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Vancouver Pride Society posts $76,000 deficit


Vancouver Pride Society posts $76,000 deficit

Vancouver Pride Society president Tim Richards attributes this year's deficit to higher staff costs and lower revenue, at the annual general meeting on Dec 2. IMAGE 1 OF 1
President optimistic that new directors hitting their stride
The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) will end 2012 with a deficit of more than $75,000, president Tim Richards told the 27 members who attended the organization’s annual general meeting on Dec 2.
“Financially we are ending the year with a loss,” he says.
Richards attributes the $76,885 loss to a decrease in overall revenue coupled with increased event and staff costs.
The higher staff costs were necessary, he says, to ensure this year’s Pride celebrations proceeded after members voted to oust the previous president and elect an interim board of directors in March.
“Right after the special general meeting, staff quickly started work preparing for the 2012 season, and we hired additional staff at the end of May to get things ready,” Richards says.
According to its financial records, the VPS spent $40,000 more this year in wages and benefits for a total of $202,080 in 2012.
The financial records also indicate that donations and grants declined by nearly $20,000 in 2012, and the Sunset Beach Pride festival lost $25,883.
The Davie Street Dance Party also failed to generate much revenue. The financial records show it cost the VPS $98,107 to run but earned only $100,129 in revenue, for a net profit of just $2,022 in 2012.
Since its inception in 2008, the Davie Street Dance Party has rarely made much profit, except in 2010 when it made just over $40,000. Sponsorship revenue also increased by $60,000 in 2010, and overall the VPS ended that year with stable finances and a surplus of more than $30,000.
The VPS ended 2011 with a surplus as well, of approximately $22,000. According to its financial records, the organization has ended each year since 2008 with some surplus. The last time it posted a deficit was in 2003, when it ended the year with a $107,000 deficit.
Despite barely breaking even this year (and losing more than $11,000 of its cash float to theft), Richards says the Davie Street Dance Party will continue. The new board will approach the city, local bars, VPS members and the community to transform it into a more community-inclusive and lucrative event, he says.
“It hasn’t really been successful for the society, so we need to step back and ask, ‘What do people want to do?’” Richards says.
“It’s really great to have that space,” he continues. “One of the things that’s wonderful about what we do is that we create safe spaces for our community. We want to hang on to that, and now we have an opportunity to look at how to recreate that.”
Former VPS president Shawn Ewing asked the board if it’s open to event and operating suggestions from the membership and community.
“We want feedback from our members around our engagement,” Richards replied.
“We do recognize that we’ve lost the focus in recent years, and we are trying to take that back,” he added.
The board also says it wants to encourage more queer, grassroots, non-profit organizations to march in the parade. “What I’m hearing from members here at the AGM and members in our community is that it [the parade] really needs to reflect our community,” Richards said.
Former VPS president John Boychuk told the board that expensive parade entrance fees are deterring non-profit organizations from participating.

“One of the concerns I’ve been hearing back from organizations is that it’s getting more and more costly to enter the Pride parade, which is the showcase of our community,” Boychuk said.
“It’s becoming more cost prohibitive for some of the community organizations, who have been struggling, to make it to the Pride parade, and it’s becoming a little bit more of an elite group of individuals,” he continued, urging the board to consider freezing entry fees.
“The parade expenses have exponentially increased over the last few years,” parade director Tim Kraumanis acknowledged. “The main reason being is because of crowd control. We had to significantly increase the fencing.”
Kraumanis says the board is looking into pairing larger corporations with smaller community groups and weeding out for-profit companies who are looking solely to capitalize on Pride.
It would be a sort of buddy system, Kraumanis explains, in which big business entries must partner with smaller, queer, non-profit organizations to enter the parade.
The City of Vancouver has also passed a motion to consider designating the Pride parade a civic event, something Kraumanis says would greatly offset parade expenses. City staff is expected to report to council in January. The VPS says civic event status could cut its expenses by $60,000 to $75,000 annually.
The VPS has also been exploring the idea of altering the parade route, as noted in the organization’s 2012 annual report, but Richards tells Xtra the change won’t be happening in 2013.
VPS members elected by acclamation a partial board of seven directors to replace the interim board that has been overseeing operations since the special general meeting in March.
Tim Richards will continue to serve as president; Chrissy Taylor as vice-president; Rick Leonovich as secretary; Bernard Leclair as treasurer; and Rhawnie Vallins, Tim Kraumanis and Emma Lehto will be directors at large.
That leaves five vacant seats on the board. The VPS’s bylaws require a minimum of five directors for quorum.
Former volunteer coordinator Mischa Bartkow was also nominated for a director seat and accepted, but due to bylaw requirements must wait the required 60 days as a new VPS member before joining the board.
Other business addressed at the annual general meeting included a motion to change the $10 membership fee to a sliding scale to make it more affordable to community members. The motion passed by a slim margin of 14 to 11, as did a second motion to extend the dues to cover two consecutive annual general meetings.
Of the VPS’s 101 registered voting members, only 25 percent attended the meeting, including 22 independent voting members and three corporate voting members (and two members who abstained).
Despite the deficit, Richards says he feels confident for 2013 and his role as president.
“I’m feeling good. The team we have and the directors that are coming back to serve again are wonderful and have done a tremendous amount of work for the society, and I think we are getting our stride,” he says. “There will be some good things going forward.”

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Exhibit A
If anyone thinks this deficit is the fault of the current board, they have no idea what they are talking about. It was mismanagement under Ken Coolen and Scott Blythe that dug the society into the hole it finds itself now. There were many many many reasons to get ride of Ken Coolen. This is just one of them, and one of the most important. It is unfortunate that the facts that were hidden under Coolen and Blythe are just now coming to light. Bravo to the new board for having the courage to state the truth and create a plan to overcome the mismanagement of the past.
Back and Forth
I enjoy reading the comments, I'm not sure why but I feel as though they help interpret the article and it's intent.

Stephen see's an article that's attempting to highlight the inadequacies of the current Pride Board, and at the same time give praise to the former President.

Everyone else just goes on either defending said President or attacking someones opinions.

All I want to say to that is he's not the President anymore and instead of complaining about the past and praising it for what it was, try and be a part of making the present just as good. If you see fault, speak on it, but also take action to change it. It comes across as petty to admit you want nothing to do with an organization but don't mind taking part in the slander and gossip of said organizations alleged faults.

To those who chose to character assassinate Ken Coolen you should think on your words before you speak them. The members of the board and those that ran against him never once spoke ill of Ken's performance. The SGM was held because of an voter issue regarding numbers, and not some crusade to oust Ken. Yes, there have been hurt feelings and negative relations between some and Ken but even through that they respected him enough not to gossip or slander his reputation. If you hold them in such high regard you should try emulating that quality.
For the record Tim

It was actually ANOTHER person - the one who brought the numbers question to the attention of the Xtra West editor to write the story in the first place- who came up with "nefarious" motives as to why VPS would do it. I actually didn't agree with that speculation myself.

Nonetheless it's NOT a conspiracy theory to disbelieve incredible numbers that the VPS interim director admitted in the press - when further questioned by an Xtra West reporter after the police said they didn't keep such stats for Pride- were only based on weak estimates.

I think I stated pretty clearly that my own motivation for bringing up this issue at all is that, if one of the community's enemies questioned the numbers and made us look bad, it could damage the reputation of Pride and lose us the civil standing. Better that we hold each other to account before someone who hates our community does.

I don't see that self-checking in our own community as negative self-serving attention seeking. I see it as healthy introspection. Are you threatened by that?
Same old dysfunction
There is NOTHING you can say about Ken Coolen that would make me believe he is any worse a leader than what is there at present or has been in the past 18 years I have been around Vancouver.

In fact I suspect a lot of what Alan just posted above is complete over-exaggeration and just character drama to justify whatever weak character difference reasons people had to force a change in leadership.

[By the way, that movie isn't that bad a documentary and it has a lot of value in attempting to do outreach to people in countries struggling to even have Pride. As a filmmaker myself, I think that project was one of the best things a member of VPS has ever done for our communities - as well as the cross Provincial BC outreach. Slagging the endeavour just comes across to me as childish jealousy. It's that transparent lads].

Faced with such weak, hearsay allegations of Coolen's character and motives, I have no other option but to personally think this whole debacle is the same old bitchy, lack-of-trust, ambition-fueled volunteer queer community backstabbing their own and devouring a person who is trying to do a good job in a dysfunctional setting.

I have seen this kind of crap recycle in the VPS over and over for years. We readers aren't stupid out here while we are doing alternative media projects for the community.

I don't need to come to any more of your VPS public meetings (I was at a few in '07 during the Pride name branding fiasco) to know I'd be wasting my time being any closer to VPS than I have been in recent years. I don't need to observe more toxic games closely.

I think Xtra West's reporting on the current matter is good enough; and though they don't explicitly say it as clearly as I think they should, it's pretty obvious the one salient point the writer is making is that the ousting of Ken Coolen at the time it happened was a move that directly contributed to financial loss.

So VPS needs to take better ownership for your dysfunction as an organization
Pride Board Members Perhaps?
I suspect that the last 2 posters have an official role with Pride and of course if true I'm not that surprised that you would be attacking a member who has raised legitimate concerns regarding how the board came into being. And running a deficit of $75,000 isn't demonstrating sound financial management. Attracting 26 people to an AGM hardly qualifies you as having the confidence of the community does it.
Don't worry about JLH and Stephen. Neither of them have volunteered for years nor do they participate at all in anything Pride does, but of course they're happy to take time to bitch about Pride behind the comfort of their computer screen. The people who really care about Pride, without an agenda, were the people who called the SGM to correct an error in the election process, and many of those people stepped up and had to make the hard decisions to start digging Pride out of the hole it was in. The hundred or so people who showed up at the SGM also care greatly about Pride and voted unanimously for the interim board to move forward with the pride season. Furthermore, I saw Stephen post a bunch of comments on Pride's facebook page spewing his conspiracy theory about Pride faking the attendance number for nefarious purposes. He and JLH are just desperate to find controversy where none exists. The VPS is in a solid place, and after the AGM I have never been so optimistic for its future.
@ Stephen and JLH
Are you even a member? I am and I volunteer for Pride when I can. Ken did not bring in 3 yrs of surpluses. Pride and the people around Ken (who actually knew what they were doing) brought in 9 yrs of surpluses, Ken was just President for the last 3 of those years. Ken was one person on a committee of over a dozen people. The majority of those people involved in the last 3 yrs were involved in 2012... and the majority of the people on those committees over the last 9 yrs of surpluses voted to boot Ken, including the two Presidents before him and every other executive on the Pride committee with him. You should do your research before spewing conspiracy theories about these people replacing those people, and these people doing better than those people cause it's the same people, minus one corrupt and ineffective leader. They committee was not self appointed...the members of Pride unanimously appointed them last March. As a member, I know the Pride fiscal year starts in September. Ken was President for over half of the fiscal year... If you're still thinking Ken was removed for "some unspecified reason", it's pretty clearly specified now. You shouldn't be blaming the committee for this year losing money. You should be looking at the last 3 yrs of the infamous Ken Coolen Gong Show and watch as 6 yrs of money is slowly spent on his globe trotting and freebies for WinterPride, a FOR PROFIT Pride that Ken happens to own and not to mention that ridiculous movie he was in. Your comment here is quite a bit for someone I never see at a pride meeting, Stephen. Maybe you should attend one and get the facts straight. All this he-said she-said you seem to trade in does nothing but drive a wedge in our community and no one appreciates it. PS - There's a huge difference between "anonymous" posters, and people that aren't regular comment section shit disturbers like yourselves.
Ken Coolen is a Good and Decent Man
I served on the Pride Board with Mr Coolen and his job as Treasurer was a difficult one considering the hours he put in and all which were volunteer hours. He was extremely hard working. At times I held a different viewpoint at the Board table than Mr Coolen but at no time did I find him divisive or confrontational. In fact I found him fair and often jovial. Mr Coolen's involvement in Vancouver's gay community goes back a long way and includes him serving food on Easter Sundays at the Normandy Hospital where people dying with AIDS resided. This work of feeding the dying and providing end of life comfort care was all volunteer as well. I think Mr Coolen made some mistakes as everyone in leadership positions can do but this should not give rise to an anonymous character assination of him. I would support Mr Coolen in a heartbeat should he decide to serve on the Pride board again. I second what Stephen Emery is saying.
re: how about this explanation?
Nice try Stephen, but your defence of Ken is very misguided. In reality Ken was a divisive and confrontational "leader" without real leadership skill. You, Jennifer Breakspear and Dean Nelson are probably the only people left on the Ken train. The rest of the community sees him for who he is. He had the opportunity to re-run for President at the SGM but chose not to. He could have volunteered at any of the events but he didn't. He could have run for President at the recent AGM, but he didn't even show up. That tells that his priorities are not in line with the good of the VPS. As far as the new board goes, I have read the financials from the past couple years and as far as I can tell the deficit this year was unavoidable. Under Ken's leadership, the VPS burned through a six-figure capital fund and left the new board trying to dig Pride out of a financial hole. Also, the board can't appoint itself, so you might want to check your facts before your libel gets you in trouble - the board was appointed by 100+ members who showed up to the SGM, and then elected via due process at the recent AGM.
how about this explanation?
VPS had a competent President in Ken Coolen who brought in three years of surpluses. For some unspecified reasons alluding to character or personality differences, never made clear to the readership, Ken was politically backstabbed in the middle of Pride planning season and removed from leadership by some bizarre and usual protocol. He was then hastily replaced by a self-appointed interim board who, now it turns out, was not competent enough to fully recover from the chaos that was created to either make ends meet or continue the success that Ken had and perhaps should have been left to provide again in 2012.


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