It’s weird, every now and then, how things work out.
For years, various political figures have issued proclamations honoring June as LGBT Pride Month. Whether a Mayor of a major city, or the President of the United States, the whereas‘s and the therefore‘s have highlighted the triumphs and tragedies of the gay pride movement across the United States, and marked the month in remembrance. Some cities do it every year, Presidents (who are Democrats) issue one annually, and other government bodies sometimes do and sometimes don’t.
This is the story of Visalia’s LGBT Pride Month proclamation.
It was all quite accidental.
A couple of months ago, at a meeting of the Tulare-Kings PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends, of Lesbians and Gays), I was standing within earshot of one of the chapter’s founders and overheard a comment about his being told by a city government official that somebody really should submit a request for a proclamation. The clear implication was that it would be approved and issued. I thought to myself, “isn’t that interesting? I wonder if anyone is going to do that?” At the time, I was not thinking that somebody would be me.
Before this little excursion into city politics, I had no idea how proclamations came to be issued. I did not know, and to be honest, hadn’t even thought about, that the public has to file a request to start the ball rolling on these things. It was always “wouldn’t it be great if Visalia did that?”, but never a thought to what it would take to accomplish it.
Ok, so the overheard comment set me to thinking, and waiting to see if anyone was going to submit the request. I asked around a bit, even posted a Facebook note about it, but heard nothing. I didn’t want to duplicate or dilute anyone else’s request, so I waited. Still nothing.
In the meantime, I did a bit of research online at the city’s website, to see how to go about making the request. It’s rather straight (so to speak) forward, with the instructions posted on the City Clerk’s page of the city website. I printed out the application, and immediately ran into a stumbling block.
They want 5 – 8 things about the event, the whereas stuff of the proclamation. Since this is a city proclamation, it needs to be about Visalia. I started hunting online for other examples of proclamations, to see how they were done. I found two. Two? That’s all? One was from Chicago, and was not real helpful, as everything was pretty particular to things going on there. The other was from Kansas City, Missouri, and was much more useful to me. I blatantly stole some of the ideas from their proclamation.
Once I had a feel for what would be appropriate, I set to filling out the form. As you can see from the proclamation, I think I came up with enough for the city to write up a pretty good document. It covers the local community well, and reflects on the overall LGBT experience nationwide, and I’m quite happy with it. Once I had the form filled out, I took it to the city to turn it in. The clerk who accepted it gave me a funny look when she saw what it was, and I could see the wheels turning behind her eyes… “ooh lord, what do I do with this??”. Credit due, she sent it up the chain of command, where it landed like a lead balloon, from some scuttlebutt I heard. The city staff’s reaction was “what do we do?” The government official mentioned above, who has some say in the matter, told them, according to my sources, “do it!”. So it’s being done.
It’s a bit odd to me that it almost didn’t happen.
If I had missed that PFLAG meeting, I would not have overheard the comment, and it would not have occurred to me that I could initiate the request myself. There is a lead time to these things, so this year might have slipped by without the recognition if nobody else had taken action.
I have learned a very important lesson from this experience.
This time, it took a nudge from someone much more experienced in community involvement, but from now on, it will be something I try to remember:
Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
What’s the worse that can happen? They don’t do it? Been there, done that, don’t have the proclamation!
The Proclamation will be issued this Monday, June 18, 2012, at the regular City Council meeting, agenda item #3.