Letters to the Editor

  • Tuesday May 9, 2006
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Garamendi is principled

Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, running for lieutenant governor, committed a gaffe. As the B.A.R. reported ["Garamendi aide caught in vote flap," May 4], one of Garamendi's top aides claimed recently that Garamendi had cast an important vote in 1975 in the legislature on behalf of the "consenting adults" bill, when the truth is that he voted against it.

Nevertheless, Garamendi is courageous and principled. I learned this in 1981, when he was on the Senate Elections Committee. Garamendi cast the decisive vote against a bill, AB2131, that would have removed the Peace & Freedom Party from the ballot, and made it more difficult for all minor parties to remain on the ballot. This bill had passed the Assembly, with every Democrat voting in favor. It was a monopolistic, shameful attempt to restrict voter choice. Governor Jerry Brown had already signaled that he would sign it. The bill was derailed when Garamendi voted against it in committee, thus killing it by one vote. Garamendi took some abuse from his party for that vote.

Richard Winger

San Francisco

Accept Yee's apology

We strongly disagree with Sarah Marshall's letter regarding Assemblyman Leland Yee [Mailstrom, April 27]. As transgender activists personally involved in the campaign to win equal health benefits for transgender employees, we will never forget the vote in question at the Board of Supervisors and the disappointment we felt at those who voted against the measure. But neither can we remember in our time in politics when an elected official has apologized for a mistake.

Since his vote, Yee has reached out to the transgender community in a sincere effort to understand the issues we face every day, and to hear from us what we want in a representative in Sacramento. He's hosted numerous forums where he discussed his record and was open to hear from the community about their concerns. We should take Yee's apology at face value, and seize on the opportunity of a politician who is willing to admit mistake and learn from it. It's rare in today's political landscape, and Yee deserves credit for that honesty and accountability.

Cecilia Chung

Robert Haaland

San Francisco

And Castro for All (except Les Natali)?

Regarding the Patio Cafe update by Matthew Bajko ["Permit protest stalls Patio project," May 4]: I am very impressed with the legal abilities of Daniel Frattin, founding member of And Castro For All and Hastings Law School student, who protested and blocked the new permits that were issued to rebuild the Patio Cafe. No doubt he will pass the bar exam on the first try. It is too bad that Hastings does not teach how ugly vindictiveness is, and how it can affect the innocent. Due to Frattin, it is possible that our neighborhood will have to endure the eyesore of that boarded up building, and loss of a wonderful eatery for years to come.

Keith Reiter

San Francisco

Disappointed over revoked permits

Kudos to Matthew Bajko for his terrific article on the disappointing decision by city planners to revoke the remodeling permits for the Patio Cafe. As Bajko points out, the Patio has been shuttered for nearly six years. That owner Les Natali has found a tenant willing to invest $1.5 million in improvements and pay approximately $14,000 a month in rent is cause for rejoicing. An investment of that magnitude is a vote of confidence in the long-term economic health of our neighborhood. It is, therefore, deeply troubling that Daniel Frattin, who doesn't live in the Castro, is objecting to the proposed reopening of the Patio as a restaurant and that his pettiness may jeopardize the project. Frattin should be ashamed of himself. His actions regarding the Patio are harmful to our neighborhood. Once again, those who want to see a thriving and vibrant Castro have reason to be grateful to Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is taking the initiative to resolve the matter and who is determined to find a viable and desirable business to occupy this prime location.

Gustavo Serina

San Francisco

Ending hunger

Thanks for publishing Patrick Letellier's op-ed on the upcoming national food drive ["Stamping out hunger in SF," Guest Opinion, May 4]. He is right-on in saying that in the popular images of our community you don't see hungry queers. You don't see working-class or poor queers, either.

Unfortunately, efforts such as the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive – taking place Saturday, May 13 – don't end hunger. They certainly help agencies such as the SF Food Bank to feed people, which is a good thing. But they don't get to the root cause of hunger in America: the unequal distribution of wealth and resources. People are hungry in the world's wealthiest nation because they don't have living wage salaries, national healthcare, and affordable housing.

The hungry in America are seniors on fixed incomes who skip meals to pay for the heating bill or buy lifesaving medications. The hungry are families who are forced to pay the mortgage payment rather than buy food. The hungry are workers in low-paying jobs who must choose between eating and making the rent. The hungry are potentially all of us who are one paycheck away from losing our apartments.

To end hunger in America we must divert funds from the military budget into community land trusts that would provide permanently affordable homeownership and rentals to everyone at any income level. We must raise the national (and local) minimum wage to at least $12 per hour. We must provide free healthcare for all. We must close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

According to Hunger in America 2006, a study by America's Second Harvest, a coalition of food banks, only 12 percent of the hungry that they serve are homeless while 36.4 percent are children under 18. Ten percent are seniors. Not surprisingly, 68 percent of the hungry have incomes below the federal poverty level. Racially, "non-Hispanic whites" and "non-Hispanic blacks" are almost equally represented, with 40 percent and 38 percent respectively. Hunger is an equal opportunity employer.

It's time to put hunger out of business.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca

San Francisco

Gays, clergy have long history

In her article on "States of Sexuality," the conference held in Santa Fe this past March ["Sex researchers predict the future," April 20], Liz Highleyman quotes conference participant John Gagnon's claim that the "religious movement" is in a cultural, political, and social struggle with those who value "choice and diversity." The two sides, Gagnon implies, have diametrically opposed visions "of what a good America is."

This is far too stark and dichotomous a representation of the relationship between religion and the LGBT rights movement. Though there exists a homophobic orthodoxy within a number of faiths, there is a long and important history of cooperation between religious leaders and LGBT-rights activists. San Francisco has played a critical part in this history.

In 1964, for example, a handful of clergy, most of whom were heterosexual, and a group of activists founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. CRH members sought, in their words, to "promote continuing dialogue between the religious community and the homosexual ... and to understand better the broad spectrum of variation within human sexuality." They published pamphlets such as "Churchmen Speak Out on Homosexual Law Reform" and hosted an annual conference that brought together social workers, LGBT rights activists, and clergy. Members included the Reverend Cecil William, the Reverend Ted McIlvenna, and Rabbi Al Fine, and LGBT activists Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and Rick Stokes. Of course, CRH faced resistance. In 1965, a CRH fundraising gala was raided by the San Francisco Police Department. The police arrested a number of CRH lawyers and a straight, married woman who was assisting guests with registration. Exposed to the kind of harassment that LGBT people faced on a daily basis, the straight members of CRH were galvanized into action, demanding that the police stop bar raids and other harassing behaviors. The history of CRH is a useful corrective to the polarized – and polarizing – representation of the relationship between communities of faith and LGBT rights.

I invite your readers to learn more about CRH by visiting our online exhibit at www.glbthistory.org.

Terence Kissack, Executive Director

GLBT Historical Society

San Francisco

Thanks for a great event

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the fifth annual Cabaret to Fight AIDS took place at the Empire Plush Room. I am the creator and artistic director of this annual event, and I wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to our supporters. Donna Sachet has been our MC and hostess each and every year, and I cannot thank her enough. Donna does so much to raise money for so many people in need, that it truly astounds me. She sets such an example of what each of us can do to give back, and I am proud to call her a friend.

Thanks to our ticket buyers, community sponsors, and presenting sponsors – www.BigMuscle.com, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and Zephyr Real Estate – we were able to raise over $16,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the programs and services of the UCSF AIDS Health Project. The event continues to grow and raise more money each year, and I couldn't be happier to be supporting AHP.

Sean Ray

San Francisco

[Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, Donna Sachet also is the Bay Area Reporter's society columnist.]

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