Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Political Notebook: SF HRC staffers promoted


Tamra Winchester is the acting equal benefits program coordinator for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Two employees at San Francisco's Human Rights Commission have been promoted to management positions at a time when the agency has seen its staff reduced.

Following the retirement this year of Larry Brinkin , the agency's senior manager who handled a variety of duties, Executive Director Theresa Sparks decided to split his portfolio in two and promote several staffers into more senior positions.

Nadia Babella, who had been a discrimination investigator and mediator, is now coordinator of the LGBT and HIV unit. Babella, 43, who identifies as bisexual, oversees complaints of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and HIV status in housing, employment, and public accommodation.

Tamra Winchester, who was a contract compliance officer, is now the acting equal benefits program coordinator. Winchester, 51, an out lesbian, is in charge of ensuring city contractors are in compliance with San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance. The law requires companies that contract with the city offer the same benefits to their LGBT workers as they do to their heterosexual employees.

The agency is still looking to hire a manager who would oversee the work of Babella's and Winchester's units.

"I would like to see an LGBT person head up that whole division," said Sparks, who is a transgender woman.

But it remains unclear how much any of the positions will be paid as a plan to lay off the commission's entire staff and rehire them at 37.5 hours a week due to the city's budget deficit has been put on hold.

Despite the lingering confusion about their employment status with the city, both women said they are excited to be given more responsibilities over what they consider to be vital work for ensuring LGBT residents and people living with AIDS are not discriminated against.

"What is so unique about us is we are a government body that works with the community to then make changes in city government that then have far reaching impact," said Babella, who noted the commission's work has been duplicated across the country.

Winchester, who started with the commission as an intern in 1997, shortly after the Equal Benefits Ordinance went into effect, said, "I really love the people I work with. I can't believe I get paid to do a job I love so much."

More than 14,000 vendors are now in compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance, according to the commission, which represents a pool of 3.5 million employees who have access to domestic partner benefits. A decade after it took effect, though, some companies continue to challenge the law, said Winchester.

And with less people to do the work, she is concerned about the agency's ability to track companies' compliance.

Both women expressed concerns about the impact staff reductions at the commission have had on their ability to handle their units' caseloads.

"When I first started we had nine people in the unit and now we only have five. It is desperately hurting us," said Babella, who started with the commission two and half years ago. "I am really hoping to bring another body in here. The biggest issue we are facing right now is a lack of people."

Gay Dem clubs split on lt. gov race

He may be famous for being America's same-sex marriage mayor, but Gavin Newsom is having varied success in attracting LGBT support for his bid to be the state's lieutenant governor.

In his hometown the San Francisco mayor did nab the endorsement of the more moderate Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, but the progressive Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club is taking no position on the race, meaning none of the candidates received the 60 percent threshold to earn an endorsement.

Down in southern California the predominately LGBT San Diego Democratic Club endorsed Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn in the race. The lopsided endorsement vote had Hahn receiving 67 percent to Newsom's 27 percent.

Club leaders reportedly opted to go with Hahn because of concerns that the top two Democrats on the party's ticket in the fall would be white men. If Newsom wins the primary race against Hahn, then he is expected to join on the general election ballot gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown , the state's attorney general who is seeking his old job back.

There is a likelihood of seeing the Republican ticket having a female gubernatorial candidate in former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman and a Latino lieutenant governor candidate should moderate state Senator Abel Maldonado win his party's primary race.

Ever since Newsom, who ended his bid to be governor last fall, jumped into the race for the state's second-in-command job, he and Hahn have been battling for support from Democratic leaders. This week Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) came out for Newsom in the race.

Feinstein joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), openly gay state Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), and out state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) in siding with Newsom in the intra-party fight. The state's gay former state party chair, Art Torres , is also backing Newsom.

Nava, Colfax gain LGBT backing in judge races

Two out judicial candidates running for seats on the San Francisco Superior Court on the June primary ballot have gained backing from the city's LGBT Democratic clubs.

In her race for the open Judicial Seat 6, out lesbian deputy public defender Linda Colfax earned the Milk Club's endorsement and was able to block the Alice Club from endorsing a candidate in the race, which also includes Robert Retana , an openly gay attorney in the state court system's Office of the General Counsel.

In his bid to unseat Judge Richard Ulmer in the Judicial Seat 15 race, Michael Nava won the endorsement of both the Alice and Milk clubs. The award-winning crime novelist is a staff attorney for California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno . The third candidate in the race is openly gay attorney Daniel Dean.

Ulmer this week picked up the backing of Newsom and California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, a former state senator from San Francisco. While Ulmer once belonged to the Republican Party, he switched his registration to decline-to-state after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the judicial seat last summer.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports that UC Berkeley students could elect a queer classmate student government president.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.

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