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Political Notebook: Former B.A.R. film critic runs for Palm Springs council seat

by Matthew S. Bajko

Palm Springs City Council candidate Robert Julian Stone. Photo:<br>Courtesy Stone for City Council campaign
Palm Springs City Council candidate Robert Julian Stone. Photo:
Courtesy Stone for City Council campaign  

A gay man who was the Bay Area Reporter's film critic in the 1990s and early 2000s, and worked as a real estate agent while in San Francisco, is running this November for a seat on the Palm Springs City Council.

Robert Julian Stone, 66, grew up in Detroit and moved to San Francisco in 1971. He worked for a number of local publications and was hired in 1990 as arts editor of the B.A.R. The next year he became the paper's film critic, resigning from the position in January 2006 after moving to the desert resort town in Riverside County.

Over the last decade Stone has played a key role in the forced retirement of a Palm Springs police chief due to the fallout from a 2009 gay sex sting and the indictment this year of gay former Mayor Steve Pougnet due to an alleged bribery scheme involving a local developer.

"This town deserves better treatment than it has received in the past from its elected representatives," Stone told the B.A.R. during a recent phone interview about his decision to seek elected office.

He is one of seven people who have pulled papers to run for two council seats that will be on the city's fall ballot. As the Political Notebook reported in May, Palm Springs Planning Commissioner Lisa Middleton , who is also a former Bay Area resident, is vying to become California's first transgender city council person.

Long a mecca for gay retirees, Palm Springs elects its four city council seats citywide, and its elected mayor is the fifth vote on the body. The council's two incumbents whose four-year terms are up this year, lesbian City Councilwoman Ginny Foat and City Councilman Chris Mills, who is straight, have yet to say if they will seek re-election.

It is believed at least one of them will decide not to run, creating an open seat on the council, whose other three current members are all gay men.

Stone had moved to Palm Springs with his partner of 23 years, Patrick McGrew, who died in 2013 due to a heart attack. A year later he met his current husband, Dr. Bob Maietta, a retired physician.

He turned his "weird and funny" experiences during his first year in the city into the book "Postcards From Palm Springs" that "kind of scandalized the town," said Stone.

Later, he was a vocal critic of the tactics used by the police department to coerce gay men to expose themselves in his neighborhood of Warm Springs. Those arrested were then charged by the county district attorney's office with misdemeanor indecent exposure, which could have required them to register as sex offenders for life if convicted.

"That just set me through the roof. You are not going to do this with my tribe," recalled Stone.

By 2011 half a dozen of the men saw the charges against them dropped, while the rest were able to plea bargain down for lesser charges. None of the cases ever went to trial. Stone credited B.A.R. freelance reporter Ed Walsh for helping keep the story in the public's eye and bring pressure on both the police and D.A. "because the local press wanted it to go away and refused to cover it."

Three years later Stone had turned his attention to a questionable development deal that the former mayor had championed. It involved the sale of a prominent downtown parcel to a local developer, who it turned out, had been paying Pougnet as a consultant.

Using public records requests, Stone and attorney Judy Deertrack, who is also running for a council seat this fall, uncovered the payments, which Pougnet had failed to disclose at the time of his voting on the project. They took what they uncovered to the local U.S. attorney and agents with the FBI.

After news of the payments broke in 2015, Pougnet announced he would not seek re-election. He was indicted earlier this year on bribery and other charges. The case was recently relocated to Indio County, and Pougnet and the two other defendants are expected to enter pleas at the end of June.

In late May, Stone and Deertrack publicly revealed they have been working with local law enforcement on the case.

"We have remained silent about our initiation of this investigation for two years, but the time for silence is over," they said at a news conference. "We step forward today to demonstrate to the general public that, if you discover actions by elected officials that bear the signs of corruption, you must call them out."

The case and the ongoing fallout from it led Stone to decide to run for a council seat. He wants to ensure protocols are put in place at City Hall to prevent a similar scandal from occurring.

"I think campaigning makes me a better person," said Stone. "I have rediscovered what wonderful people live here in Palm Springs and just how great they are. That motivates me even more strongly to continue running through November."

To learn more about his campaign, visit https://stoneforcitycouncil.com/.

Gay man runs for San Mateo education post

Gay Pacifica resident Gary Waddell , Ph.D., is running to be elected superintendent of schools for San Mateo County. Should he win the race next June, he would be the highest-ranking countywide LGBT official on the Peninsula.

The former school principal is currently the deputy superintendent of the San Mateo County Office of Education overseeing instructional services and programs. He previously had served as the county education office's associate superintendent of instruction and its curriculum services administrator.

An award-winning school counselor in his native state of North Carolina, where he started his education career, Waddell is also a former foster parent for adolescents with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

He is expected to formally announce his candidacy this Friday (June 16). According to his campaign website â€" http://www.garywaddell.org/ â€" he has already been endorsed by gay former state Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

"I'm honored to be running for San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools 2018 because I believe that it is time to stand up for our kids through progressive leadership, world-class schools for EVERY child, and dynamic schools that include the arts, civics, innovation, sustainability, and social-emotional learning," wrote Waddell, 54, on Facebook in early May when he announced the launch of his campaign site.

Should no candidate receive 50 percent plus one of the vote on the June primary ballot next year, then the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election ballot. The current holder of the elected position, Anne E. Campbell, is expected to announce Thursday that she will not seek a third four-year term.

 

SF supes approve LGBT history projects

At its meeting Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved projects in the Tenderloin and North Beach neighborhoods that will honor LGBT history. As last week's Political Notebook reported, the pair of proposals had easily won the support of the board's land use committee on June 5 and were expected to win the full board's backing.

At the urging of District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim , the board endorsed the creation of the Compton's Transgender Cultural District in a section of the Tenderloin. It will be named after Gene Compton's Cafeteria where, in August 1966, LGBT patrons rioted against police harassment.

The boundaries of the Compton's district will be the north side of Market Street between Taylor Street and Jones Street, to the south side of Ellis Street between Mason Street and Taylor Street, and the north side of Ellis Street between Taylor Street and Jones Street. Since first being proposed last year, the district now includes the 6th Street corridor (on both sides) between Market Street and Howard Street.

The board tasked the planning department to assist the proponents of the district. It will be incorporated into the larger LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy city officials are working to complete by early 2018.

The other project, backed by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, will see the installation of 10 street plaques commemorating historic businesses in what is known as the Top of Broadway Community Benefit District in a portion of North Beach. Sidewalk markers will be placed at two sites where lesbian bars once operated â€" 12 Adler and 440 Broadway â€" as well as in front of 506 Broadway Street, once home to the legendary Finocchio's female impersonators cabaret.

The city arts commission must still sign off on the designs for the historical markers, while the Department of Public Works needs to formally approve their installation.

 

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the local support for two gay Latino leaders seeking an open state Assembly seat in Los Angeles.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:.

 

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