Residents, officials share more Pride Fest views

by Dan Holland

May 13 city council work session

Although it was not on the Broadview Heights City Council agenda, a number of residents and city officials expressed views on the June 8 Pride Fest event to be held at the city’s amphitheater.

Residents had also shared opinions both in support of and in opposition to the upcoming event during city council work sessions held April 15 and May 2. The exchanges drew regional and national media attention.

The event is being sponsored by BBH Pride and Metro Health with support from the Cleveland Guardians and Sherwin Williams. The city is a co-sponsor of the event, which was scheduled by Mayor Sam Alai and his administration.

In accordance with past procedures governing city-sponsored events, members of city council did not have input on scheduling the event. Ward 3 Councilperson Brian Dunlap at a May 2 meeting proposed additions to the codified ordinances that would afford councilmembers an opportunity to review applications for future city-sponsored events.

Per council rules, only Broadview Heights residents were permitted to address officials during the meeting.

Resident Kathy Boff expressed concern about efforts by BBH Pride and Equality Ohio to push for an anti-discrimination ordinance in the city. “Such a bill has been unable to pass at the state level, so the groups are systematically attempting to do so at county and municipality levels across Ohio,” she said.

Boff noted that anti-discrimination laws are already in place at the state and local levels. “I believe there is a glaring transparency issue with a large factual omission that it is a political activist group demanding contentious, controversial changes to our municipal government system, which includes compelled speech training for government employees,” she added.

Boff also expressed a desire to see that “all elected officials” have input on future events rather than the mayor only.

Brad Gubser spoke in support of the event and said he believes the method for choosing events should remain in place. “Our policy has worked well for many, many years, and I don’t see why it’s not going to work well into the future,” he said.

Chad DeWeerd, pastor of Broadview Heights Friends Church, said he approached Alai in 2020 with a proposal for a musical celebration involving a number of churches. According to DeWeerd, Alai told him they couldn’t host the event at that time since it would have to go through city council and policies needed to be established.

“I simply said we would do it elsewhere,” said DeWeerd. “But again, as this is coming to light how things have maybe played out this time; I’m concerned that there might be an equity for all people, including the Christian community, to be able to utilize these amenities.”

DeWeerd also noted the significance of decisions being made due to widespread media coverage. “The policies and the precedents that are going to be set in this room are going to have national implications, because we have made Newsweek, and we have made the national news, and people are looking to what’s going on here.”

Resident Robert Kilo said it is clear that the community is divided over the event. “You’ve heard pastors on both sides of this; you’ve heard citizens on both sides of it,” he said. “There is no way on God’s green earth – that is abundantly clear at this time – that this is what this community wants.”

“You just heard from a well-respected pastor that he had reached out at one point and was forbidden access to public property, whereas the Pride Fest seems to have an open gate,” he added. “That doesn’t seem to be fair and equitable, and we would humbly suggest that the residents decide because ‘we the people’ will be clearer if given the opportunity.”

In response to a resident’s concerns over content being considered as a factor, Councilperson Joe Price said his views were not about content, but about process. “This has never been about the community that’s being questioned in content; it was about the things that this organization [BBH Pride] was saying – how they were saying it, and the tone they were saying it in, which I don’t think represents the best values of this community.”

“It’s very hard for me to believe that for the seven of us [on council], that it has nothing to do with content, because since the March 8th email [announcing the event], there have been several events announced, and not one question about any of them,” responded Councilperson Jennifer Mahnic.

While confirming a need for changes in process, Ward 3 Councilperson Brian Dunlap said that at some point, content needs to be discussed. “Whether it’s Beer Fest, or whether it’s some person walking down the street with some nudity in a Gothic outfit in some parade that we’ve all heard about in some cities –we’re going to talk about content, because that’s what we have to do.” 

“I believe that content is what brought attention to the process, and that’s not right,” said Ward 2 Councilperson Brian Wolf. “[Events] has been going on here for 21 years, and one event caused all of this hoopla. It is about content.” ∞