OK, Venice. There's a little drama going on with the upcoming Venice Pride celebration planned for this June 1st. Venice Pride received a letter from the Venice Chamber of Commerce on February 22, effectively kicking Venice Pride out of the Chamber, and going even further to say, "Be informed that the Venice Sign will be taken down for unrelated maintenance during the month of June 2019 and will be unavailable in connection with any events scheduled for that month."
Excuse me? The Venice Sign has never been taken down in its decade plus history, and they're going to choose to do maintenance on it now, when Venice Pride is always in June?! The Pride lighting is already scheduled for June 1st, so they could just take it down the next day if need be. It's already on the Sign's own list of events when you do a Google search about it.
For that, you have to dig a little deeper. When Venice Pride was going over invoices to plan this year's celebration, they found some discrepancies with last year's vendors, and wanted to make sure they had a correct and adequate budget to plan for this year. When inquiring with one of the rental companies about the overcharges (several) and the disappearance of the discount that they'd been given on the original quote, Venice Pride was told that the Venice Chamber had told the vendor to apply the discount to the following week's Flower Fest instead. A totally different event with a different budget that has nothing to do with Venice Pride - but it was a Venice Chamber event. And now Flower Fest is tentatively planned for June 1st. Hmm ...
The matter had to be handled in small claims court, and there were disgruntled parties on both sides (though Pride was just trying to get back what was rightfully theirs). The next thing you know, this letter shows up (and was attached to an open letter to the Chamber, which is how I saw it) from the attorney for the Venice Chamber of Commerce, Michael Wallerstein, a member of the Chamber. The letter demands that Venice Pride cease and desist using any images of the Venice Sign in their promotion or merchandising, that their membership had been revoked, so they can no longer be a part of the Chamber, and they can't use the sign for the celebration. Wow. That feels petty retaliatory to me ... especially when they ignored California Corporation code, providing no reason for the drastic move, and no opportunity to be heard in a response before being so unceremoniusly booted from the Chamber - AND denied use of the Sign that is the centerpiece of the Venice Pride celebration. Over what exactly?
The Venice Sign hosts several celebrations throughout the year, but none of the others are for a group of people that has been so oppressed historically. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which is a major event in gay history. Gay Pride has grown so much over the years, and now Venice - of all places! - is going to have their own Chamber of Commerce deny the use of the sign (that they don't own, but are merely the custodians of) for this joyful annual event that the entire community enjoys? Again, WOW. I get that there are personal beefs between some parties involved, but you don't punish a whole community. It's just not right.
The Venice Pride celebration will take place on June 1st with or without the use of the Venice Sign, but it will be an awfully glaring omission to not have the rainbow sign hanging there above it - and I'd like to hear the Venice Chamber explain to everyone in attendance just exactly WHY, and why THEN? I don't think this community will stand for it. Or shouldn't. There is a backup portable Venice Sign standing by to take the place of the real Venice Sign, at a large expense for a non-profit organization's budget (which is how we got here in the first place), but the show must go on! I'd hope that the Venice Chamber of Commerce will realize the error of their ways before June 1st, because again, just how are they going to explain away this slap in the face to Venice's LBGTQ community if people show up to dance under the original sign that isn't there?
In these times, we need to support and encourage each other as a community, not get all petty over some creative accounting that was discovered and civilly asked to remedy ... and then this. I would hope that we can all be friends and grown ups here, and I hope everyone can move forward, doing their best to do the right thing for Venice - by including and celebrating everyone! That is how ALL of Venice can be proud.