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News Briefs: SFMTA to unveil plaque for gay former board chair

by Matthew S. Bajko

News Briefs: SFMTA to unveil plaque for gay former board chair

San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency officials will dedicate a bronze plaque Thursday afternoon at the Castro Muni station honoring Tom Nolan, a gay man who sat on the transit agency's oversight panel for 11 years and served several terms as board chair.

Nolan, 72, first joined the SFMTA board of directors in 2006 and was elected chairman three years later. He stepped down early last year due to term limits after helping to usher in major changes to the city's public transit system, including a controversial overhaul of many Muni bus lines aimed at increasing route times.

Under his leadership, the SFMTA became the first city agency in California to adopt "Vision Zero," San Francisco's goal to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. The agency also instituted a program offering free rides on Muni for low-to-moderate income seniors, youth and people with disabilities.
Nolan led other transportation projects in the Bay Area, including serving as the founding chair of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. He formerly served on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, becoming its first LGBT member after being elected in 1985.

Many in the LGBT community know Nolan from when he served as executive director of Project Open Hand, which provides meals and groceries to people living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. He oversaw the agency for 17 years until stepping down in 2012. Nolan currently works for the city's Department of Aging and Adult Services and assisted the task force that created a groundbreaking report on the needs of LGBT seniors.

Throughout his career, Nolan has advocated for projects like the extension of BART into San Mateo County and to San Francisco International Airport, and Muni's expansion into Chinatown with its Central Subway line. His leading the effort to acquire the 52-mile Southern Pacific rail corridor connecting San Francisco and San Jose to provide commuter rail service earned him the nickname the "Father of Caltrain."

Last year, the American Public Transit Association awarded Nolan its prestigious Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award for his contributions to the transit industry.
The SFMTA plaque will feature a headshot of Nolan and be installed on the outbound side of the Castro Station's Mezzanine Level. It is where the ticket agent booth and entry gates are located.

The dedication ceremony takes place Thursday, January 4, at 4 p.m. The Muni station is located at the corner of Castro and Market Streets underneath Harvey Milk Plaza, named after the late gay supervisor who was also an advocate for public transit and has his own memorial plaque at the station.

NCLR ED on sabbatical
Kate Kendell, the longtime executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, rang in the New Year with a two-month sabbatical. She plans to return to overseeing the San Francisco-based agency March 1.

NCLR, which Kendell has led since 1996, has a policy allowing its staff members to take two months off every five years. Kendell last went on sabbatical 15 years ago.

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Kendell said she didn't have any major plans for her sabbatical this year, which began Monday, January 1. Rather than name an interim executive director, NCLR is having its top managers fill in during Kendell's time off.

"Our biggest push is the last few months of the year. While I still will have lots of work travel in January and February, the ability to be free from being in the office and e-mail feels very freeing," wrote Kendell. "Plus, we have an ace team. No one will even miss me."

As the B.A.R. has reported over the last four years, a number of leaders at LGBT nonprofits based in the Bay Area have taken sabbaticals after leading their agencies for prolonged terms. Some have returned to their jobs, while others opted to resign.
Several received $40,000 through the O2 Sabbatical Award program overseen by O2 Initiatives. Last fall, for instance, San Francisco LGBT Community Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe took off for three months, having been selected by O2 for its 2017 class of executives. The 2018 awardees will be announced in mid-February.

Theater company supports San Jose LGBT center
A South Bay theater group will be raising money for the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose with its production of "The Laramie Project," playwright Moises Kaufman's drama about the brutal 1998 killing of 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.
Originally produced by the Tectonic Theater Project, the play chronicles the lives of the townspeople over the course of a year following Shepard's murder. For its production of the play to mark the 20th anniversary of Shepard's murder, Palo Alto Players has designated the DeFrank center as its nonprofit partner benefiting from its Players Give Back program.
At each show this month and next, the company will be collecting donations from the audience for the LGBT facility serving Santa Clara County. It is also offering supporters of the DeFrank center a $10 discount on tickets, except on preview night; when ordering enter the code DEFRANK.

The production will run Friday, January 19, through Sunday, February 4 at the Lucie Stern Theater, located at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. Ticket prices range in price from $22 to $49 depending on the day and time of the show.
To order tickets online, visit
A new bronze plaque at the Castro Muni station will honor gay transit advocate Tom Nolan.


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