Political Notebook: US postal museum to include Harvey Milk stamp

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday May 20, 2015
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The National Postal Museum is planning to add the Harvey Milk stamp to its collection, the Bay Area Reporter has learned.

The 49-cent forever stamp, featuring a black and white photo of the gay icon, had its unveiling at the White House last May 22, to coincide with Milk's birthdate and annual celebrations of Harvey Milk Day, a day of special significance in California. The Milk stamp is the nation's first to honor an American for their role in the fight for LGBT rights.

Milk was a community activist, business owner in the gay Castro district, and a political columnist for the B.A.R. during the 1970s. His election to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in November 1977 marked the first time an out LGBT person had won elective office in both the city and the state of California.

His life, and that of then-Mayor George Moscone, came to a tragic end on the morning of November 27, 1978 when disgruntled former supervisor Dan White killed the progressive politicians in City Hall. The first calls for a stamp honoring Milk came in the late 1980s, and again in 2005, when all 11 San Francisco supervisors at the time petitioned the U.S. postmaster general to issue one for the gay rights leader.

In 2010 the postal service's Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee began working with Milk's family on issuing the stamp. Linn's Stamp News, a publication for philatelists, broke the news in 2013 that the Harvey Milk stamp had been approved for release the following year.

Now the National Postal Museum, overseen by the Smithsonian Institution, is preparing to include the Milk stamp in its collection. Sometime later this year it will be added to the museum's award-winning Arago website �" http://www.arago.si.edu �" and will also be included in the virtual display of modern stamps in the interactive kiosk located in the museum's William H. Stamp Gallery.

"We wait for the Postal Service to officially transfer each year's stamps, which normally happens in batches," Marshall F. "Marty" Emery, the postal museum's manager for public relations and internet affairs, told the B.A.R. in response to questions about the inclusion of the Milk stamp in the museum's collection. "After we receive the stamps, we create database records, scan the stamps in high-res and generate meta data for each stamp. From there, the stamps are added to Arago. We must work with a contractor to update the interactive in the Gross Stamp Gallery."

There are no plans to physically display the Harvey Milk stamp, "as is the case with most modern issues," explained Emery, who could not offer an exact timeline for when the Milk stamp would be added to the website or the kiosk.

"Our workload is extremely taxed right now, so I won't be addressing the new stamps until things die down a bit," he wrote in an email in early May.

The Postal Service printed 30 million Harvey Milk stamps, with 20 stamps to a sheet. A spokesman declined to provide details on how many of the stamps have been sold, citing concerns that doing so could impact the value assigned to it by collectors.

"The Harvey Milk stamp is on sale and will continue to be on sale until we're sold out," spokesman Mark Saunders told the B.A.R.

The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E. in Washington, D.C. and is free to visit. For more information, visit http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu.


Supes adopt Castro zoning change

Interim zoning controls for upper Market Street west of Octavia Boulevard aimed at limiting the amount of office-type businesses opening in ground floor retail spaces along the commercial corridor are set to become permanent, likely in early July.

The rules will now also cover the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street after the Board of Supervisors voted 10-0, with Supervisor Jane Kim absent, at their May 19 meeting to adopt legislation introduced earlier this year by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Due to neighborhood concerns that developers of new mixed-use housing developments along upper Market Street would seek out banks, title companies, and other non-retail uses to fill up the new storefronts in their buildings, Wiener pushed through temporary rules in the summer of 2013 requiring such businesses to seek a conditional use permit from the city's planning commission in order to open in a ground floor space.

Doing so would trigger public notification of the businesses' plans and provide the public a way to express opposition at a hearing if they felt it would have negative impacts. Because of similar issues with non-retail uses taking over sidewalk-fronting storefronts along 24th Street in Noe Valley, Wiener included that neighborhood's retail corridor between Diamond and Chattanooga in his legislation.


State Senator-elect Steve Glazer

Glazer wins East Bay Senate seat

An opponent of allowing BART workers to strike easily captured an East Bay state Senate seat in a special runoff election Tuesday, May 19.

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer (D) won with nearly 55 percent of the vote against his opponent, state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), who received 45 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns Wednesday morning. He will now represent the 7th Senate District, which covers eastern Contra Costa County and Alameda County's Tri Valley area.

The former occupant of the seat, Democrat Mark DeSaulnier , resigned after being elected to Congress in November. LGBT political groups snubbed Glazer in the race, with the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club backing Bonilla.

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, also endorsed Bonilla in the runoff. It initially had supported former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) but switched its endorsement after Buchanan came in third in the special election in March.

Bonilla had faced criticism from some LGBT advocates for supporting an anti-gay Vallejo city council candidate in 2013 and voting in 2008 with a majority of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, on which she served, not to join in a state lawsuit aimed at overturning Proposition 8, the voter approved ban against same-sex marriage.

Although Bonilla's ties to labor unions was the main focus of the race, in recent days mailers attacking her record on LGBT issues had hit voters' mailboxes.


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 Harvey Milk Day events taking place in San Francisco.

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 [email protected].