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Christopher Street West faces hurdles

LA Pride Festival is still in flux as #ResistMarch gathers steam

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LA Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

The entrance to 2016’s LA Pride’s Festival in West Hollywood Park. (Photo courtesy LA Pride)

Despite big changes and challenges, this year’s LA Pride festival experience will be “similar to the last several years,” according to Chris Classen, president of Christopher Street West (“CSW”), the organization that has produced LA Pride Parade and Festival since 1970.

Over June 10 and 11, attendees can again expect West Hollywood Park to be filled with food, drinks, dancing and a variety of musical acts on three distinct stages, from local performers to popular stars.

But this year is not like years past, and there is a whiff of concern in the air about CSW’s ability to pull it off, at least profitably. Space for the festival is reduced by more than 50 percent as West Hollywood Park undergoes a facelift, and CSW settling on a location just last week.

As organizers of LA’s main pride events, it is inevitable that CSW faces questions from the diverse LGBTQ community. West Hollywood Council member John Duran says that for almost 40 years he has cautioned each CSW president: “You have a thankless job. You can never make everybody happy.”

But complaints about the festival’s impact became noticeably louder last year when CSW rebranded the event a music festival to attract millennials. With the LGBTQ focus of the festival erased from CSW’s website, so too was the sense of connection between the event and a city with a sizeable LGBTQ population.

In response, CSW scrambled to reemphasize the LGBTQ tradition in its marketing, but the updated version of the festival continued as planned.

With its promise of big-name musical performers in 2017, CSW appears to be sticking with that model, albeit LGBTQ branding is front and center.

That choice remains controversial, with people like former CSW board member, LGBTQ historian, and founder of the Lavender Effect, Andy Sacher, viewing the de-emphasis of Pride’s history as a loss for everyone.

“We’re in every strata of society,” he says, “and this is the one time of the year when we have traditionally come together, regardless of our differences and celebrated our freedoms and accomplishments.”

But Council member Duran says CSW was being realistic. “People my age,” he told the Blade, “we’ve done 20 or 30 of these things. We’re not necessarily going do it again unless we have friends from out of town.”  Still, history matters.

Both Duran and West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister think the criticism arises from the belief that CSW is the only source of local Pride programming, when in fact the city sponsors its own One City One Pride Arts Festival, primarily focused on LGBTQ history and culture, for 40 days each summer, including Pride weekend.

Last year, the city sponsored events like Trans Night, the Dyke March, and a West Hollywood history tour created by late historian Stuart Timmons. There is more to pride than “just those two days,” says Duran.

Issues of transparency and communication have dogged CSW in recent years, with defenders and critics agreeing that CSW could improve its community interface.

Sacher was one of four CSW board members who resigned last December, in part because CSW required board members to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Sacher said, “All pride organizations face challenges to achieve a balance between taking in what the community desires” and sustainability. But in CSW’s case, “there might be a disconnect.”

After the 2016 festival, Mayor Meister arranged two community forums to debrief with CSW. “Were they listening? I don’t know,” Meister said about CSW. “It’s up to them to provide an event that the community is supportive of. And if not, we’re all going to hear about it again.”

For the first time since 1970, there will be no Pride Parade. Instead, CSW will host a three-mile long protest march, modeled on the Women’s Marches, under the motto: “When any American’s rights are under threat, all our rights are threatened.”

With supporters like CSW co-founder the Reverend Troy Perry, L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, and activist Ivy Bottini (a vocal critic of CSW), Duran describes this choice as “spot on” and in line with the LGBTQ community’s history of responding to galvanizing moments, from AIDS to anti-marriage legislation. Like others, he believes the march is pitch-perfect for our times.

Even so, CSW has made another sudden, dramatic change to what people expect from Pride. No one can know how many people will actually march and what effect this will have on the already compacted festival. To Sacher, this decision-making seems “reactive, rather than visionary or proactive.”

This week, CSW board member and #ResistMarch organizer Brian Pendleton, told FourTwoNine.com that “no corporate dollars that used to go to the parade are going to the march.”  Pendleton says he is committed to raising the money needed to fund #ResistMarch. Some reports suggest he must raise more than $400,000.  Sources say he has raised a significant portion of that.

Pendleton, when asked to join CSW’s board, pointedly refused to sign CSW’s non-disclosure agreement.

With CSW already running at a loss, the financial bottom line might bring the debates about CSW’s role as LA’s de facto leader of pride to a head.

Success now rests on robust attendance to the paid-entry festival and CSW ability to attract corporate sponsors to it. Nissan recent announced it will be a sponsor but few others have stepped forward. Wells Fargo, for instance, will not be part of this year’s celebrations for the first time in many years.

West Hollywood provides free security and sanitation services, but little cash. It recently agreed to cover up to $1 million in such expenses — doubling previous year commitments — though not yet satisfied with CSW’s transparency efforts and aware that the agency began 2017 unable to even pay office rent. The city reportedly stands to gain more than $5,000,000 in tax receipts if the event is successful.

Without the traditional parade, CSW will also forego entry fees from floats and community groups.

Given the sheer scope and diversity of the Los Angeles area, Sacher said the trend for more localized pride events, such as DTLA Proud and Venice Pride, is a sign of things to come.

“Maybe there will never be a consensus,” Sacher said, and “that might be fine.” Mayor Meister said that West Hollywood will be LA Pride’s home for a long time to come. And Council member Duran waved off complaints that other cities do Pride better. The entire city of West Hollywood becomes a Pride celebration, he says, “in everyday bars and everyday restaurants,” from one end of the city to the other. LA Pride remains unique.

For more information, visit lapride.org. Transportation and parking information can be found at weho.org.

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California

Newsom announces historic Supreme Court nominations 

Judge Kelli Evans will be the second openly LGBTQ+ justice to serve on the state’s high court joining Justice Martin Jenkins

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California Supreme Court building (Photo Credit: State of California Courts)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced his nomination of Supreme Court Associate Justice Patricia Guerrero to serve as California’s next Chief Justice after Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye concludes her current term of office on January 2, 2023.

A first-generation Californian, Justice Guerrero was the first Latina to serve on the California Supreme Court and, if confirmed, will be the first Latina to serve as California’s Chief Justice.  

Justice Patricia Guerrero

“Justice Guerrero has established herself as a widely respected jurist with a formidable intellect and command of the law and deep commitment to equal justice and public service,” said Governor Newsom. “A first-generation Californian from the Imperial Valley, Justice Guerrero broke barriers as California’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, enriching our state’s highest court with her insights and deep understanding of the real-world impacts of the Court’s decisions in the lives of everyday Californians. I thank Justice Guerrero for her willingness to step into this role and am confident that the people of California will continue to be well served by her leadership for years to come.”   

“I am humbled by this nomination to lead our state’s Supreme Court and thank the Governor for entrusting me with this honor,” said Justice Guerrero, who was sworn in to the California Supreme Court by Governor Newsom earlier this year. “If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the strides the Court has made under Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to expand equal access to justice and create a fairer justice system for all Californians.”  

The Governor also announced his intention to appoint Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans to serve as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by Justice Guerrero’s elevation to Chief Justice.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang:

“Representation is power, and it’s critical in our collective fight for full, lived equality. Governor Newsom’s historic appointment of Judge Evans ensures that California’s highest court better reflects the diversity of our state and sends an important message to the rest of the country at a time when LGBTQ+ people, women and communities of color are under attack. Judge Evans is an outstanding, highly qualified jurist, and we are confident she will continue to uphold and advance equal justice under the law for all Californians.”

Judge Evans assumed office in 2021 as a judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County. Evans served as an Assistant Public Defender at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office, as an Attorney for the ACLU of Northern California and as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from.

She was Senior Director for the Administration of Justice at the California State Bar and Special Assistant to the Attorney General at the California Department of Justice. From 2019 to 2020, Evans worked as Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary for Criminal Justice in the Office of Governor Newsom, where she worked as Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary from 2020 to 2021.

“Throughout her career, Judge Evans has dedicated herself to helping all Californians have an equal chance at justice,” said Governor Newsom. “Raised by her grandmother in public housing, Judge Evans was inspired from a young age to find ways to help expand justice and opportunity for everyone, especially marginalized and vulnerable communities. I have seen firsthand her commitment to the highest ideals of public service, and her passion to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for all Californians. I have no doubt that her exemplary talent, wide-ranging knowledge and experience, strong moral compass, and work ethic will make her an outstanding Supreme Court Justice,” said Governor Newsom.   

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Judge Evans will be the second openly LGBTQ+ justice to serve on the state’s high court joining Justice Martin Jenkins who was appointed October 2020.

“I am truly honored by this opportunity to serve the people of California on our state’s highest court,” said Judge Evans. “I have worked my entire career to promote equality and access to justice and to protect the rights of some of society’s most disenfranchised members. If confirmed, I look forward to furthering our state’s work to ensure equal justice under the law for all Californians.”  

“Governor Gavin Newsom has made historic appointments to the California Supreme Court in nominating Justice Patricia Guerrero to be the new Chief Justice and Judge Kelli Evans to be a Justice. These two individuals are impeccably qualified,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. “They will lead the California Supreme Court in using the California Constitution and California law to advance freedom and equality.”  

Background biographical on the Governor’s choices:

Raised in the Imperial Valley by immigrant parents from Mexico, Justice Guerrero, 50, of Coronado, served as an Associate Justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One from 2017 to 2022 and has wide-ranging experience as a trial court judge, partner at a major law firm and Assistant U.S. Attorney.  

As an appellate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Justice Guerrero authored numerous opinions to protect the rights of consumers and individuals, while also ensuring that defendants’ constitutional rights are protected and that all parties, including the government, are treated fairly and consistent with the rule of law. She served as a Judge at the San Diego County Superior Court from 2013 to 2017 and was Supervising Judge for the Family Law Division at the Court in 2017. Justice Guerrero was hired as an Associate at Latham & Watkins and became a Partner in 2006. She served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California from 2002 to 2003. Justice Guerrero earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. The compensation for this position is $293,286. She is a Democrat.   

“This is truly an exceptional and historic day for the people of California and for the justice system. Justice Guerrero is an outstanding choice to lead our court system. This includes chairing the work of the California Supreme Court in reviewing the landscape of thousands of legal opinions across the state and ensuring that the development of the law is consistent with the statutory and Constitutional mandates that govern our state,” said retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno. “Justice Guerrero’s inspiring nomination demonstrates that, regardless of humble beginnings, hard work and commitment to one’s values can lead to the fulfillment of the true American dream.”

Instilled with the importance of education by her grandmother, Judge Evans, 53, of Oakland, excelled academically and was able to attend a top-rated high school when her family moved from a public housing project to a HUD subsidized apartment. One of only a small number of students of color at the school, she managed to thrive and graduate among the top of her class while working 20 hours a week to help support her family. Judge Evans went on to attend Stanford University and earn a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law, where she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. award for exceptional public service.    

Judge Evans has served as a Judge in the Alameda County Superior Court since 2021. Prior to this appointment, she served as Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary in the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, where she helped shape California’s moratorium on capital punishment and advised the Governor and executive agencies on myriad issues in administrative proceedings and in state and federal trial and appellate courts. 

Judge Evans served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General at the California Department of Justice from 2017 to 2019 and was Senior Director for the Administration of Justice at the California State Bar from 2014 to 2017. She was Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California from 2010 to 2013, where she served as an Attorney from 1995 to 1998. She was a Partner at Independent Assessment & Monitoring LLP from 2006 to 2010 and an Associate at Relman and Associates from 2001 to 2004. Judge Evans served as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1998 to 2001 and as an Assistant Public Defender at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office in 1995. She has served as a member of federal court-appointed monitoring teams for the Oakland and Cleveland Police Departments.  

“Judge Kelli Evans is a brilliant choice to serve as Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court. Besides being an amazingly accomplished lawyer and judge, she has devoted her professional life – and her very heart and soul – to social justice for all and is ideally suited for service on the state’s highest court. I cannot imagine anybody better than Judge Evans to fill the vacancy,” said Kevin Johnson, Dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law.

The Governor’s nominations and appointments must be submitted to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Senior Presiding Justice of the state Court of Appeal Manuel Ramirez.

The nomination of Justice Guerrero as Chief Justice must also be confirmed by the voters in the November 8, 2022 general election. 

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California

Newsom launches nation’s largest college savings program

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Governor Gavin Newsom launches CalKIDS at the State Controller's Office (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Starting today, all Californian families of low-income public school students – 3.4 million across the state – can now access college savings accounts created in their children’s names, with seed investments of between $500 and $1,500.

The CalKIDS program, launched by Governor Gavin Newsom, invests $1.9 billion into accounts for low-income school-age children in grades 1-12 and for newborn children born on or after July 1, 2022. 

“California is telling our students that we believe they’re college material – not only do we believe it, we’ll invest in them directly,” said Newsom. “With up to $1,500, we’re transforming lives, generating college-going mindsets, and creating generational wealth for millions of Californians.”

“I am proud and excited to finally see CalKIDS in action,” said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “My goal with this program was to bridge the gap between wealth inequality and the high cost of education. CalKIDS will expand access to college through savings by providing each child born in the state of California a seed deposit in a ScholarShare 529 college savings account. Furthermore, thanks to Governor Newsom’s investment and expansion of the Program to make college more accessible to low-income California kids, additional deposits will be made for low-income first graders across the state, with supplemental deposits for foster and homeless youth. Our shared vision ensures each child across the state will have an opportunity at higher education.”

FIND OUT IF YOU’RE RECEIVING MONEY BY CLICKING HERE.

Up to $1,500 for 3.4 Million School-Age Children:

  • $500 Automatic Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12.
  • $500 Additional Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12 identified as foster youth.
  • $500 Additional Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12 identified as homeless.

Up to $100 for Newborn Children:

  • $25 Automatic Deposit: Every eligible child born on or after July 1, 2022.
  • $25 Additional Deposit: Those who register on the program’s online portal.
  • $50 Additional Deposit: Those who link a new or existing ScholarShare 529 account to the CalKIDS account.

Californians can begin accessing their accounts via the online portal now. In the coming months, CalKIDS will send notification letters to qualifying children and families with more information. 

To learn more, visit the CalKIDS website and FAQ.

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Southern California

Triple A: Drivers asked stay alert & drive carefully as kids go back to school

Distracted driving is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Non-drivers account for nearly 1 in 5 distracted driving deaths

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Photo Credit: Automobile Club of Southern California

LOS ANGELES – This month Southern California students are returning to classes on foot, bicycles, as well as in cars and school buses. To prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities to students this school year, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers to slow down and stay alert in school zones and in other areas where children might be present.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. The problem escalates during the months kids are in school, and the afternoon school hours are particularly dangerous. Nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Kids are particularly vulnerable because they are small and less visible to drivers, are not always able to make sound and safe decisions near streets and can be easily distracted when around other kids. Children are not adults, so it is up to drivers to compensate for these differences. AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully! awareness campaign began in 1946 to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Today, this effort is more important than ever due to the prevalence of drivers with smartphones and the increase in distracted driving on our roads.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,138 people died in distracted-related crashes in the U.S. in 2020, accounting for 8.1% of all roadway fatalities. That’s an average of 9 people killed each day in crashes that are totally preventable. Additionally, another 400,000 people are injured each year in distracted-related crashes. However, the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher because distracted driving is often underreported or difficult to determine as the cause of a crash.

Distracted driving is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Non-drivers account for nearly one in five distracted driving deaths. Nationally in 2020, there were 480 pedestrians, 83 bicyclists and 14 other non-occupants killed in crashes that involved a driver who was reported to be distracted. It is unknown how many of these pedestrians, cyclists and other non-occupants were also distracted at the time.

“School-aged children will soon be going to and from campuses, so drivers should prepare for them,” said Auto Club Corporate Communications & Programs Manager Doug Shupe. “If you drive distracted you are “intexticated” behind the wheel, and you could cause the same tragedies as a driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs. So, make it a habit to put smartphones out of sight and stay alert on the road, especially in school zones, in neighborhoods, around parks, and near bus stops,” said Shupe.

To keep kids safe this school year the Auto Club reminds drivers to:

  1. Eliminate distractions and put down the cell phone. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  2. Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. A difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.
  3. Talk with teens. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during after-school hours.
  4. Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or on neighborhood streets. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before continuing.
  5. Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes can be inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
  6. Watch for school buses. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers MUST stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm withdraws, and the bus begins to move before they can start driving again.

Parents and guardians are also key to keeping children safe during the trip to and from school. Adults should walk with children to familiarize them with the route to school and point out potential traffic hazards.

Students walking to and from school should:

  • Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming.  If you must text or make a call while walking, stop and find a safe location.
  • Avoid using hands-free devices while walking – Hang up and walk!
  • Remove your headphones or turn down the volume of your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Watch out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so look all around you while in and around crosswalks.
  • Be a role model – pay attention while you walk and if you see your friends and family distracted while they walk – speak up.

For more information about the Auto Club’s traffic safety initiative, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated,” visit aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted to read real stories of lives impacted by distracted driving, watch PSAs, and view a new distracted driving documentary called “Sidetracked.”

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