years, with a major decline in business sponsorships. Duran and D’Amico have proposed that corporations only be allowed to sponsor floats in partnership with non-profit groups to address criticism that the event has too corporate a feel.
WEHOville published a story in July in which several CSW board members, who declined to be identified by name, placed blame for the organization’s problems on West Hollywood and said CSW was considering moving the event to downtown Los Angeles. They complained about what they perceived as a lack of support from the local business community and disputes with the city about costs associated with the festival and parade. However, Rodney Scott, president of CSW, said moving the event from West Hollywood was not under consideration.
That story sparked the latest public debate about the annual event, and D’Amico and Duran finally began discussions with Scott this summer. They have asked Scott to commit to working with the city to develop a two-year plan to address concerns about Pride. They also have asked him to report to the City Council on Nov. 18 on steps CSW will take to address its concerns.
The Duran/D’Amico report does not put a cost on the extra services the two council members propose West Hollywood provide to CSW. The city provided $253,855 in services to CSW for Pride in 2012. One argument for city support of the event has been CSW’s claim that it brings 400,000 people to West Hollywood each year. Many critics, however, have argued that that figure is massively inflated. Revenue figures for the 2013 festival, for example, show only 28,000 paid admissions. Duran and D’Amico have asked CSW to confirm where parade attendance records come from.
West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board (LGAB) will host an Oct. 30 forum to discuss ways to improve the festivities.