Mayor of Aurora, Richard C. Irvin wrote:
A monetary gap shouldn’t stop momentum gained.
Today’s announcement by Indivisible Aurora regarding the cancellation of the 2019 Aurora Pride Festival is very disappointing – to say the least.
On Monday of this week, I received a request for a meeting with Indivisible Aurora to discuss the festival. When we met two days later on Wednesday, I was informed about financial concerns and the pending decision to cancel the event. I asked them to hold on their decision. We agreed to review the event plan and associated costs and regroup today, Friday, April 12.
While the actual cost of the festival was presented to Indivisible Aurora on Monday, April 1, the City has been meeting with Indivisible Aurora since January and shared with them to expect an increase in cost from last year based on the special events new ordinance which was in process.
The new ordinance was passed by the Aurora City Council on January 22, 2019. As part of the ordinance, costs for public safety personnel, security fencing for the parade route and the like are passed along to organizers of private events – such as the Pride Festival – and cannot be paid using public funds through the City.
In the past two days, the City worked with law enforcement to provide a security plan which would reduce costs but still ensure the safety of participants, shortened the parade route to reduce costs while still have a quality event, and combed through expenses line-by-line to reduce costs.
Today, the City proposed a new budget which was reduced overall by 27%. In addition, the City helped to secure a local grant to offset even more costs – all in good faith efforts to keep the progress and planning of the 2019 Pride Festival in motion.
Based on a budget of $16,000 given to the City by Indivisible Aurora on Wednesday, the final funding gap for the Festival is now less than $10,000 – which the City offered could even be paid in installments throughout the next year.
Unfortunately, after those sincere efforts, the board of directors of Indivisible Aurora still made the decision to cancel the event.
The City has had a productive working relationship with Indivisible Aurora and its efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, the City absorbed much of the cost for the inaugural event, but we simply cannot afford to do so – under ordinance and because of equity – using public dollars for private events.
With just about two months until the scheduled weekend, our hope is Indivisible Aurora will receive the necessary monetary support it needs. We have seen what happens when a community comes together for a worthy cause. A money gap of less than $10,000 shouldn’t stop the momentum gained in a community filled with passion and pride.
Mayor Richard C. Irvin
City of Aurora
Here is information from the Indivisible Aurora Facebook page:
There is no sugar-coating this news: the 2019 Aurora Pride Parade and Festival (including 5k race, marketplace and speaker series) have been cancelled.
Last year’s inaugural Aurora Pride Parade, the first in the Chicago suburbs, was an astounding success. It brought an estimated 10,000-12,000 incredible people together in downtown Aurora, filling our historic streets with love and downtown businesses with celebratory customers. We eagerly looked forward to expanding on that success with a larger weekend festival for 2019 and started work with the city almost immediately afterwards.
At the beginning of April, we were told, after months of planning, that our costs for the parade alone were to increase four-fold over last year due to a new city ordinance. That we were told 66 days before the kickoff of festival activities was problematic. Our fundraising model was designed with last year’s economics in mind. While we anticipated an increase we never imagined, nor was it ever suggested, that it would be 4X.
Our Board of Directors carefully considered options. We reached out to sponsors and partners. We discussed cutting back where we could. We looked at every line item with renewed vigor. We worked closely with Mayor Irvin and his staff to identify additional savings. All of this in the hopes of saving the festival. In the end we could not find a fiscally responsible way forward. Quite simply, the new economics make it impossible for us to ensure that we can stage the kind of Pride Festival that would make Aurora, the #LGBTQ+ community we support, and us proud.
While many of the new activities planned were revenue neutral the entire festival was conceived as a whole. We couldn’t cancel parts of the festival without significantly diminishing the festival experience. We also estimated that without the parade as a capstone event the remaining activities would likely suffer greatly in attendance. Because of this our Board of Directors was unfortunately forced to cancel the entire festival.
As you can imagine, we are heartbroken and disappointed for the Fox Valley LGBTQ+ community, our partners and sponsors, and our enthusiastic supporters and volunteers. We’d like to thank them all for their steadfast support. We’d also like to thank the city’s Special Events team, the Aurora Police Department (specifically, Lt. Matt Thomas and his staff), the Aurora Fire Department, EMS staff, Downtown Aurora, the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Mayor’s Office for their diligent partnerships this past year.
Our immense disappointment is assuaged in some measure by the satisfaction we feel in the continuing impact of last year’s celebration in Aurora. That parade, directly and indirectly, kicked off efforts throughout the Chicago suburbs. Together we proved it could be done and done well locally. Over this past year we shared our information and inspiration with activists and allies in Buffalo Grove, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Mokena, Joliet and Muncie, Indiana. They are all working hard to continue the fight for equality in their communities. We are proud of that. You should be proud of that too.
The theme chosen for the festival was “Promoting the inclusion and support of LGBTQ+ Aurorans through art, entertainment, and conversation.” We thought this was an appropriate theme for 2019 given the coarsening political climate and renewed legislative assaults on LGBTQ+ rights around the country. There is clearly still work to be done. With your support we will continue to be engaged in that work in partnership with LGBTQ+ leaders and allies in the community.
Visit http://www.aurorapride.org for additional information and refund details for sponsors, donors and participants. We will discuss the Pride Festival at our April public meeting at 1 E. Benton Street in Aurora on Saturday, April 13 at 1 P.M..