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Pride Society celebrates ‘huge successes’

Some say better communication still required

The last year has seen “huge successes” for the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), according to VPS president Ken Coolen.

Coolen told approximately 40 members who attended this year’s annual general meeting on Nov 6 that the VPS saw expanded events, stable finances and a new general manager in 2010.

“In previous years we brought in $1,000 or $2,000 from the [Davie St] dance party; this year we brought in close to $30,000,” Coolen said.

According to the VPS’s financial reports, the party, which was organized in-house this year, brought in $137,494 before expenses, compared to $1,727 in 2009 when the event was produced by John Donnelly and Associates.

“I can tell you point blank, we just did a way better job,” said Coolen. “People did not wait half an hour to 45 minutes to get a drink; they waited 15 or 20 when it got busy.

“We opened up pretty much on time,” he added, “compared to 2008 when it was an hour late to open.”

The Sunset Beach Festival attracted more than 110,000 people and brought in $79,611, compared to $34,991 in 2009. However, its overhead for 2010 was $73,707.

Coolen also noted an increase in sponsorship revenue in 2010. “Sponsorship went up almost 50 percent over the previous years,” he said. “This was in cash — huge thanks to Caryl Dolinko.”

This was the debut AGM for Scott Blythe, who was recently hired as general manager. Some attendees had questions about his role within the society.

“A lot of us are hoping for a guy where the buck stops at,” said Joan-E. “What I’m hoping is that this fellow is going to have teeth and is going to be allowed to do his job.”

“I have the ability to manage the daily affairs of the society,” said Blythe. “And once I get a bit more footing in the society, you folks will see a lot more of me.”

Blythe said he does have teeth and the buck will stop with him. He said his role is to implement the board’s decisions.

“One of the things I asked when I started this position is, ‘Am I going to have the power to effect operations?'” he said.

“Governance is what the community is about; it’s what [the board] is about,” he continued. “My role is to ensure that we’re compliant. Are we meeting bylaws and laws? Are we building relationships with the city and community and businesses? And do I have the authority to act upon that?”

The bylaws were changed to reflect the new paid staff.

The maximum size of the board was reduced from 15 to 12 members, eliminating three director positions.

“The maximum size of our board is greater than the boards of other Prides and comparable organizations,” the proposal noted. “The actual size of the board for most of 2010 was 10 persons.”

The role of the president was also changed to allow the president to run for a second three-year term. The previous bylaw stipulated that the president “shall automatically retire from his position at the end of the AGM following three years of service, after the election of his successor.”

Under the new bylaw the president may serve a second term if reelected by the membership.

The membership also voted to change the bylaw that required five percent of both group and individual members in calculating quorum. The bylaw was amended, so now only individual members will be counted in determining minimum quorum.

Seven board-member positions, as well as that of vice-president, were up for election, with three people running for the board and one for vice-president.

Local film producer and Pride newcomer Enola Turner was elected as vice-president.

“I’m looking forward to becoming part of the board,” she says. “I’m fairly new to the Vancouver Pride Society. This was the first year I was ever able to come out to Pride. I usually work with film in conjunction with Pride.”

Terry Costa, who has been on the board for two years, was reelected to another term.

Community volunteer Rick Leonovich, a widower and cancer survivor, ran for his first term as a board member. “I believe very strongly in the gay community,” he said. “Whether you are LGBT, I am hoping to bring as much passion into the community as I can.”

After a five-year absence, former VPS president Shawn Ewing also returned to the board. Her three-year tenure as president saw the society’s financial situation stabilize, as it went from $107,000 in debt to a budget surplus.

“I also feel very passionately about Vancouver Pride Society, or I wouldn’t stand back here again,” she said. “I feel that I can contribute to doing a little bit of outreach in our community.”

Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva called for increased dialogue between members of the community and the Pride Society.

“I think one of the problems I see in Davie Village is a lack of communication between small businesses, bars and Pride. There’s developed a wall that’s almost impenetrable. I’d support a subcommittee with more dialogue about what joins us, not what divides us. A concerted movement by the board to embrace small business would be extremely helpful.”

Coolen said the VPS met with bars before the Davie St party. But Deva maintained the dialogue should be between the VPS and all small businesses — not just bars and clubs.

Chrissy Taylor suggested Pride do more to bridge the gap between the West End and East Vancouver.

“I would just like the general manager to look around the room and see the disparity between the amount of men and people who identify as women in this room,” she said. “Yes, it’s great to include different merchants in the West End. [But there’s a] huge separation between the East Side and the West End and what people view Pride as, and what people Pride includes.”