Pride: Supes Not Convinced Current Management Can Run Parade

Categories: LGBT
A front-page story in today's San Francisco Chronicle trumpets the news that Pride has whittled its debt down to $77,000 heading into the weekend's festivities. Sounds great -- in the two months since our cover story breaking down how the massive gay and lesbian festival and parade systematically marched itself to the brink of financial disaster, Pride has paid down some $83,000.

Pas mal, pas mal. But the story doesn't answer the question one most wants to know: Has any of this changed the minds of influential city supervisors who have adamantly stated that Pride must be wrenched away from the nonprofit that's run it for the past 40 years? Here's the short answer: No.

"I'm all for embracing them, but I'm still not convinced they're where they need to be or are going in the right direction," says Supervisor David Campos. "There are some positive signs. But this is too early to tell. You can't have the kind of problems they've had and all of a sudden everything is fine and dandy."

Adds Scott Wiener, "After the parade we'll all sit down and have a very frank discussion."

Brendan Behan, Pride's interim executive director, predicts the parade will make "net revenue" this year. But "it's not going to be a windfall revenue." In fact, "it won't be enough to eliminate the deficit. But we'll move a step closer."

As for what comes next, Behan isn't focusing on that. He does, after all, have some parade to attend this weekend. But there is a large degree of uncertainty. He's still the interim director, and he wouldn't tell SF Weekly if he even wants to work past the end of the year when his contract expires. How Pride will deal with the debt it will all but certainly carry after this weekend is still up in the air. Fund-raising? Bank loan? Aggressive grant-hunting? That's all to be determined.

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Campos, meanwhile, lauds Behan's work -- but isn't sure Pride has reorganized itself to the point where it can tread water without a particularly acute executive director. As revealed in our cover story, Pride's board was asleep at the fiscal wheel to the point where it knowingly approved a yearly budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red -- then overspent its "balanced" budget by 25 percent.

"The concerns identified by the controller's report were systemic in nature," says Campos. "They deal specifically with the role of the board, the board's ability to provide meaningful oversight -- irrespective of who sits in the executive director's spot."

Pride's sloppy organizational setup -- and its designed inclusiveness -- lead to inefficiencies. Both Campos and Wiener noted that the much smaller Folsom Street Festival donates roughly three times what Pride does to local charities. Be confident this will come up in future months.

In any event, Behan says he and Pride's board will take stock after this weekend's festival to see what measures are working and which aren't. Campos and Wiener, meanwhile, will take stock of whether Pride, in general, is working.

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I volunteered for several days for SF Pride three years ago, and I was fortunate to work briefly with Brendan Behan. Of everyone I met in that organization, Brendan was, by far, the most organized and most intelligent. In that one weekend I quickly saw that if Brendan was in charge of something, like Media, it got done, and it got done well. ALL of the other areas I worked that week were nightmares.

Just one example I personally experienced was that Pride Parade Chair Marsha Levine showed up almost an hour late the morning of the parade, meaning that NO ONE from SF Pride was there to tell the parade volunteers what to do. While I and the other volunteers stood there waiting for someone from SF Pride to show up, I had suppliers constantly asking me to sign for deliveries and people asking where to find their contingents. It got so bad that I finally put my jacket on to hide my STAFF t-shirt (Most volunteers, besides Safety, receive essentially no training, and you literally just show up, put on a shirt, and have other people, in most cases outside contractors, tell you what to do.)  When Marsha Levine finally did arrive, she found that she had left almost all of her supplies at home, including office supplies and alphabetically sorted lists of contingents (so when people needed to know where to find their contingent, we couldn't look them up by name, we had to go through the list sorted by contingent number to find them, essentially random). She was so bad at organizing the volunteers that after standing around for another thirty minutes waiting for her to get with it, I got so frustrated that I left, because it was clear that she had no idea what to do with all of the volunteers she had.I saw many, many other signs of organizational problems, but you get the idea.The smartest thing that SF Pride could do would be to beg Brendan Behan to become the permanent director, but I'm afraid that Brendan is too smart to take them up on that offer.

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