Whittier City Council approves first-ever gay pride festival – Whittier Daily News

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Whittier’s City Council members on Tuesday not only approved the city’s first gay pride festival but also voted to waive nearly $5,000 in fees.

The 5-0 vote to approve the event and related, 3-2 vote to waive the fees for help with set up and other costs came after about two hours of public comment from about 20 supporters and some 10 opponents. The festival is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at Central Park, 6532 Friends Ave., Whittier.

The event’s sponsor, Whittier Youthbuild, will save another $5,901 in security costs the city was going to charge because those expenses will now be covered by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. Youthbuild is a nonprofit charter school for ages 16-24 billed as a “dropout recovery school” and housed by the Whittier YMCA.

Hahn is going to provide six deputies and a sergeant at a cost to the county of $4,320, Ivan Sulic, a field deputy for Hahn, announced Tuesday. Hahn also provided a grant of $20,000 to put toward the event.

“Whittier is an inclusive, accepting, loving community,” Councilman Fernando Dutra said. “We’re showing that by approving this.”

Sayaka Ponce, executive director of Whittier Youthbuild, said the festival will be similar to the city’s Founders Day event which also is held at Central Park.

“This festival will showcase a diversity of community spirit and inclusive atmosphere in the city of Whittier,” Ponce said. “It will bring a few hours of inclusive, family fun, local vendors and great entertainment.”

The festival is expected to feature food trucks, live entertainment in the form of dancers, singers and bands; 30 vendors, which may include Whittier businesses; and games and activities for youngsters.

Opponents of the festival predicted there will be lewd behavior at the festival.

“What family friendly event hosts drag performers,” said Whittier resident Jerome Ricardez, who showed pictures he said were from other gay pride festivals.

“In one of the pictures, you see kids looking on in confusion as two men bound in leashes, dressed in leather, pretend to be dogs,” Ricardez said. “Why will this be different than other events?

But Richard Cisneros of unincorporated Whittier, whose late husband was Ted Knoll, co-founder of the Whittier Area First Day Coalition, countered the festival will not be a spectacle.

“This is not one of those parades that show nudity,” Cisneros said. “I think it will be a constructive, loving event.”

Mayor Joe Vinatieri and Councilwoman Cathy Warner said it didn’t matter what they think of the festival. It just mattered whether it meets city rules.

“We, as a council, have differences of opinions relative to all kinds of issues,” Vinatieri said. ‘We don’t agree on all kinds of things. When it comes to content, we have no rights to manage content. We do not regulate content.”

However, Vinatieri and Warner voted against waiving the fees, saying the city faces tight finances and needs to save money.

Voting to lift the fees were Dutra and councilmen Henry Bouchot and Josue Alvarado, who requested the waiver

“I look at this as an investment,” Bouchot said. “I want to give them a chance to save as much money as they can.”

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