SF supe panel recommends gay man for Sunshine task force

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Monday July 24, 2023
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Bold Italic editor Saul Sugarman spoke at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting July 24. Photo: Screengrab via SFGovTV
Bold Italic editor Saul Sugarman spoke at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting July 24. Photo: Screengrab via SFGovTV

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Monday recommended that a gay man be appointed to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

Saul Sugarman, 38, received a unanimous vote by committee chair gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, Vice Chair Supervisor Shamann Walton (D10), and committee member Supervisor Ahsha Safaí (D11). The full board will vote on the item Tuesday, July 25, the last meeting before it takes its August recess.

Sugarman is currently the editor of the Bold Italic, an online site run by GrowSF, which describes itself as a nonpartisan group of volunteers who want the city to be safe, clean, affordable, and vibrant.

Seat 3 is specified for a member of the media. Sugarman would fill an unexpired term that ends April 27, 2024.

During his remarks to the committee, Sugarman said he has previous media experience at the now-defunct SF Weekly, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Daily Journal.

"I've been interested in this task force for awhile," he said, explaining that he had applied before but deferred to another candidate and was urged to apply again in the future.

In his application, Sugarman notes that he is active in the LGBTQ community. He stated that he has written for nearly a dozen San Francisco-based news outlets in his 12 years of living in the city. He stated that he is Jewish and has an active relationship with local Jewish media.

Voters approved the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force 25 years ago. Its purpose is to protect the public's interest in open government. It also provides information to city departments on appropriate ways to implement the Sunshine Ordinance.

Dorsey said it is his hope that the task force can work more with city departments to improve efficiency in carrying out the ordinance's requirements and give guidance to departments to improve transparency.

"Of course," Sugarman replied.

Other seat

The rules committee also recommended David Pilpel to the task force's seat 9, which requires experience in the issues of citizen access and participation in local government. That position also fills an unexpired term that ends April 27, 2024. Pilpel is a former member of the task force, but drew criticism from some public commenters. Gay activist Patrick Monette-Shaw wrote a letter to the rules committee stating that Pilpel has been deceptive on the issue of the backlog of sunshine complaints and suggesting a limit on complaints.

Peter Warfield of the Library Users Association spoke at the meeting and referenced Monette-Shaw's letter.

Pilpel, in addressing the supervisors, said he was aware of Monette-Shaw's letter. "The time is due and overdue to reexamine the Sunshine Ordinance," he said.

Pilpel is a frequent commenter at Board of Supervisors' committee meetings and said he has been engaged in city government for his adult life.

The other applicant for Seat 9 was Ruth Ellenberg Ferguson, a resident of Bernal Heights who recently received a master's degree in public policy from UC Berkeley. In her application, she stated that the bulk of her academic research has centered on transparency in state-level government and public interventions to address the lack of information available to the public.

She previously worked as a field representative in the California Legislature. Warfield said he was concerned that Ferguson may have a potential conflict of interest in that she serves on an advisory committee to the city attorney. The city attorney's office provides guidance to city boards and commissions.

During public comment, two people spoke in opposition to Pilpel and three spoke in support. One person spoke in support of Ferguson's nomination.

Dorsey explained there are other vacancies on the task force and suggested Ferguson could apply for one of those. He had wanted to do that July 24 but the deputy city attorney had informed him that public notice would have to be given so that will likely come up after the supervisors return from their recess.

Updated, 7/26/23: We have deleted information that was redacted by the city after publication of this report.

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