Political Notebook: San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission selects co-chairs

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday January 7, 2015
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The San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission this week named its first female and male co-chairs to lead it in its inaugural year.

Believed to be the first county commission of its kind in California, it was established last summer by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors at the urging of then board President Dave Pine . In the fall the supervisors named 11 people to serve on the countywide oversight committee.

They increased the number of commissioners from an initial nine seats due to the impressive qualifications of the 50 people who had applied to serve.

At their first meeting in 2015, the night of Tuesday, January 6, the commissioners decided to split the chairmanship duties between lawyer Jennifer Walter, a resident of Half Moon Bay, and Redwood City resident Jason Galisatus , a senior at Stanford who was instrumental in seeking the LGBTQ commission's creation.

Elected as vice chair was Pacifica resident Richard Faust . A San Francisco firefighter and paramedic, he lost his re-election bid last fall for his seat on the Pacifica School Board.

All three will serve one-year terms.

"Our skills mesh in such a way that we think a co-chair position will provide for strong leadership," said Galisatus, who interned over the summer in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-San Francisco) Washington, D.C. office. "She is a lawyer and has a lot of technical skill. I have a lot of community organizing work under my belt."

The commissioners have been meeting since October to create a mission statement and establish its priorities. Its strategic plan should be approved in February.

"Last night we made a lot of progress on developing our vision and values," Galisatus told the Bay Area Reporter in a brief phone interview Wednesday morning. "A clear understanding of our goals and objectives will be presented in February."

The other members of the commission include San Mateo residents Jei Africa, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who is director of the San Mateo Health System's Office of Diversity and Equity, and Stan Kiino , the Association of Flight Attendants SFO Council 11 member and former national co-president for Pride at Work.

Also serving are Dr. Gabriel Garcia of Portola Valley, a gastroenterologist and professor at Stanford University Medical Center; Kate MacKay , who ran for a South San Francisco City Council seat in 2013; East Palo Alto class=st> Sanitary District board member Glenda Savage ; and Pacifica resident Lynn Schuette , who served on the San Mateo County Rainbow Community Assessment Task Force that released a report in 2001 on the issues facing the county's LGBT community at that time.

The other members of the new LGBTQ commission are transgender activist Stevie Stallmeyer of Menlo Park, and youth representative Alex Neumann of Atherton.

According to a report by the county manager's office in September, San Mateo supervisors would like the new commission to tackle a variety of issues within the county's LGBT community. Some of the specific areas it listed were bringing greater recognition and visibility to LGBT events in the county such as annual Pride celebrations; reducing harassment and bullying of LGBTQ youth in local middle schools and high schools; and recommending initiatives to support LGBTQ families with children.

The county board also suggested that the commission develop policy recommendations to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk segments of the LGBTQ population, including youth, communities of color, non-English speakers, seniors, and immigrants. It would also like the commission to promote transgender inclusion among private and public entities in San Mateo County, including access to health care and to gendered spaces such as bathrooms and shelters.

"It is important for us to be very clear about what we want and how we are going to do it," said Galisatus. "We have been really making sure we are doing the ground work and setting a strong foundation to begin to be an effective commission."

A key issue confronting the commission, said Galisatus, is the lack of demographic information on San Mateo County's LGBT residents.

"A major concern of the commission is that we don't have a strong quantitative understanding of the community in terms of data," he said. "I know that is something we hope to look into ... I know the commission is committed to seeking to better understand the community."

It is tasked with presenting a report on its work to the county supervisors by the end of the year, though it can suggest policy recommendations at any time. The county hired Honora R. Miller , who is bisexual and has extensive experience working with boards and commissions in San Mateo, to be the LGBTQ commission's director.

"As it goes forward, one role I play is to bring institutional knowledge to newer commissioners as they come on board," said Miller, who has worked for San Mateo County since 2000. "Right now a lot of the work is foundational, doing planning and establishing goals and objectives."

Miller is currently working to update the commission's webpage, at http://lgbtq.smcgov.org/, and to compile a list of San Mateo County LGBTQ resources and groups. Anyone with information for the resource guide should email Miller at mailto:[email protected].

The LGBTQ commission also can be followed via its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SanMateoCountyLGBTQ.


Ammiano to consult for Palm Center

Gay former state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has landed a job as a government relations consultant for the Palm Center, an independent think tank based in San Francisco.

The Palm Center, long known for its studies on out service members, announced Wednesday, January 7 that it had hired Ammiano, who was termed out of office in December. No salary information was disclosed.

His duties will focus on the center's relations with the administration at SF State; the Board of Trustees of the California State University; and the California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin , an SF State�political science professor, stated, "I am honored to be associated with Tom Ammiano, who is a true civil rights hero. His assistance will be invaluable in the Palm Center's relations with educational leaders in San Francisco and Sacramento."

In the release Ammiano, an SF State graduate, stated, "It is a pleasure to work with the Palm Center, which has provided outstanding service and unique value to the university community, the people of California and the LGBT community nationally."


Lee picks library activist as D3 supe

Wednesday afternoon San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed North Beach neighborhood activist and businesswoman Julie Christensen to the vacant District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Lee made the announcement at the new North Beach Library, which Christensen helped champion.

Christensen will be sworn into office Thursday, January 8 in time to help elect the board's president for the new term. District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang has been serving as the interim board president since December due to former president David Chiu's resignation from the D3 seat following his election to the city's 17th Assembly District seat.


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. The column returns Monday, January 12.

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 mailto:.