BY TROY MASTERS | The process by which public events in West Hollywood — like the Halloween Parade, LA Pride and many other smaller community oriented events — are “promoted,” “endorsed,” “co-sponsored,” and “sponsored” just may become a little more accountable.
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister will introduce on Monday, July 18, 2016, a proposal to City Council that will change to the city’s special events policy. If adopted, the proposal will require financial disclosure from event organizers receiving support from the city. Her proposal will seek to establish a pre and post event evaluation process, a requirement for harvesting specified types of data and clarification of the responsibilities and roles of event organizer staffing.
The move will ensure that city-sponsored events are on solid financial footing and that no high profile event fails, leaving the city on the hook.
“Our residents and businesses have a right to know how we use taxpayer money and resources and if we are doing so wisely,” Meister told The Pride Los Angeles.
In 2016, LA Pride organizer Christopher Street West received more than a half million dollars in complementary services from the city, including waived fees, police, medical and sanitation services.
Christopher Street West, in the last several months of preparation for LA Pride 2016, came under fire for a lack of financial transparency and for operating with what critics called a lack of appreciation for the history and legacy the event was originally designed to celebrate. Board President Chris Classen famously told West Hollywood City Council at a meeting on May 3 that “adding the word ‘music’ to the title of L.A. Pride is a subtle welcome to a younger generation who does not inherently understand the historical context of the event.”
Classen’s statement sparked rage in some quarters and during community outreach work with several angered parties, Classen declared that his financial responsibilities led him to make changes to the event that Christopher Street West felt would benefit it financially. He explained that in most years the event had lost money.
LA Pride 2016, perhaps impacted by reduced festival attendance in the wake of the Orlando shooting, operated at a loss rumored to be in the hundreds of thousands.
Many veteran community members, like Robin Tyler and Ivy Bottini, raised questions about Christopher Street West’s finances, asking whether vendors had been properly vetted, questioning existing business partnerships that exist between at least two board members and demanding an accounting. The rancor grew so animated that at one point the idea of requesting a California Attorney General investigation was floated.
Christopher Street West made minor smoke and mirror tweaks (they at first appeared to back away from adding Music Festival to the title of the event but later restored the language) and other concessions to quell concerns. Christopher Street West, however, never offered to share their financials.
While there is no direct link between Mayor Meister’s proposal and the controversy surrounding 2016’s LA Pride, the move comes at a time when Christopher Street West begins to organize for LA Pride 2017. At a board meeting in August the board will impanel the group’s 2017 board.
At one of the last ‘open to the public’ board meetings prior to LA Pride 2016, Ivy Bottini told CSW board members that because of the controversy and their unwillingness to share in decision making and to open the books, she considered the board to be a “lame duck” board and that they “shouldn’t even think about making decisions that impact the future.”
Tradition has it that CSW’s board serves for multiple years.
Meister feels her proposal conforms with WeHo’s 2020 plan and the goals of its general plan: to maintain transparency and integrity in West Hollywood’s decision-making process and to support and encourage arts and culture in West Hollywood.
The item, number 2AA, is posted on the council agenda for July 18, 2016.