Organizers of AIDS Walk Los Angeles took aim today at the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus system, saying the organization is banning its ads as part of a "discriminatory policy."
Craig Miller, founder of AIDS Walk and a Santa Monica resident, said in a statement:
All these years later, to be dealing with this discrimination again, just shows that whoever changed this policy has no concept of history, and no concept of the important role that organizations like AIDS Project Los Angeles play in society. And they really don't know the residents of our city, because no Santa Monican I know would ever approve of this short-sighted ban on valuable public service messages.
The problem is, that's not entirely true:
The bus system realized that it had a long-standing prohibition against noncommercial advertising of any kind and had to enforce it, so as not to be discriminatory against any one group.
In any case, an exception to the rule benefiting AIDS Walk will be considered at tonight's Santa Monica City Council meeting at the behest of Mayor Richard Bloom.
But if you ask us, the group is being disingenuous in claiming that the bus system is discriminating against AIDS Walk (which happens Oct. 14).
As Big Blue Bus chief administrative officer Joe Stitcher told the Weekly, the policy against noncommercial ads has been in existence for at least 10 years and was enacted so that the system wouldn't have to pick and choose between possibly offensive advertising.
For example, without the ban, the system might have to accept ads from nonprofit, antigay churches, which then could sue for (real) discrimination. Really. Hence the need for a blanket policy.
So why did the city accept up to $70,000 worth of ads annually from AIDS Walk for the last five years?
The system didn't realize it was violating its own policy until a deputy city attorney pointed it out last year, Stitcher told us. Ad agencies representing noncommercial entities were warned then that the ban was on.
Look. We all like to wear the ribbon. But AIDS Walk decided to make "discrimination" out of anything but today.
As Stitcher says:
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It's not anti-AIDS Walk. It's merely enforcing a policy we had. We shouldn't have accepted the ads in the first place. We're not anti-awareness for any cause of this nature.
We'll give AIDS Walk this much: It just raised more awareness. But at the cost of accusing good people of being bigots when, clearly, they're not.
[The AIDS Walk people planned to get back to us with a response to our take on things, and we'll post it when they do].