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Hillcrest Business Association won't produce Mardi Gras in 2013

SAN DIEGO -- At its December meeting, the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) board of directors voted to not produce Hillcrest Mardi Gras in 2013.

The popular event, which attracts thousands of partiers to a Fat Tuesday street party at University Avenue and Fourth Avenue, has been jointly produced by the HBA and the Greater San Diego Business Association Foundation (GSDBAF) for the past 12 years. The two groups jointly own the event.

Over the past few years, the HBA has taken on the majority of the work to produce the event while the GSDBAF’s contribution has shrunk. Members of the Hillcrest business community have conducted all major activities for the production of the event including handling all permitting, finances, logistics and coordinating promotions.

Over the past several months, the relationship between the HBA and GSDBAF has soured.

Although similarly named, the Greater San Diego Business Association Foundation is NOT affiliated with the Greater San Diego Business Association (GSDBA), the local chamber of commerce for LGBT businesses and allies.

The Foundation is a 503(c)(3) non-profit organization with offices at 1940 Fifth Ave., Suite 300 in Hillcrest. Stampp Corbin, publisher of LGBT Weekly, is the president of the organization. Other officers are Lisa Sanders, vice president; Tom Abbas, treasurer; and Bruce Abrams, secretary. Longtime community activist Nicole Murray Ramirez, who is employed by Corbin, sits on the board of directors.

“Rather than continue to partner with an organization whose members are hostile to the business association and who contribute very little to the event, we have decided to step back and look at other options,” said Benjamin Nicholls, HBA executive director. “If the GSDBAF is interested in producing the event on their own, we welcome it. Obviously, if the event were produced, we would vigorously defend our ownership share.”

At the December meeting, HBA board members expressed concern about the LGBT charitable cause that is funded by the event. Over the years, Mardi Gras has contributed thousands of dollars to LGBT youth scholarships and neighborhood improvements. The HBA is looking at options to ensure this cause is honored in 2013 and is considering making a donation to LGBT scholarship programs out of their private funds.

One person, who is part of the decision-making process, requested anonymity out of concern about a backlash from an LGBT weekly publisher in San Diego.

"The HBA sought many options with the GSDBAF including seeking a new partner organization and modifying the agreement between the two organizations. Discussions with their board president became hostile. The negotiations were of a ‘my way or the highway’ nature and threats were made concerning publishing negative articles about the HBA in LGBT Weekly, lawsuits, and even having his contacts at City Hall undermine the HBA’s relationship with the city," said the person who requested anonymity.

The HBA manages many popular events in Hillcrest every year, including Hillcrest CityFest, the Hillcrest Farmers Market, Taste of Hillcrest, Hillcrest Hoedown, Pride of Hillcrest Block Party and Hillcrest Taste ‘n Tinis. For more information about the HBA, visit HERE.