Political Notebook: Company targets giving to SF LGBT center
by Matthew S. Bajko
As Target prepares to open its first stores in San Francisco, the national retailer is increasing its giving to local LGBT organizations.
The company upped its donations to the LGBT Community Center, which is marking its 10th year and has launched a $1 million fundraising drive. Target donated $50,000 toward the anniversary campaign and is sponsoring the center's annual Soiree gala later this month at the $15,000 level.
Target first gave toward the event in 2011, and also donated $20,000 toward the center's education initiative last year with the San Francisco Unified School District.
Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe told the Bay Area Reporter the organization is "very pleased" to have Target as a major donor this year.
"They have made a pretty significant investment across a spectrum of needs," she added.
Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for the company, told the B.A.R. that it is too early to disclose Target's full plans for LGBT giving in 2012.
In an emailed response to a request for comment, Snyder only confirmed that the company is "honored" to be a presenting sponsor for the center's March 2012 Soiree as well as its 10th anniversary season.
Target's first donation to the LGBT center was in 2000, added Snyder, "before they opened their doors."
"At Target, we're proud of our long history of supporting the LGBT community through giving, volunteerism and event partnership and participation. Target was one of the San Francisco LGBT Center's first corporate sponsors," wrote Snyder.
The company has also been a major corporate sponsor for Out and Equal Workplace Advocates. Since 2010 Target has been a presenting sponsor for the San Francisco-based LGBT group's Workplace Summits.
The donations to the Bay Area LGBT groups came as the Minneapolis-based company found itself the target of an LGBT backlash two years ago for donating $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, an independent expenditure committee at the time backing an anti-gay candidate for governor.
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel's initial defense of the donation to the business-friendly group further inflamed LGBT activists, some of whom called for a boycott of the company.
The contretemps raised questions among San Francisco officials, who at the time were considering proposals for Target stores at the Metreon complex South of Market and a former Mervyn's store on Geary Boulevard at Masonic.
Steinhafel later apologized and promised to review how the company decides to make financial contributions. In a letter to his employees that summer, Steinhafel wrote, "Let me be very clear, Target's support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company."
Later revelations of donations to other anti-gay politicians added to the controversy. In response, Target created a policy committee to review and guide its political donations.
Its first meeting in 2011 to gather input was in San Francisco with representatives from various local and national LGBT groups, though it did not disclose who was at the meeting.
The company garnered more bad press in the gay media last spring when it sued a San Diego activist group supportive of same-sex marriage in an attempt to prevent its paid canvassers from approaching shoppers leaving Target stores. A judge ruled the canvassers could be at the stores but had to stay 30 feet from the entrance.
The company's actions also led Lady Gaga to renege on her deal with Target to sell a special edition of her Born This Way CD. As part of the contract talks, the singer had pushed the retailer to increase its giving to LGBT charities, according to an interview she gave to Billboard magazine.
In a separate interview with the publication, Target Vice President of Public Relations Dustee Tucker Jenkins disclosed the company had committed to donate at least half a million dollars to LGBT groups in 2011.
Before center officials agreed to team up with Target, Rolfe said they looked into, and were satisfied by, the company's new giving policies. Despite the hit to its reputation, Target continues to be looked upon favorably by many LGBT shoppers, added Rolfe.
"They made a commitment to address the criticisms that were made," said Rolfe. "They are deeply engaged in the LGBT community and want to look at making a strong relationship with the local LGBT community."
For several years the company had received perfect scores on the national Human Rights Campaign's annual report on best places for LGBT people to work. But after the national LGBT group began asking about transgender health coverage policies, Target's ranking took a hit.
The company earned an 85 out of 100 score on HRC's 2012 Corporate Equality Index. It lost points for not offering transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage as well as not providing the same "soft benefits," such as bereavement leave and employee discounts, to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples.
Target expects to open its first store within San Francisco's city limits at the Metreon in October and plans to have the Geary location open before the 2013 Christmas shopping season. Its closest locations outside the city are in Colma and San Bruno.
LGBT activists welcome seeing Target's corporate giving benefit local agencies, but they also add the company's donations do not mean it won't face criticisms for any antigay moves or policies going forward.
"I think the center is a great San Francisco institution and it is deserving of corporate America's support. And if corporate America wants to support its work, I am happy the center is getting those contributions," said Rafael Mandelman, a gay local Democratic Party official who joined the center's board last year. "I don't think that in any way means activists in the LGBT community are not going to continue to hold those corporations accountable."
Gay Republican runs against Ammiano
A gay Republican Party official has decided to take on openly gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) this year as he seeks re-election to a third and final term in the Legislature's lower body.
Jason P. Clark, 31, a member of the Republican County Central Committee and the local party's volunteer general counsel, pulled papers Tuesday to enter the race.
The vice chair of the local chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, a group for LGBT GOPers, Clark said he decided to run against Ammiano when it became clear the progressive Democrat would otherwise be unopposed this year.
"I think people in San Francisco really deserve a choice and a meaningful choice between two candidates," said Clark about his decision to enter the race. "Given everything going on now with this state, we can't afford to send the same people back to cause the same problems."
The southern California native moved to the Bay Area in 1999 to attend UC Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in political science. He earned his law degree from USF's law school and now has a solo practice.
He has lived in San Francisco for the last eight years and last year was appointed to fill a vacancy on the local Republican Party's oversight panel. In addition to his Assembly campaign, Clark will be seeking to be elected to his central committee seat on the June primary ballot.
It is the first time Clark, who is single, has run for elective office. While likely to win his seat on the party committee, Clark has little chance of unseating Ammiano in the fall.
Democrats have a clear voter advantage over Republicans in San Francisco. And most GOP candidates gain little traction with the public or the press; the city's only Republican officeholder is BART board member James Fang.
Clark said he plans to get his message across using social media, Internet radio stations, and Facebook. He is also working on launching a campaign website.
"I hope to reach out and talk to as many voters as I can," said Clark. "I find when I talk to voters, even if we don't agree on political affiliation, there are a number of issues we do agree upon."
He is the third gay Republican to run for state Assembly this year. In West Hollywood, Log Cabin member Brad Torgan is running in another district Democrats are expected to easily carry. Ralph Denney is once again running for a San Diego Assembly seat.
By virtue of their names being on the ballot, the trio will gain perks within the state Republican Party even if they lose in November. Chief among them is getting to name delegates to the party's convention where they can vote on the platform.
It is a strategy Log Cabin has used in recent years to try to exert some influence on the positions the statewide party takes. But so far they have had limited success in striking anti-gay language from the party platform.
In other local legislative races, gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) Wednesday made his bid for re-election to a second term official. Supporters joined him at the San Mateo County elections department as Gordon submitted paperwork to enter the race for the 24th Assembly District seat.
And this Friday night a $100-a-person fundraiser for gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) will take place at Castro club Trigger. After the bar had to temporarily close last week due to a dispute over tax payments, Leno's campaign had told the B.A.R. the March 9 event was postponed.
But the club's owner, Greg Bronstein , sent out an invite Monday night saying not only was the fundraiser a go, but Leno would be joined by a host of local officials. Among those listed as attending are Mayor Ed Lee , District Attorney class=textexposedshow>George Gasc—n, gay City Treasurer Jose Cisneros and gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.
Out supes back SF voting change
At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting out members Christina Olague (District 5) and Wiener threw their support behind a plan to scrap ranked-choice voting for citywide elections in San Francisco.
The charter amendment proposal from District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell received the necessary six votes to be heard by the board's Rules Committee before coming back to the full board for approval. It would then be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide on.
"This is not a progressive or moderate issue – this is a democratic issue," stated Farrell. "Ranked-choice voting has confused and disenfranchised voters for nearly a decade in San Francisco, and it is time to return to the principle of one person, one vote."
It is a scaled back version of a proposal Farrell and District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd had introduced that would scrap the instant voter runoff system for supervisor races as well. The new version would only apply to races for mayor, district attorney, sheriff, city attorney, treasurer, assessor-recorder, and public defender.
If no candidate secured a majority of votes in those contests in the November general election, then the top two vote-getters would face off in a December runoff. Elsbernd along with Supervisors Malia Cohen (District 10) and Carmen Chu (District 4) were the other three votes for the proposed charter amendment.
District 9 Supervisor David Campos , the board's third out member, has opposed efforts to do away with the ranked-choice voting. He had lobbied for keeping it but tweaking it so voters could choose more than three candidates, as they do now.
The rules committee is expected to take up Farrell's proposal sometime in April.
Last week's Political Notebook jumped the gun on when the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro would elect Cliff's Variety general manager Terry Asten Bennett as its new president. She was nominated for the post last week and the confirmation vote will take place at the April 5 meeting. The online version of the column has been corrected.
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 highlighted upcoming fundraisers in San Francisco for several out candidates.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415)
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