The West Hollywood City Council last night grappled with ways to support the troubled annual L.A. Pride event, suggesting that the city might integrate some of its own LGBT events into the June Pride festival to fill its gaps.
At last night’s city council meeting, Councilmember John D’Amico noted that the city’s One City One Pride events focus on LGBT history and culture. Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit that stages the annual L.A. Pride events, has been criticized for focusing instead on entertainment for a young audience, an audience which enjoyed the event according to research by a consultant engaged by CSW. Last year One City One Pride included 94 events over 40 days, including a tour of local spots with historic and cultural significance to the LGBT community.
“We could offload some of their responsibility for those events,” D’Amico said of CSW.
D’Amico also noted that the redevelopment of West Hollywood Park will remove a significant amount of the space CSW traditionally has used for its festival, possibly as much as 70%.
Mayor Lauren Meister said a collaborative relationship with CSW also would help the city promote its One City One Pride events to a larger audience. She noted that a recent study showed that 92% of those attending L.A. Pride last June were from outside of West Hollywood.
D’Amico said that city staffers already are engaged in the annual Dyke March and other lesbian events that occur on Friday of Pride weekend. However council members John Heilman and John Duran warned that city involvement would mean no control over who actually participated in the Dyke March, even allowing anti-gay people to appear, given restrictions by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They recommended that CSW take control of that.
Heilman pressed CSW board president Chris Classen about some of the controversies involving the organization, including the resignation of four of its board members in December. Those members were upset that they were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement that they felt inhibited their ability to discuss the organization with other LGBT stakeholders. While it wasn’t mentioned last night, another CSW board member, Dan Morin, resigned three days ago, also concerned about the non-disclosure agreement. Morin only joined the CSW board this fall and was one of the few board members who had voiced criticism about the direction the organization has been taking.
Classen said CSW’s lawyer had recommended tightening its existing non-disclosure agreement after two email messages and financial documents were “leaked to the press.” Classen was referring to a report that showed CSW had lost $395,000 on last year’s LA Pride event. While the report then existed, Classen had told the CSW board and members of the public that he didn’t know the financial results of the event. The report was made available to WEHOville (although not by a CSW board member), which published a story revealing CSW’s losses. CSW still has not made that information public.
Heilman also asked Classen if CSW, given its losses, had paid its vendors. Classen said CSW currently owed only $20,000. He said CSW had been able to pay those bills because of a profit it made during the 2015 L.A. Pride. According to an examination of CSW’s 2015 tax filings by WEHOville, it had nearly $300,000 in the bank at the end of that year.
Classen said CSW has lost money in all but four of the past 11 years. A review by WEHOville of the organization’s IRS 990 statements showed the 2016 loss was the largest, more than three times larger than a loss of $91,486 in 2009.
An examination of CSW’s Pride expenses in 2015 showed that 22.5%, or $541,000, of that came from the City of West Hollywood and its public safety contractors in the form of cash payments and fee waivers and lost revenue.
Given the construction in West Hollywood Park, Heilman suggested that CSW extend its Pride programming over more days and incorporate LGBT sports and other activities. Classen said CSW already is working to develop a week of such activities.
Classen also noted that CSW has put together a volunteer board representing different elements of the LGBT community to give it feedback. . Confirmed members of the volunteer board are James Gilliam (ACLU), Sue LaVaccare, Ashlee-Marie Preston (CSW), Gerald Garth (Black AIDS Institute), and Ezak Perez (Gender Justice LA).
Keith Kaplan, chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, also spoke up about L.A. Pride, telling the council that it is an important city resource and a revenue generator for local businesses. The average Pride attendee spent $73 in West Hollywood, Kaplan said, and 73% of those who attended stayed in local hotels.
After the discussion the city council agreed to appropriate $500 to cover the cost of parking for community members who wish to attend the CSW board of director meeting and asked city staffers to continue their negotiations with CSW about this year’s event. CSW has recently redesigned its website to provide more information, but it has yet to include a schedule of its meetings, which are open to the public, or any of its financial statements, which is a common practice among similar organizations.
For all intents and purposes West Hollywood isn’t really “Gay” anymore. Is this a good thing? Depends on who you ask. Don’t ask me or you’ll get a very un-PC answer. I moved back to L.A. in ’78 and, to me, West Hollywood was heaven. Now, it’s prams and pooches along SMB on a weekend night.