Political Notebook: East Bay cities welcome gay mayors

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday December 20, 2017
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Residents of two East Bay cities welcomed their first gay mayors in recent weeks. Tuesday night, December 19, Gabriel Quinto became the first LGBT and first Filipino mayor of the city of El Cerrito, and the first person living with HIV to serve in that role of any Bay Area city.

In mid-November John Bauters was sworn in as the first gay mayor of Emeryville, making the bayside city the third in the state to have both a gay and lesbian mayor. The first was West Hollywood, while San Diego has had interim gay and lesbian mayors.

Lesbian former Emeryville City Councilwoman Ruth Atkin had served in the ceremonial mayor role, which rotates among the council members, first in 2002 and several times thereafter. To date, Atkin is one of only two lesbians known to have served as mayors of Bay Area cities, while Bauters is only the second gay mayor of a city in Alameda County.

The first gay man known to have become mayor in the Bay Area was Jeffrey Shattuck Leiter, who in 1994 was named the mayor of Berkeley following the resignation of Loni Hancock, who stepped down to take a job with then-President Bill Clinton's administration. Leiter was seen as a caretaker of the office and agreed not to seek a full term.

The first LGBT person elected mayor in the Bay Area was gay Vallejo City Councilman Gary Cloutier in 2007. But he was ousted from office seven days after being sworn in following a recount of the vote that November in the Solano County city.

In the South Bay gay men have served as the mayors of Mountain View (Chris Clark) and of Campbell (Evan Low, Rich Waterman.) In the North Bay gay former Sebastopol City Councilman Robert Jacob took over the role of mayor of his city in 2013; while lesbian Cloverdale City Councilwoman Carol Russell has twice served as mayor of her Sonoma County town, first in 2010 and again in 2014.

Quinto, 56, becomes the second gay mayor of a city in Contra Costa County, as gay Pleasant Hill City Councilman Ken Carlson served as mayor of his city from December 2014 through December 2015. Like El Cerrito, Pleasant Hill rotates its mayor position amongst the elected city council members.

"For our LGBT community, this is huge," said Quinto, who is running for re-election to his council seat in November. "Even though we are mayors of small cities, we belong to regional boards and have a huge responsibility for what we do regionally in the Bay Area."

Unlike Quinto, who invited Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Benjamin "Ben" T. Reyes II, the first-ever Filipino-American judge to serve on the Contra Costa County bench and the second Filipino-American judge to serve in the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties, to administer the oath of office, Bauters kept his swearing in ceremony at the council's November 20 meeting a low-key affair.

"It was just part of the evening. There was no speech, I got sworn in and that was it," said Bauters, 38, who won election to his council seat last year. "The staff liked that; they could go home early, and we went to have a drink."

He told the Bay Area Reporter he hopes the day will come when a city in the Bay Area having an LGBT mayor will not be news.

"While I am grateful for having the honor of being one of the first LGBT mayors in the Bay Area, my hope is someone growing up in the Bay Area today will think it is normal and won't be a distinction people will pay attention to," said Bauters, director of government relations for the nonprofit Californians for Safety and Justice.

Bauters, who serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission and chairs the board for the county's Healthy Homes Agency, which works to prevent lead poisoning, said his top priorities as mayor will be housing and transit issues.

"People ask what is the gay agenda? Affordable housing, parking, traffic, environmental quality, and criminal justice reform, that is my gay agenda," said Bauters, adding that, "as an LGBT person I have an added level of awareness and sensitivity to the needs of people whose voices aren't often at the table. I will be damned if my turn as mayor does not represent people in an inclusive and cooperative manner. Everybody is welcome is the bottom line."

As for Quinto, who used to live in San Francisco's Noe Valley neighborhood prior to moving to the East Bay, he is on the Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus of the League of California Cities, as well as on the boards of the group's East Bay division and LGBT Caucus. He also serves on the executive committee of the Sierra Club's Bay Chapter, which includes the counties of San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa.

His top concerns as mayor will be affordable housing, economic development, and construction of a new senior center in town. Both of the city's BART stations have housing developments being built next to them that will set aside a portion of units as below-market-rate.

"My agenda will continue what we have been doing in El Cerrito and that is housing, housing, housing," he told the B.A.R.

Gay West Sacto mayor fined

A state political watchdog agency has fined the gay mayor of West Sacramento $656 for failing to properly disclose $5,745 in spending by his election campaign committee in 2016.

Christopher Cabaldon, 52, who is Filipino and a principal co-owner of Sacramento-based education consulting firm Capitol Impact LLC, is one of the state's longest serving gay elected officials, having first won a city council seat in 1996, though he didn't come out of the closet until 2005. With no one filing to run against him last year, Cabaldon cakewalked into a seventh consecutive two-year term as mayor.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission found that Cabaldon, his candidate-controlled committee called the Mayor Christopher Cabaldon Committee, and Lanz Nalagan, the committee's treasurer, failed to timely disclose expenditures and independent expenditures on three campaign statements covering the period of July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. It is expected to approve the fine against Cabaldon, who has agreed to pay it, at its meeting Thursday, December 21.

EQCA dual endorses in local races

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, has dual endorsed in two local races on the ballot next year. In the contest for the open 15th Assembly District seat in the East Bay, EQCA's political action committee is supporting two lesbian candidates, Berkeley school board member Judy Appel and Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles. The group snubbed a third out candidate in the race, bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz.

In the race for the open District 2 seat on the state's Board of Equalization, EQCA dual-endorsed lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and straight San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who is termed out of her District 10 seat next year.

Milk club to early endorse in January

Three candidates for local office in San Francisco are set to secure early endorsements next month from the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which will also be adding "queer" to its name.

At its January 16 general membership meeting the progressive LGBT political club is expected to early endorse District 6 supervisor candidate Matt Haney, a straight man on the city's school board, and gay District 8 supervisor candidate Rafael Mandelman, a member of the City College board running to oust appointed Supervisor Jeff Sheehy from the seat. Both Sheehy, who is the board's first HIV-positive member, and Mandelman are former presidents of the Milk club.

Mia Satya, a transgender woman who works for the LGBT Community Center's economic development program, is also set to secure the club's early backing in her bid for a seat on the board overseeing the San Francisco Unified School District.

In addition to supporting the decision by the club's political action committee to schedule the early endorsement votes, Milk club members at their holiday party Saturday, December 16, adopted a proposal to add "Queer" to the club's name, which will become the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, January 22.

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:[email protected] .