Letters to the Editor

  • Tuesday April 18, 2006
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Ma, Reilly, and the Ellis Act

While I appreciate the coverage of the Reilly-Ma debate (although I miss having the observations of a weekly political columnist) ["Ma and Reilly in debate," April 13], the article could have focused on and fleshed out the differences aired during the candidates' discourse. There are substantive differences between the two candidates on subjects of great concern to the LGBTQ community, specifically the death penalty and the Ellis Act.  I address the latter.

Supervisor Ma stated she supported the Ellis Act as a way to create new home ownership while Janet Reilly opposed it because it is being used to evict our most vulnerable tenants. Ma later clarified her remarks by stating some property owners use the Ellis Act as their only path to homeownership (here is where I miss an ongoing political columnist to help us follow the bouncing ball of electoral politics).

Ma thus demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the Ellis Act. Here is the way it actually works: The property owner decides that s/he no longer wants to be in the business of renting the property, invokes the Ellis Act, empties the property, and puts it on the market for sale by aggregating the new owners into a single property title known as a tenancy in common at an immense profit and often marketed as "affordable" homeownership. A property owner has never invoked the Ellis Act to become a homeowner – well, maybe a second or third home, perhaps.

As one of the principal organizers of the AIDS Housing Alliance fundraiser held in January (the success of which Supervisor Ma generously contributed), I would expect her to appreciate the fact that a person with AIDS losing their housing is five times more likely to die than the same person who remains stably housed. Janet Reilly understands that housing is healthcare.

I would hope Ma, as a current and prospective policymaker, would be aware that 85 percent of the Ellis Act evictions of protected class tenants occur in two places in San Francisco: the Castro and Chinatown (making the Castro the AIDS eviction capital of the world), most of whom are displaced into Care not Cash SRO hotels in the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The Ellis Act does not create even a single unit of new housing. Why then, from a public policy perspective, should the city prefer "affordable" TIC ownership over stable rentership if making renters homeless places greater demand on already overburdened homeless programs? Where is the city's AIDS housing plan?

Reilly's position on the Ellis Act is far more sane because she believes and understands, as I do, that maintenance of rental stock is good public policy because it keeps people who are already housed, housed.

Rick Galbreath

San Francisco

Demographics of immigration

Your recent articles, op-ed pieces, and letters have overwhelmingly focused on the impact of immigration reform on same-sex couples of differing nationalities ["Immigration debate impacts gays," "Where are gays in the immigration debate?" Guest Opinion, April 13] . Although I recognize the inequities of the current system, I feel this issue should take a back seat to the demographic implications to the LGBT community of offering amnesty to hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants.

In the 2004 election, over 40 percent of voting Hispanics cast ballots for President Bush, a leader who supports banning gay marriage in our Constitution. The majority of recent migrants – legal and illegal – come from Roman Catholic, Islamic, or otherwise traditional-cultured nations. These religions overtly state their intolerance for queer people.

I feel most LGBT people have a genuine reason to be fearful of unregulated, unchecked migration. In nearly all societies, tolerance of LGBT people increases with greater education; nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of recent undocumented migrants are from low socioeconomic backgrounds. If migrants frequently live illegally in this country for 10 or 20 years without even learning English, then I seriously doubt they will assimilate to the point of accepting LGBT people, let alone casting their soon-to-be-gained-votes in favor of pro-gay policies.

In the European nations that have adopted immigration rights for same-sex couples, the rights have come about through progressive marriage or domestic partnership policies, not through migration reform.

Tom Busse

San Francisco

Don't change HIV ombud program

As the originator of the first customer satisfaction survey in HIV health services and the instigator of the push to implement it across all service providers, which led to the creation of the HIV Consumer's Rights Advocacy Project, I'm writing to register my opposition to the movement to remove agency names reporting from the advocacy project reports to the Ryan White CARE Council.

The purpose of this process is to provide a valuable management tool by comparing performance from a consumers perspective, not only across service categories, but agency to agency. Efforts to weaken and blur this ability undermine related efforts for customer satisfaction, cultural competency, et al.

Many of us disabled people with AIDS have learned the life lesson that fear, guilt, shame, and hiding have no place in a healthy life. These lessons are also true for our systems of care that spend our AIDS money to deliver our services to us.

A healthy system of care is not afraid of transparency. Please do not fall prey to fear. Keep our reporting systems open. Our good governance depends on it.

Brian Basinger, Director

AIDS Housing Alliance

San Francisco

Misses Patio Cafe

I am in full agreement with David Cannon regarding the plight of the once vibrant Patio Cafe [Mailstrom, April 6] . Having spent many pleasant brunches at this comfortable restaurant visiting with friends or introducing it to visitors, I find it regrettable that it has stood empty for such a long time. In as much as I live on Castro and am regularly in the commercial area, it pains me to see so many businesses shuttered. As for owner Les Natali, it would appear to be a propitious time to return something to the neighborhood instead of taking away. Let's bring back some of the charm that was "The Castro."

Frank Tatko

San Francisco

Goodbye, San Francisco

Goodbye, San Francisco. We are leaving for the Midwest. It is time.

We are both longtime activists and residents of the Castro. Hope is a founding director of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, and Dion is a past-president of FTM International. We have both poured our hearts into these organization as well as the compelling write-in campaign for Tom Ammiano for mayor, and the campaigns of Eileen Hansen for District 8 supervisor; Robert Haaland for District 5 supervisor; and Harry Britt for Congress. We have worked on various propositions as members of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. Over the past 15 years, we have both given most of our time, money, and volunteered so much that we often didn't have much time left over for money-making, but we think the world is a little better off for our efforts.

But now, the water level has risen too high. The dream of owning a home, or establishing a decent savings account – on the salary of a sign language interpreter and an independent artist (www.dionmanley.com) – has become more than wishful thinking. It is now unimaginable. The possibility of changing it seems more than even the most seasoned activists can accomplish.

We have loved our time here. It will always be like no other, and we are so thankful to all who have crossed our path in this wonderful place. One of the most special places in San Francisco is New College and we are both so grateful to have attended (we love you, Harry!).

With love to San Francisco and all its activists, keep up the good fight. For now, we are packing up our blue votes as we head to Ohio, where we will fight the good fight, too, with all the strength we have gained by living here.

Hope and Dion Manley

San Francisco

Memo to David Chase

I am a huge Sopranos fan, maybe because the character of Tony Soprano is played by a big bear of an actor named James Gandolfini or perhaps it's because of its Emmy Award-winning performances and excellent writing. This past episode of The Sopranos dealt with the outing of a gay "captain" in the organized crime family business. It was rather crude in the way they dealt with the subject matter; "after all, we're Catholics," one thug surmised.

Where the writers of The Sopranos could have made good was during Tony's therapy sessions where the topic of homosexuality comes up. Instead of dancing around the topic, Tony's therapist (played by Lorraine Bracco) could have said to Tony, "Many people in your line of business would have frowned upon this situation (therapy) 10 years ago. Things change."

It is my hope that in the upcoming episodes the subject matter of homosexuality is dealt with more realistically then the stereotypical thug Mafia hit men of movies and novels. Here, the producers have an actual chance of communicating "gay" issues and informing the show's large and diverse fan base.

Nevertheless, The Sopranos is the best TV show of the last decade and after next season I will be sad to see it go.

Just felt like sharing. If anybody out there knows producer David Chase, pass this along!

Harry Lit

Castrobear Presents

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