St. Pete Pride board member Susan McGrath responds to our St. Pete Pride Viewpoint column

By : Billy Manes
Comments: 2

Though we don’t normally do this – not directly, except in our letters section – we’d like to present this rebuttal to one of our Viewpoints. Not everybody is happy with Greg Stemm’s opinion piece in our Viewpoint section about St. Pete Pride. You can read the original here.

This is Pride board member Susan McGrath’s response.

As a St Pete Pride board member and a 19-year homeowner in Historic Kenwood, I cannot express my level of disappointment in opening the “St Pete Pride” Watermark edition to see a page devoted to substantial misinformation and language that is divisive and unproductive for our community.

Let’s begin with the facts.

Big error in your editorial. San Francisco Pride Parade runs along Market Street beginning at Pine (Financial District) to 8th St (City Hall/Civic Center area). The Civic Center is also where they host their festival. It’s 15 blocks from the Castro. Bayshore is 16 blocks from Grand Central. Second: the Grand Prix claims 165,000 attendees. How is downtown large enough for the Grand Prix and the rest of the city’s largest events, but it’s too small for Pride? The event grew from 100,000 to over 250,000 in less than 5 years. The parade alone represents 180,000 of those. More people means more services: police, EMS, toilets, barricades, etc. What was the City bill when you were a board member? Because in 2016 it was $96,000. The bill in 2013 (the last year of a one day event) was $24,000. In 2016, the daily bill was $48,000. Doubled in only 3 years.

How do these expenses get paid without corporate sponsors? A bare minimum Pride event has a budget in St Pete today of $150,000. This is bare necessities – no stages, no paid entertainment, no fireworks. This price tag comes because of the number of people who attend. A growth that’s largely organic. Only break even is your goal? What happens when it doesn’t break even? In 2016, Pride absorbed a $20,000 deficit because of increased security after Pulse. If it only focused on breaking even, we would’ve started 2017 with a $20,000 debt. And you think Tampa Pride 1.0 failed because of too much corporate participation? How about it failed because of bad financial planning? And yes, corporations do participate. We should be thankful so many of them do. People in the trans and LGB community see that they’re welcomed in their hometown businesses as well as the corporate world. In addition, initial EROs were drafted by corporate policies in place. Remember North Carolina? We loved corporations when they left or threatened to leave the state. We enjoy them when they take that stand but get upset because they pick up the bill to pay for large events that celebrate diversity? 90 percent of participants of Pride are nonprofit and small businesses. Yet 60 percent of the event’s expenses are paid for by corporate sponsors. Again, expenses that mainly grow because of organic growth. And I’m sorry you feel Pride shouldn’t have a vision for a community foundation.

This current board and the one immediately before it respectfully disagrees. The foundation encourages participation from many who wouldn’t be involved otherwise. It also leaves a lasting impression on our community that goes beyond one weekend a year. It’s insulting to think the current board doesn’t have “sight” of the vision the event entails. Your vision isn’t a global vision. Pride means many things to many people, and to say it lives in a vacuum as only you see it doesn’t scream openness and inclusiveness. Pride must adapt to the changing generations. It’s doing this. Current generations of LGBT people are leaving the gayborhoods and gay bars because they don’t see the point as their prior generation. If Pride events are going to survive, they will do so by meeting the demands of our next generation.

The team of people that carefully and thoughtfully weighed the options of all aspects of Pride events included board members, production team members and those that work the events on behalf of the organization. All are volunteers. St Petersburg is not the same sleepy community it was fifteen years ago and, as such, the decisions before us are different than those from that time.

Only a few days ago, our community cried and mourned together, coming together in solidarity to the tragedy of the Pulse massacre. With what is going on in our country presently, now is not the time for divisive rhetoric. Much work has been done this year to create the most successful and relevant experience for attendees ever.

Be positive. Turn out and support our community and show the world the beauty of our strength and diversity. Let’s move forward, not back.

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