Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 42 / 16 October 2014
 
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Online Extra: Political Notes: Gay SF supervisors want local LGBT redistricting panel member

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Gay firefighter Keith Baraka is one of three LGBT people seeking a spot on the city's redistricting panel. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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m.bajko@ebar.com

San Francisco's two gay supervisors want to see an LGBT person serve on the nine-member panel tasked with redrawing the city's 11 supervisor districts. Due to changes in population over the last decade, the city's political map will shift ahead of the 2012 elections for odd-numbered districts.

Both District 9 Supervisor David Campos and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter that it's imperative to have an LGBT voice on the city's Redistricting Task Force.

"I think we have to have LGBT representation on it," said Campos.

Wiener agreed, adding that he is supportive of seeing Keith Baraka, who is gay and black, serve on the oversight panel.

Baraka, a member of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and a city firefighter, is one of three queer people who have applied to serve on the task force. Also seeking a seat are Paul Hogarth , a gay political blogger for the website http://www.BeyondChron.com and an employee at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and Rachel Ebora , a gender-queer Filipina immigrant who is the executive director of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

None of the trio were selected last week by the board's Rules Committee, despite the fact that District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell voiced support for Baraka and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who chairs the committee, said she believed Hogarth was an excellent candidate.

"We do not have LGBT task force members," noted Kim at the hearing Thursday, June 23. "I do believe it is very important that community be represented."

[UPDATE: At its meeting Tuesday, June 28 the Board of Supervisors approved the Rules Committee's nominations for the three seats. With the panel lacking LGBT members, Wiener said he has already spoken with interim Mayor Ed Lee about the need for him to choose at least one, if not two, LGBT person among his three picks for the task force.

"The mayor assured me he will appoint one LGBT person," said Wiener Tuesday evening. "I requested he pick at least two to reflect our proportion of the city's population.]

Since all three of the queer candidates have ties to agencies that receive funding from the city, which is voted on by supervisors who will be up for re-election next fall, District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd voiced doubts about the propriety of selecting them and any of the other 23 people with ties to city-funded groups who applied.

"How does this pass the smell test?" Elsbernd asked Hogarth, who admitted he had already been in discussions with supervisors about the redistricting process. "You are already talking to members of the board. Is that appropriate? Or should you be talking to the community?"

In the end the committee recommended three people for the full board to consider: Diamond Heights resident Jenny Lam , director of community initiatives for the civil rights group Chinese for Affirmative Action; Eric McDonnell , chief operating officer of United Way in the Bay Area, who serves on the boards of San Francisco School Alliance, Leadership San Francisco, and the Museum of the African Diaspora; and security guard Mike Alonso, a Daly City resident who recently moved into San Francisco, where he attended high school and college.

The supervisors liked Lam for being a mother of public school children and McDonnell for his breadth of knowledge about the city.

The surprise pick was Alonso, who graduated from San Francisco State University and received a law degree from the defunct New College. Elsbernd and Farrell both said they were impressed with his responses to their questions and would bring an "everyman's opinion" to the redistricting process.

Alonso told the B.A.R. after the hearing that he was shocked to be selected. In terms of LGBT representation, he said he would look out for the community's interests if the full board picks him Tuesday (June 28) when it takes up the matter at its weekly meeting.

"They have nothing to fear. The gay community will always be one of the top priorities of this city," said Alonso, who is a member of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.

The board could very well decide to pick different people for its three slots come Tuesday. Campos seemed to imply that would be the case, for when the B.A.R. asked him if the rules committee choices would stand he said, "Not necessarily."

"We need to figure it out as a board collectively," said Campos, who will be up for re-election next year. "I see it as a recommendation."

While Campos declined to say which of the three queer applicants he favors, he again reiterated that, "there has to be LGBT representation on that task force."

Hogarth said he intends to address the board tomorrow and continue to seek one of the seats.

"This is just the first step," he said after the rules meeting.

Baraka said he may also speak to the board Tuesday but "you have to respect the commission's choice."

Ebora believes her being bilingual and having experience bringing different neighborhood interests together would benefit the task force.

"This is an opportunity to know the city even better in a deeper way than I do now," she said.

If the board does not include an LGBT person among its three panelists then interim Mayor Ed Lee will be under enormous pressure to name an out person to one of the three seats he gets to fill. Lee has until July 8 to do so.

The Elections Commission decided on its three picks earlier this month. It choose Google corporate counsel Melissa Tidwell ; telecommunications attorney Mark Schreiber, who is a partner at Cooper White and Cooper; and former Sunshine Task Force member David Pilpel .

The last time the city convened its redistricting panel in 2002 two lesbians served on it: Rebecca Prozan, an assistant district attorney who lost her bid for supervisor last fall, and former police commissioner Gwenn Craig , who served as the chair.

When city voters elected to revert back to district elections, gay Republican Chris Bowman served alongside Craig on the body in 1995 that drew up the supervisorial districts that were first used in the 2000 elections.

This time around three districts will be impacted the most by redistricting: Districts 6, 10 and 11. Kim's District 6 will face the greatest changes as it is the most overpopulated, so residents of South of Market and the Tenderloin will be carved out to other districts.

Campos expects to pick up some parts of the Inner Mission from Kim's district, while Wiener told the B.A.R. he does not believe his District 8 will change all that much. He represents the Castro, Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, Glen Park, and parts of Lower Haight and the Mission.

"Maybe I will get some more of the Mission. Who knows? It depends on what the commission wants to do," said Wiener, who won't be up for re-election until 2014.

Bowman, who attended last week's hearing and is supportive of seeing Baraka be named to the panel, agreed that District 8 would remain relatively the same.

"I don't see anything significantly happening. I think District 8 comes out just fine," said Bowman, who did not apply to serve this year because he intends to offer suggested maps of what the new districts should look like to the task force.

The supervisors' meeting will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday inside the board chambers at City Hall. The task force appointments are listed as item number 46 on the agenda that day.

Due to the Fourth of July holiday, the Political Notes is taking a one-week hiatus. The column will return Monday, July 11.

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) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:m.bajko@ebar.com.






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