The end of the free festival

Announcement this week that there will be an admission fee to Lee Park after the parade marks a loss for the community

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

I am pretty sure everyone has heard me talk about the Alan Ross Freedom Parade. I am a fan of gay Pride parades, and though for some arcane reason we hold our parade in the most humid part of summer, it’s still a lot of fun and a good PR move for the LGBT community.

And then there is the party at Lee Park.

Since I wear leather during the parade, by the time I get to Lee Park, I pretty much just want to trudge back to my air-conditioned car and head home. Thus is the life of an aging leatherman.

Others stay at the park and enjoy the music and speeches during what had been one of the best-attended, free outdoor events for the community. I use the past tense because the Dallas Tavern Guild, the association who took the parade over in 1982, plans to charge a $5 admission for the “Festival in Lee Park” starting this year.

Additionally, they will allow no coolers or alcohol in the park. Of course, they will happily sell you beer and soft drinks at hefty prices, but according to the organizers it’s not their fault: They actually blame the terrorists, or at least the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11.

Whatever the reason, it will be a loss for the community. Damned few things are free nowadays and the Lee Park gathering was something that felt organic and fun.

Yes I know they have charged to set up booths for organizations at the park, and I know they provide sound systems, port-a-potties and pay the city to clean up the mess. I don’t begrudge them one cent of that.

What I miss was the idea that it was, at least on the surface, a real community event.

The park gathering was a chance for the LGBT community to actually experience being together for a change. As the Gayborhood becomes more gentrified and development crowds out more and more gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses, it’s nice to able to just be with a big group of LGBT folks and their allies. Those kinds of experiences are becoming far and few between.

So as for myself, I will still don my leather and ride or walk in the parade. There will undoubtedly be thousands of people lining the streets to cheer and enjoy the floats and entries. I will throw beads and goodies to LGBT and straight people alike and for some of them — especially the kids who attend — it will be a positive experience.

Those positive associations with LGBT people are valuable for the future.

Some day the old bigots will die off and leave a “post-Will & Grace” generation in charge who see LGBT people as just another part of their world.

They will remember the fun of the parade, the outrageous costumes and the beads and trinkets. They will most likely have a lot less animosity toward LGBT people than their parents, and that’s a good thing for everyone.

There is far too much hate in this world, so a little fun and frivolity and outrageousness is almost always appreciated.

So I will be in the parade, and for now that is still a free event. For now.

I suspect in a couple of years the Halloween street party on Cedar Springs will have an admission fee, too. Funny how Homeland Security hasn’t necessitated that yet? Oh well, those durned terrorists are sure to spoil that fun as well.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

Tom Leppert has raised $1.1 million in the month since he threw you under the bus

Tom Leppert

Hard to believe, but it’s been well over a month since Tom Leppert stepped down as Dallas mayor and sent out his infamous anti-gay Tweet, before announcing that he’s running for U.S. Senate.

Later, of course, we discovered that the Tweet wasn’t the half of it: Leppert came out on his campaign website against both same-sex marriage and civil unions. (In other words, he believes your relationship is shit.)

Leppert announced today that he’s raised $1.1 million during the first month of his Senate campaign, in addition to a personal investment of $1.6 million. When campaign finance reports come out, it’ll be interesting to see how much of Leppert’s money thus far has come from anti-gay groups. Regardless, he has a ways to go: According to The Hill, observers say candidates will have to spend upward of $20 million to be competitive in the Republican Primary.

The Hill also says Leppert’s campaign “will be built around his time in the mayor’s office.”

Except, of course, for the part where he hired an openly gay chief of staff and appeared in two gay Pride parades.

 

—  John Wright

Does it matter who sent Leppert’s anti-gay tweet when his website says he opposes civil unions?

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein, from left, his mother Shirley Schlein, Laura Leppert, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and LCR Treasurer David Keeton are shown during the group’s Christmas Party at Schlein’s home in 2009.

An anti-gay message sent last week from the Twitter account of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert wasn’t written by Leppert himself but by “an overzealous campaign worker,” according to Rob Schlein, president of  the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

Speaking at Log Cabin’s regularly monthly meeting on Monday night, Schlein said Leppert called him just before the meeting to apologize for “the tone of the tweet.” According to Schlein, Leppert said he wasn’t the author of the tweet and agreed to meet privately with Schlein later this week to discuss the issue further.

The tweet, sent on the same day that Leppert announced his resignation as mayor to run for U.S. Senate, criticized President Barack Obama for his decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The tweet said, “We need leaders in Washington to stand for the principle of marriage between one man and one woman.”

Many in the LGBT community have said they feel betrayed by Lepppert because he was supportive of the LGBT community as mayor, including hiring an openly gay chief of staff and appearing in two gay Pride parades.

Leppert’s Senate campaign spokesman has failed to return multiple phone calls from Instant Tea seeking comment.

Schlein spent several minutes at the start of Monday’s meeting reading a sternly worded, heartfelt letter he wrote to Leppert about the tweet. However, the guest speaker at the meeting, Leppert political consultant Carol Reed, declined to comment on the issue. Reed said she’s advising Leppert on his Senate campaign but is neither his chief consultant nor his spokesperson.

“I’ll let him speak for himself,” Reed told Log Cabin members. “I have nothing to add.”

In his letter, Schlein slammed Leppert for being the only candidate in the race for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat who’s tried to use gay rights as a wedge issue. He also said Leppert is the only candidate who’s posted social issues on his campaign website. In the Issues section of his website, Leppert states that he opposes both same-sex marriage and “government-sanctioned” civil unions.

Schlein said he’s supported Leppert on many key issues — including the convention center hotel and the Trinity River toll road. And he said Leppert attended numerous Log Cabin events as mayor, including the group’s annual dinner and holiday parties at the home of Schlein and his partner.

“With all due respect, nobody likes a flip-flopper or a political panderer,” Schlein said as he read his letter to Leppert aloud. “You’ve left many friends in your wake. This is truly a sad day.”

Below are screen grabs from the Issues section of Tom Leppert’s Senate campaign website:

 

—  John Wright

Ft. Worth ordinance could affect Pride, AIDS walk

Council approves higher fees, new rules on outdoor events, but attorney says city plans to ‘phase in’ enforcement to lessen impact

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Tony Coronado and Allan Gould
Tony Coronado and Allan Gould

The Fort Worth City Council has enacted a new outdoor event ordinance that changes requirements and increases fees for some outdoor events.

The changes, which go into effect Oct. 1, could impact future Tarrant County Gay Pride parades and picnics held in October each year, and it could also affect the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center’s AIDS Walk, held each spring.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider acknowledged that fees for such events were increased, but the rest of the ordinance is primarily about codifying rules already in place.

“We took current policy and put it into an ordinance,” Fullenwider said.

She noted that the ordinance “doesn’t apply to First Amendment activity,” but that it does require organizers give the city at least 48 hours’ notice for an event that will close a street.

First Amendment activities refer to protests or other gatherings that are political in nature and involve exercising free speech rights.
The new Fort Worth requirements are for events that expect 500 or more participants and spectators. In Dallas, permits are required for 75 or more people.

The fee in Dallas is on a graduated scale based on number of expected attendees. For more than 20,000 expected attendees, such as the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, the city charges $500, plus a late fee for applications received less than 45 days before an event.

Fort Worth will now require event planners to attend a calendar committee meeting. To provide enough police protection, the city is trying to prevent overlapping scheduling.

Organizers must also attend a pre-event meeting and submit a traffic plan if streets are to be closed, Fullenwider said.

Special rules apply to downtown, the Stockyards and the Near South Side, which includes the area where Fort Worth’s annual Pride parade is held.

Fullenwider said there was no request from the Museum District for any special consideration,  probably because events there do not affect the surrounding neighborhoods to the same extent.

Walks, runs and races have some special rules. Normally, all business and homeowners in the affected area need to be notified that an event will take place in front of their property.

For longer routes, area property owners may be notified by e-mail, signs, mail or newspaper ads.

ROYALTY ON PARADE | The 2009 Tarrant County Gay Pride Week titleholders wave to their fans lining the route of the parade down South Jennings last October.

Fees, which are currently $150 will not rise immediately, and Fullenwider said officials have not yet determined what the new fees will be.

She did note, however, that the city is aware of the effect increased costs can have on organizations.

She said that officials are talking about phasing in any eventual increase.

Tony Coronado of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association said his organization isn’t sure yet how the new ordinance might affect the Pride Week events. But so far, he added, he hasn’t seen any big changes

In the past, Fort Worth’s annual Pride Picnic was considered a private event that was permitted through the parks department. Because of its size, it would now be considered a public event and require a city permit as well, Coronado said.

Coronado said that a large expense for the parade is hiring extra off-duty police officers.While the number of streets to be closed has not changed, he said the number of entries could affect the number of officers needed.

The parade this year will be held on Oct. 3, after the ordinance takes effect. But permits are already in place and Coronado said he has already met with the police department.

One change in this year’s parade will be a block party that will be held at Pennsylvania and South Jennings streets. A block in each direction from the intersection will be closed all day.

That required extra coordination with the city, Coronado said, but the new ordinance presented no obstacles.

However, by next year, higher fees may be in place.  If that happens, Coronado said, “We’ll just have to bump it up.”

AIDS Outreach Center Executive Director Allan Gould said the new ordinance will affect several events benefiting his organization, including the annual AOC AIDS Walk next spring and the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS next month.

“We’ll have new due diligence on our part” to make sure the proper permits are in place, Gould said.

While this year’s Lone Star Ride happens before the new ordinance goes into the effect, if the bike ride follows the same route next year, fees will be higher and organizers will have to follow new rules about notifying everyone along the course.

The AIDS walk would also be subject to higher fees, which Gould said he hoped the city would consider waiving for fundraising events for local nonprofit organizations.

Gould said a bigger factor was that the walk is in the museum district, as is Artists Against AIDS, and the free lot outside the Community Arts Center has recently become paid parking.

Gould said hoped that wouldn’t have a negative impact on participation.

But he said AOC has been considering several solutions, including moving events out of the city or to a large, private downtown venue such as the Tandy Center.

Fort Worth Councilmember Joel Burns said that a mandatory insurance ordinance was passed last year that goes into effect at the same time. He said the new rules, however, shouldn’t materially impact neighborhood or LGBT groups.

“My hope is they’d be even better,” Burns said.

He said he thought the new ordinance would help police and city staff coordinate with groups and help make events safer.

“We held five public meetings,” Fullenwider said. “We’re hoping we did a good job. In a year, we plan to meet with event holders and see how it’s working.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens