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San Francisco Pride shines bright amid celebration and controversy

Pro-Palestine activists marched in parade

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Illuminate, a San Francisco arts nonprofit, brought back rainbow lasers over Market Street for Pride. (Photo courtesy of Illuminate)

San Francisco’s Pride celebration this weekend was marked by both celebration and controversy, featuring celebrity appearances, a record-breaking flag display and pro-Palestine protests that reflected similar disruptions across North America.

Billy Porter, “Pose” star and Tony Award winner, led the parade as grand marshal, performing original songs and a number from “Kinky Boots” on the main stage in front of City Hall.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Porter, wearing the same yellow pantsuit she donned as a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” in 2022.

Pelosi delivered a powerful message of support for the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals, as they face increasing political attacks in Republican-led states.

“We in San Francisco are a community, an LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said. “And right now, we have a message for the world — that we stand behind our trans brothers and sisters.”

The city unveiled what organizers claim is the world’s largest Pride flag — a 4.1-mile rainbow laser display stretching above Market Street from the Embarcadero to Twin Peaks.

Created by 20 lasers, the installation commemorated 20 years since San Francisco’s first official same-sex marriages, initiated by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004. While those 4,000 marriages were later invalidated by the state Supreme Court, they paved the way for full legalization of same-sex marriage in California in 2013.

However, the weekend was not without setbacks. The annual Dyke March was cancelled at the last minute due to organizational turmoil.

KQED reported that the volunteer committee has faced conflicts over racism and trans inclusion for several years, leading to mass resignations last month. In lieu of the march, community members gathered at Dolores Park for the traditional Pink Saturday event.

New leadership is actively recruiting diverse members to help organize a march for 2025.

Pro-Palestine groups made their presence known throughout the weekend. A contingent of about 200 marched in the main Pride Parade on Sunday, shouting “Free Palestine” as they followed directly behind parade organizers, SF Gate reported.

Other groups boycotted the parade and held an alternative “No Pride in Genocide” march near the Castro district, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT).

“We are boycotting SF Pride because a lot of the organizations and politicians involved are not supportive of Palestinians,” Jon Ramirez Monaco, a QUIT activist, told the San Francisco Standard. The alternative march criticized corporate sponsorship of the main Pride festival and participation of pro-Israel groups and politicians.

Similar protests disrupted Pride events across North America. In New York, demonstrators threw fake blood at a Human Rights Campaign float and temporarily blocked the parade route at Christopher Street and Waverly Place.

Protesters held banners reading “No Queer Liberation without Palestinian Liberation” and “Palestine Will Be Free” before being removed and arrested by NYPD officers.

In Toronto, a group of about thirty protesters calling themselves the Coalition Against Pinkwashing blocked the parade route approximately three and a half hours after it began. Pride Toronto ultimately decided to cancel the remainder of the parade, citing public safety concerns.

“We made the decision to cancel the remainder of the parade out of our commitment to ensuring public safety,” Pride Toronto said in a statement on X. “While we deeply respect and uphold everyone’s right to peacefully protest, our foremost priority is the well-being of all participants and spectators.”

As Pride celebrations continue to evolve, organizers face the challenge of balancing celebration with activism, addressing both ongoing LGBTQ rights issues and broader global concerns. The events in San Francisco, New York, and Toronto highlight the complex intersection of LGBTQ rights, corporate involvement, and international politics within the Pride movement.

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California

Villaraigosa announces bid for Calif. governor in 2026

Former Los Angeles mayor has long supported LGBTQ rights

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Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on Tuesday his candidacy for California governor in the 2026 election, joining an expanding roster of contenders vying to succeed Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

The former mayor has a long track record in support of the LGBTQ community, even preceding his declaration as chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention that he favored a same-sex marriage legalization plank in the party’s platform, support that ultimately led to support from the Vice President Biden and later President Barack Obama.

Villaraigosa, who previously ran for governor in 2018 and finished third in the primary behind Newsom and Republican John Cox, brings a long history in California politics, having served as Assembly speaker, a Los Angeles City Council member, and the city’s mayor.

Villaraigosa, 71, has maintained a presence in state politics despite leaving elected office in 2013. 

His campaign is positioning him as a seasoned “problem solver,” with a focus on the state budget, education, and reducing costs for small businesses and middle-class families. 

“We have serious problems, and money alone won’t fix them,” Villaraigosa stated. “We need to focus on better outcomes, fixing what’s broken, and investing in what works. I’m a problem solver, and with your support, that’s exactly what I’ll do as governor.”

In his campaign video, Villaraigosa highlighted his achievements as mayor and Assembly speaker, emphasizing his experience in bipartisan legislation and a tough stance on crime, which is anticipated to be a central issue in the 2026 election. His tenure as mayor was marked by significant restructuring of the Los Angeles Police Department and efforts to improve the city’s education system.

Villaraigosa joins a crowded Democratic field that includes Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, former Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and former state Controller Betty Yee. Attorney General Rob Bonta is also considering a run, though he has indicated he will decide after the November election. 

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has not ruled out a bid but has not provided a definitive answer.

The race remains wide open, although Kounalakis has already amassed significant campaign funds, with her campaign reporting over $9 million on hand. Current Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Congresswoman Katie Porter are among the names rumored to potentially join the race later.

Newsom’s tenure will conclude in early 2027, setting the stage for a competitive race to replace him. Villaraigosa’s entry into the race signals a significant development, given his extensive background in state and local governance and his focus on pragmatic solutions for California’s pressing issues.

The 2026 gubernatorial election will be Villaraigosa’s second attempt at the state’s highest office. 

Villaraigosa’s dedication to diverse and inclusive leadership is evident through his ongoing recognition of leaders who champion these values. As recently as Jan. 18, the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award was presented to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria at the 37th Tribute to Mayors Signature Event. 

The award, given annually by the Latino Leaders Network, honors mayors from cities with significant Latino populations who have shown a commitment to uniting diverse communities.

“Getting an award in Mayor Villaraigosa’s name is really meaningful to me,” Gloria stated. “I was the nerdy kid who would watch C-SPAN and read the newspaper when I was young. Seeing a charismatic and energetic leader like Villaraigosa made me believe I could achieve similar goals in public service.”

Villaraigosa, who grew up in East Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s when sexism and homophobia pervaded the culture, has a track record fighting for LGBTQ issues.

“I think it’s prevalent in every community but in the Latino community, one could argue, it was even more prevalent, more extreme in terms of sexism and homophobia,” Villaraigosa told Karen Ocamb in a 2018 interview for Los Angeles Blade.

“I grew up with a mom that was very progressive and a victim of domestic violence. I grew up in a home with alcoholism and a father who left three terrorized kids,” explaining his outlook.

“I’m not running for anything else,” said Villaraigosa. “So, a popularity contest is not what I’m looking for. You’re never gonna see Antonio Villaraigosa — candidate for president or vice president. I want to be a damn good governor.”

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California

Calif. transgender student laws draws backlash 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed bill on July 15

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Gov. Gavin Newsom (Courtesy photo)

BY DIANA LAMBERT AND MONICA VELEZ | LAist — A trailblazing state law prohibiting California school boards from passing resolutions that require teachers and school staff to notify parents if they believe a child is transgender isn’t likely to put an end to this polarizing issue.

The Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth, or SAFETY Act, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 15. It will prohibit school districts from requiring staff to disclose to parents’ information related to a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and will protect school staff from retaliation if they refuse to notify parents of a child’s gender preference. The legislation, which will go into effect Jan. 1, also provides additional resources and support for LGBTQ students at junior high and high schools.

“California is the first state to pass a law explicitly prohibiting school districts from enacting forced outing policies in the nation,” said Mike Blount, spokesperson for the author of the bill, Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego).

The legislation was passed in response to the more than a dozen California school boards that proposed or passed parental notification policies in just over a year. The policies require school staff to inform parents if a child asks to use a name or pronoun different from the one assigned at birth, or if they engage in activities and use facilities designed for the opposite sex. At least seven California school districts passed the controversial policies, often after heated public debate.

First lawsuit filed
By Tuesday evening, the conservative nonprofit Liberty Justice Center said it had filed a lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of Chino Valley Unified, which passed a parental notification policy last year.

“School officials do not have the right to keep secrets from parents, but parents do have a constitutional right to know what their minor children are doing at school,” said Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center in a press release. “Parents are the legal guardians of their children, not Gov. Newsom, Attorney General (Rob) Bonta, or Supt. (Tony) Thurmond. We will continue to defend parents’ rights and children’s well-being by challenging invasive laws like AB 1955 in court, at no cost to taxpayers.”

Other opponents, including Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) indicated that the issue will be settled in court. He is “committed to challenging the bill in court, and he’s confident he’s on the right side constitutionally,” said Shawn Lewis, Essayli’s chief of staff. Essayli plans to work with a coalition of advocates to challenge the bill, Lewis said.

Election issue
Parental rights is the overarching issue for the Republican Party, but right now it is focused on the parental notification issue, Essayli said in an August interview with EdSource. “This is an issue we want to run on in 2024,” he said.

The newly passed legislation also resulted in a flurry of press releases and social media comments from opponents and supporters. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in, calling the new law the “final straw” in his decision to move the headquarters for X, formerly known as Twitter, to Texas.

“I did make it clear to Gov. Newsom about a year ago that laws of this nature would force families and companies to leave California to protect their children,” Musk wrote on X.

Proponents of the parental notification policies have said that parents have the right to know what is going on with their children at school and that minors do not have a right to privacy. Opponents say these policies could endanger already vulnerable students who should be able to decide when they want to come out to their parents.

Chino Valley Unified in San Bernardino County, Murrieta Valley Unified, and Temecula Valley Unified in Riverside County, in Orange County, in Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County, and Rocklin Unified and Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District in Placer County are among the districts that have passed parental notification policies.

California’s parental notification board policies have their origin in Assembly Bill 1314, proposed by Essayli, which was denied a committee hearing at the state Capitol last year. After that, Essayli, parents’ rights groups and attorneys wrote a model board policy for school boards.

On Monday, Essayli released a statement about the new law: “Today, Gov. Gavin Newsom defied parents’ constitutional and God-given right to raise their children by signing AB 1955 which codifies the government’s authority to keep secrets from parents,” he said. “AB 1955 endangers children by excluding parents from important matters impacting their child’s health and welfare at school. Governor Newsom signing AB 1955 is both immoral and unconstitutional, and we will challenge it in court to stop the government from keeping secrets from parents.”

Eight states have passed laws requiring school districts to inform parents if their children ask to use names or pronouns associated with another gender, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

LGBTQ rights threatened
School parental notification policies have impacted the mental health of LGBTQ students and can lead to bullying, harassment, and discrimination, according to a press release from Ward’s office.

“Politically motivated attacks on the rights, safety, and dignity of transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ youth are on the rise nationwide, including in California,” said Ward, who introduced the legislation along with the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

“While some school districts have adopted policies to forcibly out students, the SAFETY Act ensures that discussions about gender identity remain a private matter within the family,” he said. “As a parent, I urge all parents to talk to their children, listen to them, and love them unconditionally for who they are.”

The California Teachers Association and its members have been major opponents of parental notification policies, saying that they drive a wedge between educators and students, and endanger already vulnerable students. Teachers working in districts with parental notification policies have worried they could lose their jobs if they do not comply with the district requirement or end up in court if they disobey federal and state laws and policies.

“This historic legislation will strengthen existing protections against forced outing and allow educators to continue to create a safe learning environment where all students feel accepted, nurtured, and encouraged to pursue their dreams,” said California Teachers Association President David Goldberg. “As educators, we are charged with providing a high-quality education to every student. No educator should experience retaliation or have their livelihood jeopardized for following the law and providing safe and supportive learning environments for our students.”

Policies spawn lawsuits
Attorney General Rob Bonta has said parental notification policies break California state law and violate students’ civil rights and their right to privacy. He issued warnings to districts and filed a lawsuit against Chino Valley Unified in San Bernardino County last year.

A lawsuit was also filed against Temecula Valley Unified by a coalition of students, teachers and parents who oppose the district’s parental notification policy, along with a policy that bans “critical race theory.”

California courts have had differing opinions. In San Diego, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez last year ruled that Escondido Union School District violated parents’ rights when it followed California state policy and allowed students to decide whether to tell their parents they identify as transgender.

In Sacramento earlier that year, U.S. District Judge John Mendez dismissed a lawsuit against Chico Unified. The suit claimed that district policies allowed school staff “to socially transition” students and prohibited staff from informing parents of the change. Mendez said students have a right to tell their parents about their gender and sexuality on their own terms.

The new law will also require districts to provide support or affinity groups and safe spaces for LGBTQ students; anti-bullying and harassment policies and complaint procedures; counseling services; anti-bias or other training to support LGBTQ students and their families; suicide prevention policies and procedures; and access to community-based organizations to support LGBTQ students as well as local physical and mental health providers with experience in treating and supporting families of LGBTQ youth.

California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Susan Eggman said the legislation reaffirms California’s position as a leader and safe haven for LGBTQ youth.

“I am also deeply grateful for all the parents, teachers, youth, LGBTQ+ leaders, and so many other groups who came together to support this bill,” Eggman said. “Their support reaffirmed what this caucus already knew: Safe and supportive schools for all our children should be our top priority. And at the end of the day, that’s what this bill does, ensures our K-12 campuses remain safe and affirming places for our youth no matter how they identify.”

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Northern California

Anti-LGBTQ school board members recalled after banning Pride flags

Vote took place in East Bay’s Sunol Glen Unified School District

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A parent-led movement succeeded in recalling two school board members who approved a policy to ban schools in the Sunol Glen Unified School District in the East Bay from flying a Pride flag or any flag that was not a U.S. or California state flag, according to reports.

The vote on July 2 came a year after Molleen Barnes, the superintendent and principal of Sunol Glen School, hoisted the Progress Pride flag on her campus, a little more than an hour’s drive southeast of San Francisco.

After that, two members of the Sunol Glen Unified School District — school board president Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley — subsequently approved the new, restricted flag policy, with a third member voting in opposition. Ted Romo accused his fellow officials of “censorship.” Romo is now the only one who kept his seat on the three-member school board.

A parent of children attending Sunol Glen, Matt Sylvester, launched the recall effort. On July 2, he and other residents voted to recall Jergensen by a vote of 254 to 218, a difference of fewer than 40 votes. For Hurley, the count was 249 to 223, leaving her just 26 votes shy of keeping her seat.

The results of the election must be certified by the Alameda County Board of Education, which will then appoint temporary replacements for the school board members until a new election can be held. That isn’t likely before November, according to reports.

Sylvester told the San Francisco Chronicle why he took action.

“They pulled a fast one on us with the flag ban resolution,” Sylvester said. “It was sneaky behavior, and then they pushed it through without listening to people. There’s been no compromise. This recall is about making a point that we will not stand for this.”

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West Hollywood

Stache closes after three years of serving WeHo

The popular bar and eatery will close its doors on July 13

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Patrons at Stache enjoying a screening of "Romeo + Juliet" on July 8, 2024, hours after owners announced the bar would be closing at the end of the week. (Social media photo)

The popular WeHo bar Stache will be closing its doors for good July 13, its owners announced via social media Monday afternoon.

“Thank you so much for all of your support since day one. Over the last three years, we’ve been a WeHo destination where everyone was welcomed and memories were made. We’ve truly cherished serving you, our community, and appreciate everyone who has been with us for this unforgettable ride,” the owners said in a post on Instagram.

“We have given Stache our best effort, however our operations no longer make sense.  It is with great sadness that we must announce that Stache’s last day of operations will be this coming Saturday, July 13th, 2024.”

“We are forever grateful to our amazing team for their dedication and hard work. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them and celebrating Stache’s last week – we’ll forever hold dear the community, friendships, and memories we’ve made.” 

Stache’s owners and PR team declined to comment further when contacted by the Los Angeles Blade. A search of Stache’s liquor license shows a clean record that would be good through July 2025.

Stache’s owners signed onto their lease in December 2019, taking over and merging the locations previously occupied by Café d’Étoile and Bumsan Organic Milk Bar. But the COVID pandemic that began three months later put all of their preparation for the bar on hold. It eventually opened in September 2021.

The restaurant originally served only vegan food, but quickly expanded its menu options.  

Over the past three years, Stache has evolved into a neighborhood hub that hosted events every night of the week, including classic gay movie screenings, a weekly drink and draw, drag shows, and dance parties. 

DJ Jon Klaft, a regular fixture at Stache since he played at its friends and family preview night back in September 2021, says the bar was an important part of the Weho scene.

“Stache has held a very special place in my heart since it opened,” Klaft says. “I’ll continue to DJ at the other bars in Weho, but really hope that whoever takes over the space keeps it a queer venue. I feel like we are losing too many spaces in the neighborhood. I’m so bummed to see stache go.”

Tributes to the bar poured in on social media.

“This wasn’t just a bar to me, this was the space within which I reclaimed a passion and a talent that I hadn’t accessed in over 20 years,” said James Farrell, an artist who was a regular attendee at Stache’s drink and draw events.

“Thank you @stacheweho for giving me my first weekly on the Boulevard! I’ll cherish the moments I had with you and the people I met in your loving walls forever!” wrote drag artist Xoana.

“Always a vibe. Always sexy. Always the most amazing staff!” wrote DJ Ivan Mariscal

Queer Here Cinema, a monthly networking and screening event for queer filmmakers, has had to cancel its July event, and announced on Instagram that it was looking for a new venue.

Several WeHo venues have changed hands recently, with Roosterfish announcing it would open in the former Pump location, the Abbey relaunching with a new owner, and Heart closing to reopen as Beaches Tropicana.

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Health

Excessive heat warning for July 4 weekend

The National Weather Service warns of dangerously high temperatures across the region

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LOS ANGELES — As a punishing heat wave grips California, Los Angeles officials have issued an excessive heat warning through July 8, prompting the city to open additional cooling centers and urge residents to take precautions.

The National Weather Service warns of dangerously high temperatures across the region, with some areas expecting highs up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.8 Celsius). Death Valley could see temperatures rise above 130 degrees (55 Celsius).

In response, the City of Los Angeles is opening four augmented cooling centers from July 3 to July 8, operating from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. These include the Fred Roberts Recreation Center in South Los Angeles, Mid-Valley Senior Center in Panorama City, Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, and Jim Gilliam Recreation Center in Baldwin Hills.

More than 70 Los Angeles public libraries are available as cooling spots during regular hours. Residents can find locations and hours at LAPL.org/Branches.

“We’re taking this heat wave very seriously,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “These cooling centers provide critical relief, especially for our most vulnerable residents.”

City officials advise residents to stay hydrated, limit sugary and alcoholic beverages, and avoid outdoor activities during peak heat hours. They also encourage checking on vulnerable neighbors and keeping pets cool and hydrated.

The heat wave coincides with heightened fire danger in Southern California. A Red Flag Warning is in effect from Thursday evening through Friday night for parts of Ventura County and the Antelope Valley, with gusty winds and low humidity creating critical fire weather conditions.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property,” the National Weather Service warned.

As the state faces this prolonged period of extreme heat, authorities stress the importance of community awareness and preparedness. Residents are urged to stay informed about local conditions and follow safety guidelines to protect themselves and others from heat-related illnesses and potential fire hazards.

Where to stay cool around the City of West Hollywood: 


  • Plummer Park’s Senior Lounge (7377 Santa Monica Blvd)
    • The City’s Cooling Center is open during periods of extreme heat (above 90 degrees).
    • For more information regarding the City of West Hollywood’s cooling center, please call (323) 848-6530. 
  • West Hollywood Library (625 N. San Vicente Blvd) – Cooling Center operated by LA County 
  • Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library (7140 W. Sunset Blvd) – Cooling Center operated by LA County  
  • West Hollywood Aquatics & Recreation Center (ARC) (8750 El Tovar Pl) – community members can visit the pool to get relief from the heat. For more information, please visit the ARC webpage.

The City provides free transportation to Plummer Park through its Cityline service. Cityline is a friendly and accessible alternative to the larger bus system and all shuttles are ADA-accessible. Cityline operates Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and shuttles arrive approximately every 30 minutes. For additional information and a detailed route map, visit www.weho.org/cityline.

Safety Tips For Angelenos To Avoid Heat Injury

  • Seek shade and refuge from the hot sun if you must be outside.
  • Stay hydrated and drink more water, especially if you drink coffee or soda.
  • Check in on and prepare your household, family, friends, pets and workplace.
  • Limit your exposure to direct sunlight between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • If you feel ill, tell someone immediately. Symptoms of dehydration and heat illness may include dizziness, fatigue, faintness, nausea, muscle cramps, headache and vomiting.
  • Symptoms of heat stroke include:
    • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
    •  Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
    •  Fast, strong pulse
    •  Headache
    •  Dizziness
    •  Nausea
    •  Confusion
    •  Losing consciousness (passing out)
  • In the event of a heat stroke:
    • Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency
    • Move the person to a cooler place
    • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
    • Do not give the person anything to drink
  • Listen to your body, and remember that those with chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease etc., are more vulnerable to extreme heat. Please take extra precautions. 
  • Click here for more safety tips from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
  • Click here for safety tips in multiple languages including English, Spanish, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and more.
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West Hollywood

WeHo unveils ‘Profit with Purpose’ plan at State of the City 2024

Craig Berberian presented with Ed Levin Award for Design Excellence

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West Hollywood Mayor John M. Erickson delivers opening remarks at State of the City 2024 on July 1, 2024. (Photo courtesy of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

The City of West Hollywood and its chamber of commerce joined forces Tuesday to host the State of the City 2024 event, bringing together community leaders and experts to discuss “Progressive Economics: Putting Progress Back in Progressive.”

The annual gathering, held 1 Hotel West Hollywood, aimed to highlight the city’s achievements, outline future initiatives, and explore strategies for fostering inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the 1.9-square-mile city known for its vibrant culture and diverse community.

Mayor John M. Erickson delivered the keynote address, emphasizing West Hollywood’s commitment to innovation and sustainable development.

“Our city continues to be a beacon of progress, combining economic vitality with our core values of inclusivity and sustainability,” Erickson said.

City Manager David Wilson echoed this sentiment, stating, “We’re not just talking about progress; we’re actively implementing policies that make West Hollywood a model for progressive urban economics.”

The event featured a panel discussion on progressive economics, moderated by Jonathan K. Wilson, chair of the West Hollywood Social Justice Advisory Board. Panelists included California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, LAEDC President Stephen Cheung, UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, and local business owner Jacob Shaw.

Ma emphasized the state’s role in supporting local economic initiatives.

“West Hollywood’s approach aligns perfectly with our statewide efforts to create an economy that works for everyone,” she said.

From left: West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Genevieve Morrill; WeHo Chamber of Commerce Chair David Wood; Craig Berberian, founder and managing partner of the Empire Property Group; California State Treasurer Fiona Ma; and Jorge Nariño of Levin-Nariño Architects. (Photo courtesy of Willa Cutolo)

Stephen Cheung highlighted the importance of balancing growth with community needs.

“Progressive economics isn’t just about numbers; it’s about creating opportunities that uplift all segments of society,” Cheung noted.

A highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of the Ed Levin Award for Design Excellence to Craig Berberian, founder and managing partner of Empire Property Group. The award, named after the late architect and civic leader Ed Levin, recognizes significant contributions to West Hollywood’s architectural landscape.

Upon receiving the award, Berberian expressed his gratitude and commitment to the city’s development.

“This prestigious recognition inspires me and Empire Property Group to continue pushing the boundaries of design, creativity, and innovation,” he said. “Adopting a resident-first approach coupled with a sustainable lens has the power to transform living spaces and enhance the lives of our residents.”

Berberian also praised the city’s leadership, adding, “Thanks to the strong leadership of our mayor, the City Council, and the city manager, the city continues to be a highly desirable place to live, work and play. In a mere 1.9 square miles, it encapsulates rich artistic culture, bustling entertainment, a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, and a tight-knit residential community.”

The event also served as a platform to bid farewell to Deborah Kallick, vice president of government and industry relations for Cedars Sinai Medical Center, who stepped down after 22 years as a chamber board member. Her tenure was marked by dedicated service and significant contributions to the community.

David Wood, chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, underscored the importance of public-private partnerships in driving economic prosperity.

“Our collaboration with the city government has been instrumental in navigating challenges and seizing opportunities for growth,” Wood said.

Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, added, “Events like these are crucial for fostering dialogue and aligning our efforts towards a common goal of a thriving, inclusive West Hollywood.”

The State of the City event comes at a time when many urban centers are grappling with post-pandemic economic recovery and social equity issues. West Hollywood’s focus on progressive economics signals its intent to address these challenges head-on, balancing economic growth with social responsibility.

As the city looks to the future, the discussions and recognitions at this year’s State of the City event reflect a community committed to innovation, sustainability, and inclusive growth. With its unique blend of culture, commerce, and community, West Hollywood continues to position itself as a leader in urban development and progressive policies.

State of the City concluded with networking opportunities for attendees, connecting business leaders, city officials, and community members.

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Los Angeles County

HONOR PAC launches petition to oust NALEO’s new president over Pride flag vote

Downey City Councilmember Claudia Frometa has faced scathing criticism

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In a bold move, HONOR PAC, the leading LGBTQ Latino political action committee, has launched a high-profile petition campaign calling for the removal of Claudia Frometa as the newly elected board president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

The petition, which is spreading rapidly under the hashtags #removeClaudiaFrometa and #PrideFlagSavesLives, comes in response to Frometa’s controversial vote to ban the flying of the Pride flag in Downey. HONOR PAC is rallying NALEO supporters, members, sponsors, and allied organizations to sign on, arguing that Frometa’s actions are incompatible with NALEO’s mission of inclusive representation.

HONOR PAC President Mario Ceballos stated, “We are asking all justice-minded individuals and organizations to stand up in support of LGBTQ+ visibility, pride, safety, and hope. NALEO should be a leader in advancing dignity and civic engagement for all in the United States — not in silencing or making anyone invisible.”

The petition emphasizes the disconnect between NALEO’s recent conference, which highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the election of Frometa, who voted against flying the Pride flag in her city. HONOR PAC argues that this decision goes beyond a simple policy change, viewing it as an attempt to erase LGBTQ presence in the community.

Eddie Martinez, gay news, Washington Blade
Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez

Support for the petition is growing among LGBTQ Latino elected officials.

Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez, who is the executive director of the Latino Equality Alliance, expressed his disappointment and called for NALEO to address the issue with its LGBTQ membership.

“As a gay man who is also an elected official, I am keenly aware of the importance leadership makes in lifting community and family acceptance of LGBTQ members in the jurisdictions we serve,” he explained. “It is the type of visible and cultural support that can make a difference for the long-term health and mental health of the LGBTQ community and our families.”

“At a time when young Latinos are shown to be disproportionately affected with HIV due to cultural barriers to LGBTQ acceptance, it is critically important our national Latino leaders do all we can to stop homophobia instead of perpetuating it,” he added.

El Monte Councilmember Martin Herrera went further, describing the “neutral flag policy” as “dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate.”

HONOR PAC is leveraging social media to amplify its message, encouraging supporters to share personal stories about the importance of LGBTQ visibility in Latino communities. The organization is also coordinating with other LGBTQ groups to broaden the campaign’s reach.

As part of their strategy, HONOR PAC is offering resources for supporters to contact NALEO directly, providing template letters and talking points. They’re also planning virtual town halls to discuss the impact of Frometa’s election on LGBTQ Latino representation in politics.

The petition campaign has sparked a broader conversation about the intersection of Latino and LGBTQ identities in American politics. HONOR PAC maintains that NALEO’s choice of leadership sends a powerful message about whose voices are valued within the Latino political community.

“I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang, who is president of Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials.

“NALEO’s mission is to ensure full Latino participation in the American political process, and that needs to include LGBTQ+ Latino elected officials. I am alarmed that the organization’s new President actively worked to ensure that the Pride Flag will never be flown over Downey’s City Hall. It is hurtful that NALEO’s Board of Directors would advance someone with a harmful track record against the LGBTQ+ community, especially in a predominately Latino city where our LGBTQ+ youth need to know they are supported and accepted in their hometown. I urge the NALEO Board of Directors to reconsider Councilmember Claudia Frometa’s leadership role and assure all Latino elected officials that NALEO is a safe and affirming space for us,” Alhambra Vice Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez told Los Angeles Blade.

Critics of the petition argue that Frometa’s vote was about government neutrality rather than anti-LGBTQ sentiment. However, HONOR PAC contends that such “neutral” policies often serve to marginalize already vulnerable communities.

However, given Frometa’s past opposition to LGBTQ+ celebrations, neutrality may not be her goal in supporting a ban on the Pride flag.

As Jeff Prang points out, in 2021 Mario Trujillo sponsored a measure in support a Pride celebration hosted by the City of Downey. It passed 4-1 with Frometa as the sole dissent. “Unfortunately,” said Prang, “2”two of councilmembers who voted in favor of Pride in 2021 have left the council and were replaced by LGBTQ opponents.”

As the petition gains momentum, all eyes are on NALEO to see how the organization will respond. The controversy highlights the ongoing challenges of balancing diverse perspectives within identity-based political organizations.

The Los Angeles Blade, which previously broke news of her appointment as president of NALEO’s board, has reached out several times for comment.

Those interested in signing the petition or learning more about the campaign can contact HONOR PAC at [email protected]. The organization is urging supporters to act quickly, emphasizing the critical nature of this moment for LGBTQ Latino representation in national politics.

Readers can view and sign the petition here.

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Los Angeles County

Downey official who banned Pride flag elected to lead influential national Latino political group

Claudia Frometa elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials

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Defiantly raising the Rainbow Flag in Downey after Council Votes 3-2 to Ban It On City Property

Claudia Frometa, a Downey city councilmember who ardently defended her vote to end the city’s policy of flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month, was elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials during the group’s national conference on June 21.

NALEO, which represents more than 6,800 Latino elected and appointed officials, is an influential political group that was previously led by gay California State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who was president of the group in 2020.

Frometa’s election has raised concerns among LGBTQ Latino politicians, including Downey’s gay mayor, Mario Trujillo, who opposed the flag ban.

HONOR PAC, the prominent LGBTQ group that supports Latino candidates, expressed “deep disappointment” in the election of Frometa and posted a statement to Instagram:

“The 2024 NALEO Conference concluded with a clarion call about the importance and power of diversity, equity and inclusion. Ironically, it also just elected @claudiafrometafordowney,
who recently voted to never again allow the city of Downey, (Calif.) to fly the Pride flag, as its newest president,” the statement Mario Ceballos, President of HONORPAC wrote.

“NALEO is an important national leader committed to creating visibility, protecting, and defending justice and equality for all.”

“Many of us at HONOR PAC are naturalized citizens because of NALEO. Our community is better because of NALEO: For these reasons, HONOR PAC is deeply disappointed with the appointment of @claudiafrometofordowney to this important national role.”

“The Pride flag,” the HONOR PAC statement reads, “is a symbol of pride, inclusion, safety, and hope. Ms. Frometa’s vote on a motion disguised as a ‘neutral flag’ policy was nothing more than an attempt to silence and ignore the voices and lives of all LGBTQ+ Downey residents and those who love them.”

HONOR PAC further declared, “Ms. Frometa’s vote on this motion a shameless and violent act against our LGBTQ+ brethren whether they are out of the closet or still struggling to come out of what many know to be a dark and lonely place.”

Downey in May voted in favor (a 3-2 vote) of restricting flag flying on city property to only U.S., California and prisoners-of-war flags. The decision reversed a 2021 policy that allowed the Pride flag to be displayed throughout June.

Trujillo maintains the vote was part of an organized political attack on the LGBTQ community, lobbied for by MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

MassResistance has allegedly played a role in opposing and, in some cases reversing LGBTQ supportive programs policies in schools across the nation.

The vote shook the community and sparked a regional backlash, prompting Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn to organize an Pride flag raising ceremony outside the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey on June 3.

LA County Department of Education defiantly raises Pride in Downey. (Photo by Bryan Chan for the LA County Board of Supervisors)

Frometa denied anti-LGBTQ sentiment motivated her vote. 

At a June 11 council meeting, Frometa doubled down, “For any individual to say we are anti-LGBTQ community is incorrect,” citing continued funding for the city’s Pride festival.

Supporters of the new flag policy argued that restricting it to official state flags promotes neutrality.

Other Southern California areas have implemented similar flag restrictions, including Huntington Beach, Temecula, and Redlands.

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials Association at the time expressed disappointment, stating the Pride flag promotes inclusivity, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

HONOR PAC’s statement denouncing Frometa’s elevation to the presidency of NALEO concluded with a forceful denouncement which it hopes resonates with the membership of NALEO: “Shame on you @claudiafrometafordowney for not upholding full and equal rights for all so each can pursue his/her/their happiness as our U.S,” the statement concludes.

NALEO plays a critical role in Latino participation in American politics. As its new president, Frometa will lead efforts in leadership development, policy research and advocacy for Latino issues.

Some LGBTQ advocates worry Frometa’s election could indicate gains by anti-LGBTQ groups within Latino political leadership.

“Attending my first NALE0 conference, it was disappointing to learn that the organization’s leadership selected an individual to lead the board after she publicly voted to ban a flag that symbolizes hope for our LGBTQ youth and families in a predominantly Latine/x community. NALEO needs to address this issue with its LGBTQ membership,” noted City of Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez.

“It is hurtful and disappointing that NALEO, an organization promoting Latino participation in the political process should elevate a member who has disenfranchised LGBTQ+ members of their community, many of whom are Latinx. 

“The “neutral flag policy” she helped to pass in her city is nothing more than the dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate. Such an act is inconsistent with NALEO’s values,” said Martin Herrera, Councilmember, City of El Monte & Secretary of the LA County Lgbtq+ Elected Officials (LACLEO)

“I’m disheartened to see NALEO elect a President that doesn’t stand with the LGBTQ+ community.  The actions of their new President do great harm to members of our community and NALEO should be a welcome and opening space for all and not just for some but the actions of their new leader make me doubt their commitment to inclusivity and equality for all,”  said West Hollywood Mayor John M Erickson, Ph.D. & LACLEO Boardmember

I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Jeff Prang, Assessor, Los Angeles County & President, LACLEO

An unnamed LGBTQ politician from Downey told the Los Angeles Blade, “I’m very concerned about the development with NALEO. It’s important that her gaslighting not be forgotten and that it ends. She rode tearing our flag down to national prominence, buoyed by our enemies, and she will continue to blame us for being upset about it. “

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Los Angeles County

LA County Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers beach vandalized

The tower had homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols spray painted on it and its windows were broken out

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Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach vandalized. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11 LA)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach was vandalized Monday evening or early Tuesday morning with homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols were spray painted on it and the windows were broken out.

“Hate has no place in Los Angeles County. We will not back down from celebrating and protecting our LGBTQ+, Jewish, and Black communities – among our many diverse communities – across Los Angeles County. This act of hatred reminds us why our continued commitment to solidarity is necessary,”  L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said in a statement to the Blade. “We are working with our County departmental partners to repaint Lifeguard Tower 18 at the historic and beloved Ginger Rogers Beach.”

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Los Angeles County

LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day

Mobile phone apps are often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied

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LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 Eyewitness News)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to ban mobile phone use during the school day starting in January of 2025. The ban is a complete prohibition against access and use of mobile phones by students on all LAUSD school campuses, including break periods.

“No matter what we bring to the board in the next four months, it will come with an awareness campaign for all stakeholders including students, but advances also the critical element of pursuing litigation against social media giants for their careless, irresponsible and immoral actions that have put kids across the country in the position they’re in today,” said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There was dissension as two school board members opposed the ban citing how difficult it would be for employees of the second largest school district in the country to enforce the ban and stay on top of it, KABC 7 reported.

Nick Melvoin, the LAUSD school board member for District 4, who spearheaded the ban, spoke with KABC 7:

“When I talk to teachers and students and parents… I also hear the same, which is that more and more time is being spent on policing student phone use. There’s not a coherent enforcement and they’re looking for some support from the board and from the district,” Melvoin said Tuesday. “The schools that have gone farther and that have already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results. Kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up.”

Some parents and others are opposed to the ban telling KABC that they wanted to be able to communicate with their children. Others however see the ban as a means to improve learning and lead to less bullying.

On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote an op-ed calling for warning labels for younger users on social media platforms.

With mobile phone apps most often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied as is a majority of cases for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and gender non-conforming youth, limiting school day usage could mitigate a portion of those instances a San Fernando Valley youth mental health crisis counselor, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

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