Only two of the quartet of applicants for supervisor-picked seats on an advisory body tasked with selecting a terminal at San Francisco International Airport to name after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk moved one step closer toward being approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The board’s rules committee voted to send the names of a gay Latino and a straight woman with strong ties to the city’s LGBT community on to the full board during its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, October 31) and pushed off voting on the two other applicants, both white gay men, due to concerns of seeing a diverse group of people be named to the seats.
Those moving on were Jon Ballesteros, a gay Latino who is vice president of public policy at San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau; and Maggie Weiland, an analyst with the city’s Film Commission and volunteer with the Harvey Milk Foundation, co-founded by her mother, Anne Kronenberg, who was a campaign consultant and legislative aide for Milk.
“There is a special interest we all have in finding an appropriate way to honor the late supervisor, and I would love to be a part of the decision as we move forward,” said Ballesteros, a member of a separate airport facilities naming committee created by the city’s Airport Commission to advise it on how best to honor its former members, airport officials and others by naming something at SFO other them.
Weiland said she applied for a seat because see wants “to contribute and bring about awareness of Harvey’s legacy. I know his message is not clear around the world if still in 77 countries you can persecute people for being gay.”
In the hope of finding more diverse applicants, particularly from the African American and Asian Pacific Islander communities, the rules committee is now scheduled to vote on the remaining two seats at its November 21 meeting. At that time it will reconsider applicants Alex Walker, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club’s political vice president, and Steven Guilliams, an engineer and code architect with San Jose-based firm HGST (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies).
“We got four seats here and three are Caucasian, so I am really concerned there is not enough ethnic diversity,” said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen.
District 5 Supervisor London Breed, who like Cohen is African American, also expressed concerns about the lack of diversity among the applicants and also questioned how the process for naming the terminal could play out.
“While I appreciate the mix we have I don’t want the process of naming the terminal to become one that is political or focuses on just political figures,” said Breed, who suggested splitting up the vote on the four seats.
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos acknowledged that his office had delayed bringing the matter before the rules committee for several months as it had proven difficult finding people willing to serve on the naming body.
“It has been a challenge because, I think, a lot of things are happening in the city right now,” said Campos. “The reason we decided to move this item forward is at some point the work has to begin.”
Earlier this year Campos caused an uproar when he sought to rename SFO after Milk, the city’s first openly gay elected official who was assassinated a year after his historic victory in 1977.
In April the Bay Area Reporter broke the news that Campos and Mayor Ed Lee had brokered a compromise deal to name one of the airport’s four terminals on behalf of Milk rather than the entire aviation facility. A panel called the Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee was created to advise the board and mayor on the matter.
Lee is to name five people to the committee and the board was given four seats to fill. The naming body will have three months to present its recommendation to the board and could also recommend names for all of the airport’s terminals, as well as boarding areas and control towers. There are three domestic terminals and an international terminal.
Lee has yet to announce his picks for the mayoral-appointed seats.
Walker, a consultant for both SF Beautiful and state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), said he sought a seat on the naming body because Milk “has been someone who really inspired me in my career.” He also commented that he is open to the possibility of “looking to see who else it might be we want greeting people here to San Francisco” by naming the other terminals after them.
Guilliams also said he was excited at not only honoring Milk but also other local heroes.
As a frequent flyer, “I have noticed other airports named for local historic heroes. It would be wonderful to honor our local heroes,” in such a manner, said Guilliams.
Any one interested in applying for the two other board seats can do so via the board’s website here.