The leadership of the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association has come under fire following the dismissal of executive director Sonya Stauffer earlier this month.
At the heart of this unrest is HBIA President Jonathan Hale. Depending on who you talk to, he’s either a power-mad incompetent who’s leading the group towards disaster or the victim of a political witch-hunt based on his relationship as the significant other of ‘new Republican’ congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.
On one level the question is whether the event-centric HBIA, the driving force behind the Hillcrest Farmers Market, Hillcrest Hoedown, CityFest, the Pride Block Party, and Mardi Gras, is really acting in the best interests of the estimated 1,300 businesses in the area. Critics of the city-sanctioned group are calling for the resignation of Hale and asking for an audit of HBIA finances
On a deeper level the controversy reflects divisions within the LGBTQ movement, which has historically been centered in Hillcrest.
Things came to head at the most recent meeting of the HBIA board. An account of the meeting written by Timothy Holmberg in RealPolitikSD:
The longtime partner of Congressional hopeful Carl DeMaio has been targeted by community activists John Thurston and David Lundin, who raised charges against Hale of willful ignorance of open meeting laws and fiduciary responsibilities…
The HBIA is most noted for its signature annual event “CityFest” which draws tens of thousands of visitors into the heart of Hillcrest. The event was established to raise funds for the maintenance of the historic “Hillcrest” sign that straddles University Avenue. The event has raised subsantial cash for the HBIA, but in recent years, proceeds from the event have all but dried up. This trend, however, has occurred while attendance and participation at the event has been breaking records, causing many to question where the money is going. In fact almost all the several events that the HBIA puts on are either in the red or generating scant returns.
Long-time activist Nicole Murray Ramirez, writing in an op-ed column for the LGBT Weekly, said the upheaval was based on “people [who] do not like change or strong leadership.”
Almost all of the past board members who spoke were old and from a different generation and obviously do not like change.
But, what was more obvious to me was that they had one single agenda – to remove the HBA president, businessman Johnathan Hale who, by the way, was elected unanimously by its members.
All the speakers totally focused on Hale and almost all of them are known to have political differences with Hale and his life partner, former City Councilman Carl DeMaio.
This was like a lynching mob without the rope and most of us in attendance saw right through this … let’s call it exactly like it was … this was a planned, organized coup against the current HBA president … period.
I don’t know if Murray-Ramirez is the right person one to be characterizing anybody as old or resistant to change, given her support for Kevin Faulconer, whose administration is clearly the antithesis of change.
Businessman John Thurston, who led the effort to call for a change at the top of the HBIA, responded:
Calling independent and concerned voices in opposition to Hale’s tenure as some sort of organized lynch mob could be nothing further from the truth, and show that there is a broad based independent dissatisfaction from residents, small business owners, vendors that have serviced the HBA such as my self, and from staffers and others who have suffered from Hale’s erratic and belligerent treatment to any who stand in his way.
Nicole Murray I would like to remind you of your very own harsh criticism in this very column of Hale and his “Soft Porn” publication SDPIX, for publishing a series of images that not only blatantly promoted the Drug and Sex destructive sub culture in the LGBT community, but were a direct affront to you and the entire Recovery community in San Diego.
How many more of these missteps should not only the HBA Board tolerate, but local businesses and residents who seek a vibrant and healthy community organization that has Hillcrest’s small businesses’ best interests in mind, and not the selfish and ego driven interests of blatant marketing huckster in Hillcrest.
Whats next, promises of a fabulous marching band and flashy uniforms with 76 Trombones…more likely Rusty Trombones knowing Hale’s predilection for appealing to the lowest common denominator in the LGBT community.
Fueling the anger at the business group was former director Benjamin Nichols being hired to replace his successor. Here’s some of the background on Nichols via SocialTrusted.org:
Nicholls soon began turning the HBA into a permanent, private fundraising machine. He first generated controversy by trying to take a larger share from the weekly Hillcrest Farmers Market. During the next three years, he added open-ended fund-raising events such as Taste n’ Tinis and the Hillcrest Hoe Down, each with hefty admission fees and a profit-sharing agreement with the promotion company.
The Amazing High Heel Race was first held to raise funds for the Hillcrest Pride Flag Project, but then was continued to fund a park and then a monument designed by a current HBA board member—and next to install a $20,000 rainbow cross walk.
Earlier this year, a dispute between the HBA and the Greater San Diego Business Association over control of the Mardi Gras fundraiser led to the HBA to pull out completely rather than compromise and decide to pursue a competing “Fat Tuesday” event in 2014. And as of this year, San Diego Pride was allowed to take on the Pride of Hillcrest Block Party—but only by splitting all profits equally with the HBA, using the HBA’s promotion company, and forbidding San Diego Pride from hosting any other parties.
All of these events are promoted for the public to attend to have fun while helping raise money for the “community.” But since there is zero oversight, this money can and has been used for pet projects with no input and against objections.
In the meantime, empty pep talks took the place of actual business development efforts, and businesses continued to fail at a faster rate than elsewhere.
As of August 6, 2013, it was announced that Nicholls is leaving the HBA to take a senior position at McFarlane Communications. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because for at least the past two years McFarlane has been the promotion company and public relations firm for the HBA. Last year this contract was worth $47,500-$49,000 in fees alone (variance based on profit sharing), but the actual value of the contract was double that, as the contract directed how much McFarlane was to spend on each event and then send the invoices to the HBA for payment. This would be a violation of the City contract that any project greater than $50K needs more than three bids in writing, but it definitely required that at least three be provided in writing.
John R. Lamb, writing in City Beat’s Spin Cycle column, interviewed Sonya Stauffer, who described the HBIA under Hale as “Business last, politics first:”
On June 5, Stauffer said Hale arrived at the HBA’s Fifth Avenue office after a phone call during which he said he’d be there in 15 minutes to terminate her. “He came into the office, took my keys and unplugged my computer— pulled the power cord out of the back!—for the ‘safety of the organization’ and told me to get my things and get out,” she said.
She said he then followed her out to the parking lot and, during the course of what she described as a bizarre hour-and-a-half, tried to return her office key. “He was in my car door, and I’m telling him I want to go home, and he’s trying to give me my key back. He knew what he had done was wrong. He was panicked.
“He tends to make knee-jerk decisions in a state of being angry and then is sorry later,” Stauffer said.
Activist Linda Perine forcefully responded to Murray-Ramirez via Facebook:
Just out of curiosity:
How many of you have been threatened with economic or other harm by the President of the HBA for failing to do as he “commanded” you in political or economic circumstances?
How many of you have been threatened by the author of this commentary for failing to “kiss the ring” (or more nether regions)?
How many of you have been publicly excoriated, lied about and libeled by the author of this commentary in LGBT Weekly?
I can certainly raise my hand multiple times to all 3 questions. I’m guessing there are a substantial number of folks who can do the same.
Our community deserves so much better.
The questions raised by a now former employee; the very legitimate concerns about ADA issues; the incredibly poor judgment shown in handling the employment issue (smart management would know you do NOT have these conversations by publication); ongoing concerns about allocation of resources and bookkeeping. Really legitimate questions, being raised by credible people, that, if Facebook posts are any indication, are being met by denial and foolish personal attacks. Hint: if the former ED has ANY legitimate employment law claim, the current ED’s ill advised letter to SDGLN just boosted her settlement substantially. The HBA Board needs to address these issues in a professional manner.
The LGBT community has a responsible and respected position in this city. We need to stop acting like the 3 stooges on steroids.
It’s certainly true that Carl DeMaio, whether in person or as a doppelganger, evokes a strong reaction in the LGBT community. Activists using a Facebook page event are calling on spectators to turn their backs as DeMaio walks by in this year’s July 19th Gay Pride parade: “If you are unwilling to support your own rights along with our communities rights we will not support you.”
Racism in the USA Writ Large
Think Progress has posted a story about a hate group campaign to send dirty underwear to undocumented immigrants and top politicians in order to stop the “new surge of illegal immigrants crossing America’s borders, enticed by promises of immigration reform amnesty.”
In a message board thread posted on Wednesday, William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), wrote that Americans should mail more than 10,000 pairs of used underwear that range anywhere from “gently used” to those in “bad shape” to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and undocumented immigrants in detention facilities.
“Obama and Boehner have proven once and for all that their talk of passing immigration reform amnesty, instead of enforcing America’s existing border and immigration laws, only brings more unwanted and destructive illegal immigration!” said Gheen in his post.
“Instead of using our tax money to buy illegals 42,000 pairs of new underwear, we would like to send the illegals and DC politicians a message by mailing them our used underwear, and some of our pairs are in really bad shape due to the bad economy and all of the jobs illegal immigrants are taking from Americans.”
Here in San Diego a home-grown extremist has proposed a different “get out the hate” effort, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center HateWatch blog:
Pete Santilli, an extremist antigovernment talk show host and 9/11 truther, is working with a group of bikers to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border crossing near San Diego on “Cinco de Julio.”
Santilli, who lives in San Diego and hosts a program on the Guerilla Media Network, is best known for a violent rant last year in which he called for President Obama and the Bush family to be killed and for Hillary Clinton to be shot in the vagina and “suffer painfully, right in front of me.” His remarks drew scrutiny from the Secret Service.
A Batting Average Worse Than the San Diego Padres
New York Times colunmist Paul Krugman has an especially good essay today, taking the Obamacare doom and gloom team to task:
Have you been following the news about Obamacare? The Affordable Care Act has receded from the front page, but information about how it’s going keeps coming in — and almost all the news is good. Indeed, health reform has been on a roll ever since March, when it became clear that enrollment would surpass expectations despite the teething problems of the federal website.
What’s interesting about this success story is that it has been accompanied at every step by cries of impending disaster. At this point, by my reckoning,the enemies of health reform are 0 for 6. That is, they made at least six distinct predictions about how Obamacare would fail — every one of which turned out to be wrong.
On This Day: 1905 – The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the “Wobblies,” was founded at a 12-day-long convention in Chicago. The Wobbly motto: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” 1964 – Jan & Dean’s “Little Old Lady From Pasadena” was released1969 – Patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, clashed with police. This incident is considered to be the birth of the gay rights movement.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@