Political Notebook: Lesbians seek
elected transit seats
by Matthew S. Bajko
Two lesbians seeking elected transit seats in the Bay Area have attracted broad support as they head into the final weeks of their campaigns.
On the Peninsula, Moss Beach resident Sabrina Brennan , 42, is running for a seat on the San Mateo County Harbor District. The obscure body has oversight of two marinas, the bayside Oyster Point, where a new East Bay ferry service launched, and the seaside Pillar Point.
In Oakland transit advocate Rebecca Saltzman , 30, is seeking the newly drawn District 3 seat on the Bay Area Rapid Transit board, which includes parts of Oakland and Berkeley and the Contra Costa County cities of Orinda, Moraga, and Lafayette.
Their candidacies are another sign of how the Bay Area's LGBT community continues to make political inroads outside of San Francisco.
Should they win they would be the first out female members of their respective boards. Longtime gay BART board member Tom Radulovich , who represents San Francisco, is up for re-election this year and is expected to easily win a fifth term.
Radulovich said he wants to remain on the BART board in order to work on several projects he has championed, such as remodeling the 24th Street Station and building transit villages at the Balboa and Glen Park stations.
"I feel I have a lot to do there," he said.
Plus, he has been impressed with the leadership of BART's general manager, Grace Crunican, who was hired last year and hails from Seattle.
"She has brought fresh air to BART," said Radulovich. "She is open to a lot of things I care about. She is fantastic to work with and has given me a lot of optimism about the place."
The only woman in her race, Saltzman is up against two male candidates running for the open seat. Former BART Director Bob Franklin resigned this summer to work for the agency, and the board opted to name former Alameda County Supervisor Mary King as an interim replacement to serve out the remainder of the term.
Whoever wins the November 6 election for the full four-year term will be seated on December 7.
Saltzman lives in Oakland with her wife, Caitlin Stone , and works as an environmental policy advocate with the California League of Conversation Voters.
She is the clear favorite in the race. She has won endorsements from numerous East Bay politicians and political groups. This week she reported raising another $10,127 in donations for a total campaign haul of $32,020.
"I am feeling really great. I have a lot of momentum and tons of support," Saltzman told the Bay Area Reporter this week. "I did well in my fundraising and have signed up lots of volunteers."
Her focus between now and Election Day will mostly be on talking to voters. Her main priority for BART is addressing its $7.5 billion unfunded maintenance needs, she said.
"That is my big concern and, in talking to voters about that, it is very concerning to people," said Saltzman.
Other issues Saltzman has cited as priorities should she be elected include how to address the needs of BART riders who bike to stations and adding capacity to the current system as BART extends service into San Jose and farther east in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
"I think most people think the extensions are great if we can pay for them. I am concerned about a lack of focus on the needs of the current system," she said. "I want to make sure it doesn't fall apart before we do anything additional."
Like Saltzman, Brennan is the only woman among six candidates seeking three seats on the harbor district board. She will need to knock out an incumbent in order to win, as all three of the current members with terms up opted to seek re-election.
"If there was an open seat it would be easier," she said. "It is tough so I definitely need to get the word out to people."
The five-person commission oversees Oyster Point Marina/Park in South San Francisco and Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay.
In 2010 Robert Bernardo became the first openly LGBT person to win a seat on the harbor district board. Brennan, who also ran that year but came up short in the race, is the first out woman to run for countywide office in San Mateo.
Since her defeat two years ago, Brennan has laid the groundwork for a second campaign. She officially entered the race in late 2011 and secured the endorsement of the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
She also won the endorsement of the San Mateo Daily Journal, a news site covering the county that had endorsed her in 2010. And this year she picked up the backing of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, the South Bay's LGBT political group.
A New Orleans native, Brennan moved to northern California in 1993 and lives with her wife, Aimee Luthringer, near the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. She owns Digital Fusion Media and has done graphics work for local museums and the America's Cup races in San Francisco.
She was influenced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill along the Gulf Coast to become more active in the management of the Bay Area harbors.
"It's very important to me that we do a better job protecting our shore than was done on the Gulf Coast. I feel compelled to do my part, and I'm passionate about it," states Brennan on her campaign website.
Her priorities include water and beach pollution at the marinas to how the harbor district spends its funds and maintains its waterfront properties.
She also advocates for making the new ferry service at Oyster Point, where ridership so far has been far below expectations, more accessible to commuters, particularly those who ride bikes or take Caltrain.
"We can do more to entice visitors to come to the harbors and patronize the businesses. We can encourage entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses," wrote Brennan. "We can find creative ways to make the waterfront more appealing without spending millions."
Park Station names LGBT liaison
A second police station has assigned one of its officers to be a liaison to the LGBT community.
Officer Jim McMahan at Park Station has been named to the post. The gay policeman joined the San Francisco Police Department in 2004 and has spent time at both the Ingleside and Mission stations.
It was Mission Station's LGBT liaison, Sergeant Chuck Limbert, who helped train the rookie officer eight years ago.
In April then newly installed Park Station Captain John J. Feeney said he would look at appointing an LGBT liaison in response to a question from the Bay Area Reporter. The station share's coverage of the city's gay Castro district with Mission Station, as it has jurisdiction over the Duboce Triangle neighborhood and Twin Peaks.
The station also patrols the gay-friendly Haight and Cole Valley districts as well as parts of Golden Gate Park, where homeless LGBT youth are known to congregate.
Before Feeney was able to finalize his decision, he was transferred out of the station this summer back to his old job. Former Mission Station Captain Greg Corrales was then named the new captain at Park Station.
When asked last month about the LGBT liaison role by the B.A.R. , Corrales said he would look into naming a person to the post. Last week he introduced his choice of McMahan to Castro merchants during their monthly meeting.
McMahan, who gave his age as 30-something, said he agreed to take on the added role since he is on Corrales's staff and works with him a lot.
"It was a natural fit," he said.
Website seeks input on Castro issues
Longtime Castro resident James Rosenfield has launched a website to seek public feedback on several contentious issues being debated in the city's LGBT district.
The site is currently seeking input on the proposed public nudity ban and if the benches at Harvey Milk Plaza should be removed. Other topics include proposals by several national retail chains to open locations along upper Market Street.
The site has only been up a few weeks, and Rosenfield plans to keep it live through at least mid-October. He then plans to tabulate the information he has gathered and distribute it to various leaders in the Castro and people who signed up on the site, which is at http://uppermarket.org.
"When I do close the forums I will be creating mini reports for each issue which will go to the key players and decision makers that can make use of the info, and of course I'll email all participants with an update," he explained in an email to the B.A.R.
SF leaders fundraise for marriage campaigns
San Francisco leaders are hosting a fundraiser this weekend to support the ballot box fights over same-sex marriage in four states this fall.
Voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington will decide in November whether to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Polling has shown the pro-gay side has a good chance of winning in several states, which would be the first electoral win for marriage equality.
The group Freedom to Marry is working with local LGBT leaders to host a National Engagement Party in San Francisco where supporters can "raise a glass (or two) to the freedom to marry and help raise much needed funds to help the four battleground states facing ballot campaigns in November."
Tickets to the Saturday, October 13 event begin at $125 per person. It will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Jonathan Browning Studios, 30 Sheridan Street in South of Market.
To buy tickets visit http://www.freedomtomarry.org/SFParty.
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 looks at how bisexual District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague has become a central player in the proceedings on suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.