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Political Notebook: Next SF mayor could name an LGBT adviser

by Matthew S. Bajko

Clair Farley is currently the mayor's adviser on transgender initiatives. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Clair Farley is currently the mayor's adviser on transgender initiatives. Photo: Kelly Sullivan  

Nearly two years ago the late San Francisco mayor Ed Lee created the nation's first mayoral adviser on transgender initiatives when he hired longtime transgender advocate Theresa Sparks for the City Hall role.

When Sparks retired in the fall, transgender advocate Clair Farley took over the job. And under the direction of Mayor Mark Farrell, elected in January by a majority of the Board of Supervisors to serve in an interim basis, Farley has been working to form a transgender advisory panel to assist the city in meeting the community's needs.

But she has also worked on a number of LGBT initiatives in recent months, such as the renaming of Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport in honor of the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk and an agreement with sister city Cork, Ireland to jointly advocate for LGBT equality on the world stage. And other issues of concern to the LGBT community will be jockeying for the mayor's attention in coming months, from funding in the budget to the establishment of LGBT cultural districts in various neighborhoods.

Plus, all three of the leading mayoral candidates in the special election on the June 5 primary ballot to serve out the remainder of Lee's term have their own plans relating to LGBT issues and the community. For that reason, the Bay Area Reporter asked the trio during recent editorial board interviews if they would expand the parameter of Farley's role and designate her their adviser on LGBT initiatives as opposed to her job title being solely focused on transgender issues.

All were open to the idea but stressed that, if they took such a step, they would want to ensure the transgender community did not get overlooked under the expanded umbrella of the job.

"Given the significant increase in hate crimes against our community in the past year, given the target this president has put on our back, given the sometimes mistaken presumption that our community has been fully accepted and that our battles have been won, I think your suggestion ... is one I would seriously consider," gay former state lawmaker and supervisor Mark Leno told the B.A.R.

Board President London Breed, who briefly served as acting mayor following Lee's sudden death December 12, didn't raise any objection about creating such a role on her mayoral staff.

"I am fine with that, I am totally open to that," she said.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said she would want to consult first with LGBT community members before making such a hiring decision.

"Well, either we could expand the office, with staff, or we could just expand the purpose," said Kim, whose district includes the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods where transgender and leather LGBT cultural districts, respectively, are being formed. "But I would want to sit down and talk to the community about how we did that, so that it was done in a way that didn't diminish the role that this position has given for the transgender community who, you know, have so many barriers here in San Francisco. We want to address those issues, whether it's employment, housing, also the criminal justice system."

As for Farley, she acknowledged to the B.A.R. that her duties have included a broader array of issues than those solely impacting transgender residents of the city.
"As a city we need to be responsive to the whole community," said Farley.

But with transgender individuals disproportionately impacted by homelessness, unemployment, and physical violence, she said any expansion of her office's role shouldn't result in a diminished focus on the needs of the transgender community.

"In working with the most vulnerable in our community, we find that transgender initiatives are the most needed," she said.

Mayoral AIDS czar unlikely to return
As for naming a mayoral adviser on HIV issues, all three candidates questioned if there was a need for a separate AIDS czar position at City Hall. The last time such a person advised the occupant of Room 200 was during the mayoralty of Gavin Newsom.

With the Department of Public Health committed to coming close to ending the transmission of HIV by 2020, it is possible there is no longer a need for an AIDS czar on the mayor's staff. All three of the candidates suggested it is a role that an employee within DPH could assume as a way to keep City Hall apprised of progress on the Getting to Zero plan.

"It is quite possible that that position filled could lead to the goal line. I'd have to see once I am closer to it as to what the value added would be," said Leno.

Breed also told the B.A.R. she was uncertain of the need for an AIDS czar but could see possibly designating someone within the health department to such a position for the purposes of overseeing the allocation of funding to meet the goals of Getting to Zero.

"But I do think we need to make sure that the dollars are being used for the purpose intended, that it's effective, that it is the right plan, and that does, I believe, may include a person who's primarily responsible for that purpose," she said. "Does that person need to be on the mayor's office staff? Maybe, maybe not."

Kim also did not rule out the merit of having an AIDS czar as mayor.

"Well, it does feel, you know, it feels like we are slowly getting there, and that leadership has actually come from the community, it has come less from the mayor's office," she said. "Although, we have been funding and supporting that work, of course, but it's being really led by our community stakeholders and leaders on the ground. If people felt that there was a need for a czar, then I would certainly consider it, but I do think that the Department of Public Health has been doing a good job of bringing our community-based organizations together to address this issue."

Pride Month bill advances
The state Assembly Monday (May 14) approved on a bipartisan vote of 59-0 legislation that would establish June as Pride Month in California.

Assembly Bill 2969 is co-authored by all eight members of the Legislative LGBT Caucus and supported by Equality California, the state's LGBT advocacy group, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

The bill, which would designate June as Pride Month by statute, will now be taken up by the state Senate.

"We have codified many other cultural celebrations into statute; it's time to add Pride to that list," stated gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), chair of the LGBT caucus and lead author of the bill.

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 reported on the out Republicans on the June ballot endorsed by Log Cabin CA.
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) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.

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