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LA G&L Center Announces “Reorganization,” Job Cuts, Program Cut, and Resignation

by Ryan Gierach Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2002 at 9:13 PM
ryan.g@journalist.com 213) 386-5119 400 S Lafayette Park Place #215

LA Gay & Lesbian Center is forced to cut 60 jobs, a medical program, and the Director resigns.

errorDueling AIDS Rides Causes Cuts at LA G&L Center
by Ryan Gierach

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, faced with continuing controversy over dueling AIDS Rides, announced they would cut 20 percent of their workforce and an important program to make up a roughly $4.5 million shortfall in the remainder of this fiscal year. The executive director of the Center, Gwenn Baldwin, announced her resignation at the same time, effective after the Center’s first-year Ride May 13-19.
However, the real price for the controversial decision to create a competing AIDS Ride will be paid by Los Angeles area gays and lesbians, whose ability to access medical care will be severely curtailed.
The Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation picked a fight last year with Pallotta Teamworks, creator and operator of the California AIDS Ride, over fund-raising expenses and cost over-runs, and eventually decided to found their own ride entitled the AIDS/LifeCycle event. That fight, costing over $600,000 in legal fees and millions in lost revenue due to the ensuing confusion and competition between rides, played a large role in forcing the Center to make cuts due to a projected short-fall in their $36 million operating budget of $4.5 million dollars, or nearly one dollar in seven.
"We're $3.4 million below budget for AIDS/LifeCycle. We have a lot of fixed costs for a first-year event. It's not going to make nearly as much money as we anticipated," Center spokesperson Bonnie Osborn is quoted as saying in the Times.
Most programs will function as they have, just with fewer staff. But the most dangerous fallout from the AIDS Ride fight will be that hundreds of Los Angeles area lesbians and gays will be left without access to gay-friendly medical care when the non-HIV specific medical care arm of the Center - known as Lambda Medical Clinic - closes its doors to its 2,300 patients on July 1.
As to the reason for her resignation, Baldwin noted that her, “contract was up at an awkward time.” She added, “Contracts are useful because they force a re-evaluation. I wanted to see the Center through this, but the Board, I, and my family decided we would explore other options.” She added that, “Changing leaders in a difficult time is sometimes a good thing.” She is moving to Oregon.
Official reaction from other gay leaders of organizations in the community were muted, but one openly-gay leader of a world-girdling AIDS health care provider, Michael Weinstein, said he was amazed at the Center’s arrogance.
"I was flabbergasted by their decision to have two rides. That was a recipe for disaster," Weinstein, founder and president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation told the LA Times. "They almost guaranteed themselves financial problems.... A mass layoff is bad for any institution. For the premier gay and lesbian organization in the country, it sends a message of weakness."
The Center tried to downplay the importance of the AIDS Ride battle as the primary the reason for the cuts by blaming a combination of factors including the current recession, September 11, and the consequent difficulty of raising funds in a difficult economic climate. But the budget short-fall nearly exactly matches the legal fees spent, plus expected first-time expenditures, plus the likely shortfalls in projected proceeds from a first-time AIDS/Lifecycle event.
While a loss of staff and cuts in programs hampers the Center’s efforts to improve the life of the gay and lesbian community, the loss of an entire medical care facility, one that provided medical treatment for hundreds of indigent lesbians and gays, could cost lives, say public health experts.
Kathleen Torres, director of LA County Office of Women’s Health, told Gay & Lesbian Times, ”The impact on the gay community and the lesbian community’s health in particular is devastating, especially since the County has also been forced to cut four medical clinics - I’m speechless.”
Baldwin said that efforts would be made to steer patients to the appropriate care facility. “We are exploring options that might include moving the lesbian health care into the McDonald/Wright building [where HIV care is now provided], but low-income people with no insurance we may have to send to partners like The Free Clinic or the county.” That community of people Baldwin and the Center will send to the county is nearly all lesbian.
Cornelius Walker, executive director of Washington D.C.’s Whitman-Walker clinic, told Gay & Lesbian Times that the California AIDS Ride controversy had even affected the D.C. area AIDS Ride’s numbers. “We are concerned, because the California controversy has impacted our ridership and we are looking at less money from our Ride.” He also acknowledged the potentially tragic consequences for those people whose medical care will suffer. “It’s really unfortunate that the [AIDS Ride-driven] cuts will cost [some] people’s health.”
Center spokespersons went out of their way to stress that HIV patients at the Jeffrey Goodman Clinic would continue to be cared for, regardless of their ability to pay.
Rebecca Isaacs, currently managing director, will assume interim executive director duties at the Center in May.
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Editor's Note Art P Thursday, Apr. 11, 2002 at 1:56 AM
LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Woes jason Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2002 at 6:51 PM

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