Public Arts Commissioner Opposed Effort to Collaborate with Public Arts and Community Events Commission
CATHEDRAL CITY — The idea for two city commissions to collaborate to host an Old Gays book signing and panel discussion looked good on paper and sounded like government at its best. Public Arts Commissioner Sunshine Herrera wasn’t having any of it.
For those who might not know, The Old Gays is a group of Cathedral City residents and LBGT+ activists who range in age from 67-80. The group consists of Robert Reeves, Michael “Mick” Peterson, Bill Lyons and Jessay Martin. The Old Gays are an internet sensation with more than 11 million followers on TikTok, more than 680,000 thousand followers on Instagram and more than 500,000 on Facebook. They have recently published a book titled the “Old Gays Guide to Living,” published by Harper Collins.
It is due to come out Nov. 28.
The current City Council honored them two years ago, at LGBT Days when the Old Gay Guys had 6 million followers, so they know who they are. So, it shouldn’t be a problem, Baciu told the board.
The Parks and Community Events Commission has already approved the event.
Antonio Baciu, vice chair of the Parks and Community Events Commission, said that he and Public Arts Commissioner Leonard Travis are proposing a panel discussion book signing at Mary Pickford Theater on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. Ticketing will be done through the Mary Pickford Theater.
Harper Collins has selected a moderator for the event at no cost to the commissions. We have partnered with an independent bookstore in Palm Springs Baciu said. It will cover the sale of all the books.
Turns out, the potential problem was right in front of him: Public Arts Commissioner Sunshine Herrera.
She repeatedly called for an ad hoc committee to look at the issue despite the fact a member of her Public Arts Commission, Travis, has been working with Baciu on the effort.
The total budget for the event is $1,600 and is proposed to be split equally between the PAC and PACE budgets. The proposed $800 expenditure from the Art in Public Places fund will be used to pay for the use of the theater space, lighting & audio. The Art in Public Places Fund currently has $70,587.41 available for Arts, Education and Events programming. The proposed $800 expenditure from the PACE Commission budget includes $200 toward the theater costs and $600 for refreshments.
Herrera peppered Baciu with questions, often interrupting him to the point Anne Ambrose, the staff liaison, had to call her out.
“So, the 800. The 800, did any of you other three OK an 800 or talk about any money going towards this since we’re working together?” Herrera asked, though it was unclear to whom she was addressing.
“That’s why the (item) was brought forward tonight for you to consider,” Ambrose said.
“That’s not how it works,” Herrera snapped. “Usually, it comes before our board and we talk, like OK, whoever’s going on, they come forward and we say, OK, thank you for giving us this thing.’ We talk among ourselves. We go and we make an ad hoc committee that ad hoc maybe goes and talks to them, which they would come up with some type of number. They would bring that back to us. Then we would discuss it and approve it. But that didn’t happen.”
Herrera also tongue-lashed Travis Leonard.
“Also. Travis, how come that you didn’t bring the request for the commission, our commission to actually buy books and then hand them out for free, considering that you guys are trying to go at this as an educational thing? How come you guys didn’t go that route? I mean, I would’ve liked to go that route instead of … Well, that’s why this was one of the reasons why this should have had an ad hoc committee, and it should have come before us to talk about it because we’re taking this out of our funds for education and we’re paying for a theater. It’s almost like we are just doing an event. I mean, as a commissioner, as an arts commissioner, I would’ve loved to see that our commission buy the books and then gave those for free to the people coming. That would’ve been an awesome idea to have that come across here. And also, so you guys say you’re having a panel discussion, right? Who’s running the panel discussion?”
From the rapid-fire questions and staccato tone in her voice, it was clear Herrera was not happy.
“As far as us working together, it’s a great worthwhile event for, these people are the biggest thing that happened out of the city since Timothy Bradley,” Baciu said.
In the end, Herrera was the lone dissenter as the Public Arts Commission voted 4-1 to collaborate with the Parks and Community Events Commission to host the event.
The idea now goes before thee City Council.
- Old Gay Guys Book: Harper Collins
- Old Gay Guys: YouTube, “no copyright infringement is intended”