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SF supe committee forwards replacement for lesbian port commissioner

by Matthew S. Bajko

Lesbian Port Commissioner Leslie Katz could soon be replaced after not being reappointed to her seat. Courtesy Facebook
Lesbian Port Commissioner Leslie Katz could soon be replaced after not being reappointed to her seat. Courtesy Facebook  

The rules committee of the Board of Supervisors early Wednesday evening advanced Mayor Mark Farrell's replacement for a lesbian member of the San Francisco Port Commission without taking a position on the nomination.

Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Norman Yee, and Catherine Stefani voted to forward Gail Gilman's nomination for the oversight body's Seat 5 to the full board for approval but did not vote to support or oppose it. She would replace former supervisor Leslie Katz, the only LGBT member of the port commission.

Gilman is CEO of the nonprofit Community Housing Partnership and currently sits on the city's Building Inspection Commission. Farrell announced April 5 his decision not to reappoint Katz, who has served on the commission for seven years. Her term ends next Tuesday, May 1.

At the hearing, Gilman said she had spoken last summer with the late mayor Ed Lee, who died in December, about joining the port's advisory body. She noted her experience working on affordable housing and real estate development would be assets on the commission.

"I want to be the commissioner for the people," said Gilman.

It remains unclear exactly why Farrell chose not to nominate Katz for another term. In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, he called her "a dedicated and valued member" of the port commission and thanked her for her public service to the city.

Katz told the B.A.R. the mayor's decision came as a surprise, as she was looking forward to continuing to serve on the commission and assisting the port on a number of projects it is involved in. She also mentioned she had hoped to keep working on an affinity group for LGBT port commissioners she had helped co-found.

"I'm one of the very few LGBT port commissioners in the state," Katz had noted.

The rules committee had postponed taking up the matter of Gilman's appointment for two weeks. The delay does not appear to have sparked a groundswell of support for Katz, as the committee packet included no letters asking for her to be reappointed.

And no one asked the rules committee to outright reject Gilman during public comment. Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy did express misgivings about Katz not being reappointed. He noted once her term expires there would only be one LGBT port commissioner left in the state.

While he has "tremendous respect" for Gilman, Sheehy said the LGBT community is "extremely disappointed" that Katz wasn't re-nominated to her seat.

"This is no reflection on the current candidate, but our level of disappointment cannot be overstated," said Sheehy. "Our level of distress at the loss of this seat cannot be overstated."

The three voting members of the rules committee all praised Gilman and Katz, with Yee stating he was troubled that Katz was not up for another term. The trio opted to move Gilman's nomination forward without a recommendation so the full board could vote on it.

A number of speakers, including several from the LGBT community, spoke in support of Gilman being approved. Tomiquia Moss, a lesbian who is CEO of the nonprofit Hamilton Families, praised Gilman as one of the "most dedicated and professional leaders" she knows in the city.

The committee also received a letter in support of Gilman from school board member Shamann Walton, who is a candidate this fall for the District 10 supervisor seat. Executive Director of Young Community Developers, Walton noted he has known Gilman for eight years.

"She is committed to San Francisco and is about providing opportunities for under-served communities," wrote Walton. "She is well prepared to ensure that public trust is upheld, while ensuring that the most pressing concerns of the Port are addressed including: fiscal responsibility, preparing for sea level rise, managing growth and development, and activating underutilized parcels and piers along the Port."

According to her bio, Gilman earned a Master of Non-Profit Administration from the University of San Francisco and lives in North Beach near the waterfront. Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to California's Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

If confirmed to the port seat, Gilman would serve a four-year term ending May 1, 2022.

The committee Wednesday also forwarded to the full board a positive recommendation for Farrell's reappointment of port commissioner William Adams, secretary treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Currently the vice president of the board, Adams has served on it since 2012 and his current term is set to expire May 1.

"The port belongs to the public," noted Adams at the hearing.

He praised the port's director, Elaine Forbes, an out lesbian, for her leadership.

"We have taken off to the races running," he said.

During her comments, Gilman also commended Forbes and said she was "excited" to assist her in addressing the ports' needs.

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