Despite unanimously voting to hold a community forum to discuss LA Pride, the West Hollywood board hosting the event has serious reservations it may anger Christopher Street West (CSW), the group that produces the yearly parade and festival.
The Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board (LGAB), which voted 6-0 Thursday night to host an Oct. 30 town-hall-style forum discussing ways to improve the gay festivities, says it’s worried CSW might move the pride event to Los Angeles in retaliation for holding the forum. Board members also wonder whether the forum will accomplish anything and whether CSW will participate.
“The only danger that would be attached (to holding the forum) is I think the city of LA would love to get the whole thing,” said longtime board member Ivy Bottini.
In July, several CSW board members told WEHOville the group was indeed considering moving the event out of West Hollywood, citing lack of support from the West Hollywood business community and disputes with the city over the costs associated with the festival and parade. However, CSW president Rodney Scott issued a statement saying that was not true.
LGAB co-chair Amy Ruskin argued they should not let threats of moving deter them.
“I can’t say I want to be blackmailed into thinking we couldn’t have a community forum because they might be upset and move,” Ruskin said.
Michelle Rex, deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico who has been pushing for changes to the pride event, told LGAB that CSW has been invited to participate in the forum. However, there is no guarantee someone from CSW will attend.
“I think they might be offended by having it,” said LGAB’s Matt Palazzolo who abstained from voting. “To me, it might be uncomfortable to plan a forum about the way a private organization runs the event without knowing they’re formally signed onto the forum.”
Board member Enrique Reveles reported a similar community forum occurred in 2005 after the city created a 15-member Christopher Street West Task Force.
“(The 2005 forum) turned out to be a defensive-type atmosphere from Christopher Street West against any changes whatsoever,” Reveles said. “It was a very long process, there were a lot of people involved that put time and energy into it and nothing happened. I don’t know if this can be held again because we still have the same players on [the CSW] side.”
According to a staff report about that 2005 forum, the concerns raised there are almost identical to the complaints people raise about the festival today, including the admission price, quality of the entertainment and caliber of the overall experience. For the parade, the 2005 concerns included the relevance of the parade, selection of the grand marshal, lack of a political element and lack of creativity in the overall event and in the floats themselves.
West Hollywood council member conversations and community feedback over Pride at the Dec. 2011 and Jan. 17 council meetings also upset some members of CSW, who spoke to WEHOville confidentially in July.
Although LGAB co-chair Robert Gamboa was not present for Thursday’s meeting, he assured WEHOville via email the forum was intended as a place for community members to air their concerns.
“This is an opportunity for us to really listen to the community and grow,” Gamboa said. “No decisions will be made at this forum. This is purely an information gathering event.”
In addition to the Oct. 30 forum, the City Council will discuss CSW and the pride event during its Oct. 21 meeting. D’Amico and Councilmember John Duran formed a City Council subcommittee in January 2012 to discuss ways to improve the pride event and say they have met with Scott on the issue. D’Amico will present their ideas for improvement during the Oct. 21 council meeting.