Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Around The Nation

Disney Names First Openly Gay Man As CEO Of Disney World
George Kalogridis via The Walt Disney Company
ORLANDO, FL -- The Walt Disney Company named George Kalogridis as Walt Disney World’s fifth president in January and he took over park operations last Friday. Kalogridis, 59, is one of that park's first employees, hired as a 17 year old table busser two months ahead of the theme park's opening in October of 1971. He is a 41 year veteran of the company and according to his Disney company profile, takes over the company's flagship theme park located in Central Florida after serving at the company's original Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, as president since 2009. 
Kalogridis, who is openly gay has previously served as the CEO for the Disney Resort in Paris, France, vice president of Travel Operations at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and vice president of Epcot.  
Kalogridis and his partner, Andy Hardy, a finance manager for the company's Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Global Entertainment division, have been together for 12 years. The Orlando Sentinel reported that friends and colleagues say Kalogridis lives and breathes Disney. He and his partner just paid a deposit to build a home in Golden Oak, the luxury subdivision that Disney World is developing on the northeastern corner of its vast property.
The paper also noted that Kalogridis takes over at an important time for Disney World, where attendance has been soft in recent quarters. The giant resort has just opened the first phases of a $425 million Fantasyland expansion, its first major renovation of the Magic Kingdom since Kalogridis was busing tables in Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Adding that Disney is about to make perhaps its boldest bet in Orlando since opening its fourth theme park: a $1 billion vacation-planning initiative dubbed "MyMagic+," which aims to outfit visitors with wireless wristbands that Disney hopes will drive bigger spending and more frequent visits.
"The first thing I see is one big word: humility. This is a very, very big place, and having been able to see it from Day 1 and to see it now -- truly, you have to respect just how incredible this project is," Kalogridis said in an interview.
Kalogridis, a park-operations expert, will preside over a business that generates more than $6 billion in annual revenue and employs nearly 67,000 people. Walt Disney World is a 40-square-mile vacation metropolis that includes four theme parks, two water parks, 24,000 hotel rooms, 3,000 time-share suites, a 120-acre retail complex and a 230-acre sports campus.

Gay Vietnamese Protest For Inclusion In Tet Parade & Celebrations
Gay Vietnamese Alliance * SF Pride 2012
WESTMINSTER, CA -- Vietnamese New Year, more commonly known by its shortened name Tết or "Tết Nguyên Đán", is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam and to Vietnamese globally. This year a group of gay Vietnamese Americans in southern California's Orange County and their supporters are asking that they be allowed to participate in this weekend's Tet parade and celebrations in Little Saigon.
Holding signs that proclaimed "Gay rights are human rights," the group demonstrated Monday afternoon outside the law office of Vietnamese-American community leader attorney Neil Nguyen- one of the organizers of the Tet parade- to protest being possibly excluded from the annual parade.
Ha Son Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, the group helping to put on the parade told The Orange County Register;
"We have to weigh the interests of the community with the interests of the group," said Tran, adding; "We respect their choice, but we want to promote our Vietnamese traditions."
Natalie Newton, who spearheaded Monday's demonstration, told the paper that members of a partnership of Viet LGBTQ organizations and their attorneys met with leaders of the committee organizing the parade for about an hour and a half earlier in the day.
According to Newton, organizers suggested to her and the other Viet LGBTQ community representatives that they host their own parade on the same day but not be a part of the greater event, which draws about 10,000 people.
"They said that if we participate, other groups will pull out," said Tuan Trong Le, a Rowland Heights resident and co-founder of the Gay Vietnamese Alliance. "They deny our human rights, which they've been fighting for all these years. What about us? We're not humans?" Le said.
The annual parade celebrations have been hosted by the city of Westminster, however, this year citing a lack of funding, the city turned over the responsibility of the parade to a community coalition, which included the Vietnamese Interfaith Council in America, which had for a boycott of the parade the past three years because of the gay groups' previous participation.
Westminster's Assistant City Attorney, Christian Bettenhausen said Monday that he was working on a letter to encourage the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California and other parade organizers to include LGBTQ groups. Bettenhausen did note however that the city cannot force the organizers to do so because it is not sponsoring the event.
Steven Gonzalez and Luan Tran, attorneys for the LGBTQ groups, said they hope to resolve the issue without going to court. But if necessary, they will file suit, they said.
Mayor Tri Ta, Westminster's first elected Vietnamese-American mayor, said officials are hoping to "find a good solution for everyone."
"We support everyone," Ta said. "We want everyone to participate."
Among the supporters demonstrating Monday was a politico from neighboring Huntington Beach, openly gay Councilman Joe Shaw;
"In this day and age, there's no reason to exclude this group, other than sheer discrimination," Shaw said. "They deserve to have a seat at the table."
The Register also noted that the Viet LGBTQ group has a booth at the three-day Tet Festival that begins Friday in Garden Grove. That event is put on by a different group, the Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California.