Reed: City improving relationship with Pride

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The sometimes-frosty relationship between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Pride Committee that grew out of the festival being booted from Piedmont Park in 2008 is taking a turn for the better.

That’s the word from Mayor Kasim Reed (second photo), who said during a recent interview with Project Q Atlanta that his administration it taking “extraordinary steps” to make sure Pride experiences a smooth relationship with the city this year.

imageIn 2008, the city booted Pride and other large-scale festivals out of Piedmont over concerns about a lingering drought and damage to the crown jewel of the city’s park system. The action pushed Pride to the Atlanta Civic Center, a move that resulted in lower attendance and revenue, and one that nearly proved to be a fatal blow to the 40-year-old event.

Last year, the city opened the park to a limited number of festivals and high-level negotiations allowed for Pride to return to Piedmont, but shift the event to late October.

Reed, who recently marked 100 days in office, said his administration is working to end any tension between City Hall and the Atlanta Pride Committee.

“We are also taking extraordinary steps to make sure Pride and all of the related activities in that weekend have a fluid, smoother process,” Reed says. “In the past, there were some issues around the scheduling and permitting of that event and there was tension there. I believe if you visit with those folks, there is no tension. The city fully embraces it and is doing everything we can as quickly as we can to change that conversation and feel.”

Pride is set for Oct. 9-10 in Piedmont Park with opening festivities scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Georgia Aquarium. Reed, along with three other mayoral candidates, marched in the Pride parade last year and says he plans on attending the festival again this year.

“Yes, no question,” Reed responded when asked about taking part in Pride this October.

imageJP Sheffield (bottom photo), Pride’s executive director, says that although it’s still early in the planning and permitting process for the festival, he’s encouraged by the comments from Reed.

“It is good to hear the mayor committed in that way,” Sheffield says. “It is an honor to know that when the mayor meets with the gay press that he is referencing gay pride. That shows we are on his radar and that he respects what we do and sees value in what we bring to the city. Those are all positive things. We are both excited and grateful that he is taking notice of us in that way and engaging the gay community in general.”

Sheffield says the festival recently submitted the lengthy permit application for the event to the mayor’s Office of Special Events, a document that stretched to about 150 pages. Typically, city officials will then pass along pieces of the application to affected city departments for review. About 60 days before the festival, Pride will face a permit review hearing, Sheffield says.

“We have had a great working relationships with the mayor’s Office of Special Events. The new team that is in that office has been hospitable and seemed to be eager to make things work even more efficiently. We feel good about where things are right now. We also recognize that it is a new administration and new people and with that will come some hiccups and growing pains. As long there’s the desire to work through those things, then everything is great. That does seem to be the case,” Sheffield says.


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