City funding crisis almost derails Pride parade

City funding crisis almost derails Pride parade

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With only four days to go until this weekend’s Pride parade, organizers of the event were still unsure if the parade would be held as scheduled.

Philly Pride Presents, which stages the annual Pride celebration, was notified earlier this month — less than two weeks before the event — that it would have to pay the city $20,200 for police presence at Sunday’s parade, a service the city has always provided free of charge for community events such as Pride, but has since revoked in light of the city’s budget crisis.

The organization applied for its permits in March, but was notified by e-mail June 3 that it would not receive the permit for the parade until it paid the police fee.

In a meeting Wednesday, Pride representatives agreed to shorten the parade route, which in part resulted in reducing the price tag in half.

“We had to talk to the city to see how we could still make this parade happen, because the original price was outrageous and we couldn’t afford it, especially at the last minute,” said Philly Pride Presents executive director Franny Price.

Price, Philly Pride Presents senior advisor Chuck Volz and the agency’s attorney, who were accompanied by Gloria Casarez, the city's director of LGBT affairs, as well as president of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus Tami Sortman and chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Stephen Glassman, met with city deputy managing director Jazelle Jones, managing director chief of staff Steve Kennebeck, city representative Erica Atwood and two police officers to discuss the fee.

Price said the initial $20,000-plus charge would have paid for 40 police officers and several lieutenants to direct traffic and control the crowds.

She said she didn’t feel this number of officers was necessary for the 1.5-mile parade, which lasts between one-and-a-half and two hours, but negotiated with the city officials to shorten the route, and thus lessen the number of officers needed, to lower the cost.

There will now be 25 officers present during the parade, which will kick off as planned from 13th and Locust streets at noon June 14, but will now proceed east on Locust to 11th, skipping the leg that went down 12th to Pine. The parade will still head north on 11th to Market Street bound for the festival at Penn’s Landing.

Price said the new route will not pass Giovanni’s Room at 12th and Pine, a tradition she said the organization had continued to honor the longtime gay establishment.

“To me, as an old-time gay Philadelphian, this is unfortunate because we do like to respect Giovanni’s Room and not forget our roots. Some people who’ve worked at Giovanni’s Room were some of the key people who organized the parade early on, and we like to recognize that,” she said. “But the new route is still in the Gayborhood, and I hope that everyone understands that because of the economy this year, this is what we had to do to save the parade.”

The route will now be about 1.3 miles and is expected to last less than an hour-and-a-half.

The change in the route cut the police fee down to $8,900. Price said the organization put down a 20-percent deposit this week and will pay off the remainder of the balance in installments.

During Mayor Nutter’s November budget cuts, he announced the city would begin charging for police presence at community events, and the city sent out letters notifying community organizations of this addition. Price said Philly Pride Presents received this letter, but when she submitted the permit applications earlier in the spring, she was told by the city the parade “fell within the guidelines,” which she assumed meant the parade was not large or long enough to warrant the added fee for the police.

She said she contacted the managing director’s office at the end of May to inquire why she hadn’t received the permits, and received the e-mail with the price quote the following week, which she said “almost knocked me off my chair.”

Repeated calls to the managing director’s office were not returned by press time.

Price said the situation illuminated the need for community support for events such as Pride.

“We had no choice but to shorten the route, unless we cancelled the parade,” she said. “This is what we’re going to unfortunately be faced with from now on, and we may have to increase our fees next year to pay for this. It’s going to be tough, but I’m hoping the community realizes this and supports us and even thinks about making a contribution.”

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