Council sees elephant in the room

Donors may have saved Glendale’s float entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade from the chopping block due to a budget shortfall, but now its circus elephant design — and how it came to pass — is facing scrutiny.

The City Council on Tuesday asked to review the float selection process after resident Sharon Weisman said the design of elephant attached to a carriage — drafted for the parade’s “Just Imagine” theme — is a loaded symbol that has nothing to do with Glendale.

“My first reaction when seeing the design was ‘Wow, a symbol of a major political party in an election year,’ then ‘Didn’t I read People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing circuses for animal abuse?’ Circus elephants have become poster children for animal rights groups,” she said.

Councilmen Rafi Manoukian and Frank Quintero also said they didn’t like the elephant design.

The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission approved the elephant in June, which was originally selected by the Glendale Rose Float Assn. from 30 options presented by Phoenix Decorating Company. Other concepts included a caterpillar in a garden and a city streetscape, the association’s president, Garry Ackerman said.

The allusion to the Republican Party came up, but board members shrugged it off as a joke, he said.

“I’m a Democrat and it doesn’t matter to me,” Ackerman said.

When Glendale’s Rose Float Assn. failed to raise its $50,000 cut of the $130,000 float, the city said it may not pony up its $80,000 share unless the community stepped up to the plate. Last month, the needed funds poured in after Americana at Brand developer Caruso Affiliated announced plans to donate $25,000. Other major donations soon followed, totaling about $89,000.

What appears to have been lost in the fray was sense of the actual float design.

City Manager Jim Starbird warned City Council members that they didn’t have time to change the design, even though they hadn’t yet approved it. He added that the city can work on changing the float selection process for next year.

Phoenix Decorating President Chris Lofthouse said construction was already underway, and wouldn’t comment on whether the city could change the design because he wasn’t aware of any waffling on the matter.

Glendale, which has had a float in the parade since 1915, has won 12 trophies for the most beautiful float in the Rose parade, according to a city report.

In the past, Glendale floats have represented city icons such as the Alex Theatre, but Councilman Dave Weaver said doing so in the future would be unlikely.

“I don’t know how many more icons there are in Glendale,” he said.

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