Political Notebook: City gains first bi supervisor
by Matthew S. Bajko
In a move cheered by progressives and moderates alike, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Planning Commission President Christina Olague to be the city's new District 5 supervisor. Olague, 50, becomes the city's first out bisexual supervisor and is expected to seek a full four-year term in the fall.
She fills the Haight and Fillmore centered seat vacated by Ross Mirkarimi, who was sworn in Sunday as sheriff amid speculation he could face domestic violence charges. [See story, page 2.]
Lee called Olague Sunday night to inform her of his decision, and she was sworn in Monday morning at City Hall. Amid answering questions from a crush of reporters following the ceremony, Olague appeared stunned at the turn of events catapulting her into the political spotlight.
"I think I will be good at it. I care about people and trying to help everyone achieve a decent quality of life," said Olague when asked why she wanted to become a supervisor.
The daughter of a Latino farmworker, Olague moved to San Francisco in 1982. She graduated from the California Institute of Integral Studies and worked in several stock brokerages before heading to the nonprofit sector. She worked for the Mission Anti Displacement Partnership to empower low-income residents and most recently had been with the Senior Action Network.
Former board President Matt Gonzalez named her to the Planning Commission in 2002 and she was elected to a second term as president last January. A onetime Green Party member who served on the board of LYRIC, the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center for LGBT youth in the Castro where she once lived, Olague shares an apartment with her sister near the Divisadero business corridor.
Speculation that the Fresno native would be picked for the board seat had swirled around her since the November election. A longtime progressive leader and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club member, Olague defies being pigeonholed in a political sense.
She early on endorsed seeing the moderate Lee seek a full term as mayor and was a co-leader of the "Run, Ed, Run" campaign last spring. Last June she told the Bay Area Reporter she was impressed with Lee seeking input and counsel from all corners of the city.
At the same time, Olague and Lee haven't always agreed when it comes to redevelopment issues. She voted against three major development projects: the plans for Treasure Island, Hunter's Point, and Parkmerced apartments.
But Olague helped steer plans for the upcoming America's Cup yacht race to unanimous approval at the Planning Commission. The event is a key priority for Lee in attracting international tourists and waterfront improvements, and Olague could help address concerns among progressive circles about the sporting event.
He pointed to her leadership on the America's Cup vote when asked by reporters why he chose Olague for the seat.
"I think for me it's her ability to unify folks," said Lee, adding that her advocacy for tenants, seniors, and immigrants reminded him of his own career path. "I took everything into consideration. It wasn't just her involvement with 'Run, Ed, Run.'"
Her swearing in brought a large crowd, including many progressive LGBT leaders, to the balcony outside the mayor's office Monday morning.
Former Milk Club president Debra Walker said simply that Olague's selection was "wonderful," while Marc Salomon, a gay man who has long been friends with Olague, said it marked the first decision by Lee that he supports.
"I think it is amazing. I find Christina to be a really thoughtful, creative person and I think she will be a great supervisor," he said.
Board President David Chiu, who has proven to be more moderate than some had presumed, said he was not surprised by Olague's appointment.
"It is a strong choice, an inspired choice," said Chiu, who has not always seen eye-to-eye with Olague on planning issues. "She can hit the ground running. I am confident she will be able to work with others to build consensus and tackle challenges."
Olague's votes and actions on the board will be closely watched not just by moderates but by progressives as well. Labor leader and transgender activist Gabriel Haaland, while good friends with Olague, did not rule out running for the District 5 seat come November when asked if he would now abandon his election plans.
"Life is long and I am most happy to support her personally," he said. "I think she will be a really good supervisor. And I expect that because she will be a good supervisor she will have a good chance of being elected."
Her selection means there is no longer any LGBT planning commissioners, something Chiu as board president will face pressure to rectify.
"It's too early to say who will be seeking the position. I do believe it's important to have LGBT representation on the Planning Commission (and other commissions)," gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told the B.A.R.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 11 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column looks at the leadership changes within the city's LGBT political clubs.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.