Mayor withdraws funding after board votes to change location of St. Pete Pride

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St. Petersburg has been voted one of the top gay-friendly cities in the nation. But controversy arose this week over the annual St. Pete Pride festival.

On Tuesday, board members for St. Pete Pride voted to move the event from the Historic Kenwood and Grand Central district where it has been held since it's founding in 2003, to downtown. 

The board says security and cost are the two main reasons for the move. Downtown St. Petersburg has more lighting and fewer access points, which could cut down on fees and overtime costs in addition to creating a safer environment. 

But the city stands divided on whether the decision to move one of St. Petersburg's biggest events was the right one. 

Brian Longstreth is one of the founding board members of St. Pete Pride. He believes the change is about more than just location. 

Longstreth told FOX 13, "It's a street festival, and it's for gay, lesbian people. It's our street for that day. Now, you're talking about putting it in a park - it's going to be fenced in - and it really changes the dynamic of the event."

Mayor Rick Kriseman doesn't seem to be a fan of the board's decision either. In a post on his Facebook page Wednesday, the St. Petersburg mayor announced that he will withdraw city funding for the event if organizers go through with the location change.  

St. Pete Pride receives $45,000 each year from the City of St. Petersburg to assist with the parade and festival, but this year it might not. 

In the post, Kriseman said that he had informed the St. Pete Pride board about his position on the issue and the risk of losing city funding.  

Although the mayor does not support the venue change for St. Pete Pride, he says he still supports the event itself. 

"Regardless of its location," the post read, "The mayor and the city will continue to embrace this event and help to ensure its growth and success. Pride will always be one of the main reasons we say the 'Sun Shines Here.'"