Any decision to move or change the Pride parade route should be made with the “full discussion and participation” of the West End’s stakeholders, merchants and community, says Vince Marino, outgoing president of the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (DVBIA).
Speaking with Xtra West after the DVBIA’s annual general meeting Sep 20, Marino says the entire community has not been “fully engaged” in the discussion, contending that only two groups —the city and the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) —have been front and centre in the debate over changes to the current route.
What “scares” him, he says, is that not enough of a consensus is being sought on the issue.
Reminded of the VPS-initiated Pride forum held Sep 6 that attracted only three community participants, Marino suggests the poor turnout was a reflection of the timing and publicity given to the event, plus the operational realities of businesses that may not have been able to send representatives to a 6 pm forum.
When Xtra West asked VPS president John Boychuk if he thinks the forum was well-publicized, he says “there’s always better ways to do it, but how much money do you spend on it?”
The VPS sent notifications “out to everybody,” he adds.
“We talked about it to persons. At Davie Days, four days before, lots of people knew about it. So whether they chose to send somebody to it was their choice,” he contends, adding “they didn’t do so.”
The VPS also plugged the forum in its Aug 19 newsletter telling community members: “This is the place to be heard and allow us to address the misconceptions, the information and the facts about Pride.”
Boychuk says another forum, focusing on “what people will like to see happen in 2008,” will be held in November after the VPS’ next annual general meeting.
Marino emphasizes there has to be more than one or two meetings every four months.
“It has to be a number of open houses and a number of discussions. There should be some plans of what routes to take, what the pros and cons are for all of those things.”
Marino says he keeps hearing “safety, safety, safety all the time” and asks: “Is that really the only issue?” If so, he says, then there are other ways to keep spectators safe.
One of the elements that could inform the ongoing debate about the Pride parade is a poll of West End businesses to determine what they think about changes to the traditional route, and the potential impact on their trade.
“I think the BIA can be a part of that dialogue and should be a part of that dialogue,” Marino says.
In his last report to the AGM as DVBIA president, Marino highlighted the expansion of the DVBIA to include the Denman and Robson St areas as the key achievement of his tenure at the association’s helm.
Once encompassing three blocks, the DVBIA now includes a 23-block area. The expansion took effect Apr 1 after the city approved the association’s expansion plans.
BIA executive director Lyn Hellyar noted at the AGM that the association’s constitution and bylaws still carry the name Davie Village in reference to the BIA. A motion to replace “Davie Village” whenever it appears in both documents with the words “West End” was approved by the membership.
“We’ve batted around a lot this past year what we’d call the new BIA if it became a reality. When we gave our proposal to the city, the director of BIAs for the city had to give us a name because we didn’t have one yet. So he gave us the name West End BIA,” Hellyar explains, adding that another name can be chosen in the future. “But we really do need to operate our business now under West End BIA as opposed to Davie Village BIA,” she stresses.
Hellyar also noted that new banners reflective of the name change were ready to go up in April, but the ongoing city strike has forestalled their installation.
“The banners that are going up are fairly generic banners, so certainly not what we’ve decided needs to be hanging there. We want to talk about what do we want the whole West End to look like now. That’s going to be taking place over the next year,” she indicates.
Marino stresses this will not mean the Davie Village rainbow flags will come down. What he envisions is a banner that identifies the 23 blocks of the new WEBIA as a whole for marketing and tourism purposes, while maintaining the unique qualities of the various parts.
“I can see on one side of the pole our Pride flags in the Davie Village remaining; maybe a distinctive one for all of Denman.”
Asked if Denman and Robson Sts will fly rainbow flags, Marino says while those areas see themselves as part of the wider West End community, they have indicated they want to maintain “their own distinctive flavour.”
When asked about the potential impact the expansion will have on the Davie Village’s queer character, Marino says he doesn’t see this as an issue, and expresses confidence that the newly elected board members will develop a vision to benefit the whole West End “in its full diversity.”
Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva, who is returning to the board after a two-year hiatus, says he wants to ensure there is no dilution of the Village’s gay character.
“It’s always been one of my concerns with the amalgamation, that our Village has to retain its identity. I think we can do that,” Deva maintains.
“It will be interesting to see whether the people on Denman and Robson are clever enough to know that the rainbow is the best marketing device,” he adds.
Deva joins new directors David Buddle, Michel Duprat, Aaron Hoo, Scott Johnson, Cecilia Khu, Craig Norris-Jones and Jim Mockford, and returning board members Renata Aebi, Robert Graham and James Steck.
At least five people on the 11-member BIA board are openly queer.