Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Political Notebook: Bisexual tries to de-Fang BART board


BART board candidate Emily Drennen. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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[Editor's note: Throughout the election season, Bay Area Reporter assistant editor Matthew S Bajko will cover items about various campaigns and politicians in this Political Notebook.]

Bisexual candidate Emily Drennen is trying to eject James Fang , a Republican and president of the publication AsianWeek, from the board of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, on which he has served for 16 years. Drennen, a Green Party member and executive director of Walk San Francisco, said she is running for the seat because San Franciscans have been ill served by Fang.

"I don't think he has done a good job of representing the urban riders of the BART system, especially San Franciscans. The west side of the city still effectively doesn't have BART access," said Drennen, who is running for BART's District 8 seat, which covers the western sections of San Francisco and parts of the Peninsula. "If it takes you more than an hour on Muni to get to a BART station it means you are not going to rely on BART for much of anything."

One only has to look at the conditions of the city's BART stations to see that Fang's leadership has been lackluster, she said.

"It is not clean, it is not safe, and it smells," she said of the city's eight stations. "Since it was built not much money has been spent on it. It is literally falling apart."

Besides being opposed to the transit system's expansion to San Jose and wanting to bring more money to update and upgrade San Francisco's stations, Drennen is an advocate for making mass transit free for riders and building a BART spur under Geary Boulevard out toward the ocean.

Drennen pointed out that a Geary line was planned for the BART system when it was conceived in the 1950s but dropped when Marin County residents opted out of joining BART. Though she does not know how much such a spur would cost to build, she said ridership figures on Muni make a compelling case for extending the line there rather than to new stations planned in the East Bay suburbs.

"The new station in Warm Springs will cost $600 million to build and BART expects less than 5,000 riders a day after 10 years. Compare this to Geary which has 65,000 bus riders everyday," she said.

While she hopes the San Jose extension plan fizzles out, if it does go forward she said the money that Santa Clara County would have to pay into the system could be allocated to building a Geary spur. In the meantime, she would like to redirect the money Muni pays to BART to improve Muni service to BART stations, such as running better bus routes to the Daly City, Balboa, and Glen Park stations or increasing the number of limited buses that run from the Richmond and Sunset to downtown.

As for free ridership, Drennen pointed out that the mass transit systems take in $517 million at the fare box each year, which pencils out to about $8 per adult per month.

"If we bring business in we would make that lower. This is doable, we can do this," said Drennen.

Drennen, 33, grew up in Madison, Connecticut and moved to San Francisco in late 1997 as part of an AmeriCorps assignment in which she helped with the renovation of the Golden Gate Recreation Area's Crissy Field in the city's Marina District. She later chaired the Board of Supervisors' Bicycle Advisory Committee and served for three and half years on Walk SF's board before being tapped to lead the group.

She lives in the Richmond District with her partner of eight years, Lindasusan Ulrich, who also is bisexual. The couple registered as domestic partners and had their photograph appear in the San Francisco Chronicle after they married each other Saturday, February 14 in 2004 at City Hall. She believes she would be the first bisexual elected to office in the city and one of only a handful across the country.

But she faces a monumental task in defeating Fang, who has enormous name recognition – his family used to own the Examiner and now publishes the largest Asian language publication in the country – in one of the city's most conservative districts, not to mention a large Asian American electorate. Fang, who did not respond to a call seeking comment, already had raised $36,900 toward his race by the end of June. Drennen said she has raised about $5,000 toward a goal of $48,000.

To her advantage, her endorsers include Supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Gerardo Sandoval ; state Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a shoe-in to win a state Senate seat this fall that covers most of the BART district; openly gay BART board member Tom Radulovich; and the San Francisco Labor Council. Plus, she said the last time Fang ran in 2002 his opponent, a Libertarian engineer named Vesko G. Marinov who didn't really campaign for the seat, garnered nearly 35 percent of the vote.

"I am running to win. I think I have a really good shot," said Drennen, whose campaign Web site is

Say what?

Rod Oden, the out gay mayor of Palm Springs, is being criticized for his decision to attend an ex-gay movement conference later this month. Already having raised hackles for saying he was "so proud" of his city playing host to Focus on the Family's "Love Won Out" conference even though the group preaches "the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable," Oden announced last week that he had accepted an invitation to speak at the conference.

During a news conference Thursday, August 31, Oden said he regretted using the word "proud" and that he "probably would have changed the phrase." He added that, "I definitely want to attend and have the opportunity to share my perspective. If love has won out anywhere, it's in the city of Palm Springs."

But his decision to attend has furthered the controversy, with critics arguing that his appearance will only serve to give credibility to a group that promotes hatred toward homosexuals. Exodus International, a co-sponsor of the conference, promotes the idea that gay people can be made straight through "reparative therapy," something that mainstream psychiatric groups contend does not work, and in fact, may be harmful to those who undergo it.

The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973 and other professional groups followed suit. In 1998 the APA officially came out against reparative therapy, and at its convention this summer rebuked Focus on the Family and other groups connected to the ex-gay movement. To now have an out gay politician embrace a group promoting antigay "junk science" is especially troubling, said Dan Karasic, president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists and a member of the faculty at the University of California at San Francisco.

"I am disappointed the mayor would be lending the legitimacy of his official office as mayor of Palm Springs to an organization that really has a political purpose in opposition to LGBT civil rights," said Karasic. "They will use that to try to put forth this false idea that they are a legitimate organization that is there to help gay and lesbian people when in fact their very presence is part of a religious right-funded effort to label homosexuality as an illness and therefore not as deserving of equal civil rights."

Wayne Besen, who founded Truth Wins Out earlier this year to counteract the antigay Love Wins Out campaign, said by "extending the welcome mat, Mayor Oden is in danger of becoming a doormat for Focus on the Family's slick public relations campaign."

"Oden should not have welcomed Focus on the Family any more than he would have welcomed a hate group targeting other minorities," added Besen. "Now that he has unfortunately accepted their invitation, TWO urges Oden to use his scheduled 'face time' with Focus on the Family as an opportunity to challenge the group's leaders on their scientifically and theologically inaccurate attacks on gay people."

Pooch politics

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, running for re-election to his District 8 seat, is sharing his Castro campaign headquarters with the group Rocket Dog Rescue. The all-volunteer organization will be on hand each Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. with dogs up for adoption.

It is the first time the group has worked so closely with a politician. Founder Pali Boucher said, "Normally, I would not do that but I really think Bevan is a standout politician."

Dufty's offer could be seen as throwing a bone to the city's numerous dog owners and their political action committee called DogPac, which endorsed his rival Eileen Hansen in the 2002 race. But DogPac's Web site hasn't been updated since the 2004 election and the city's Ethics Commission has not received any information from the group about its political fundraising this year.

Asked why he is letting his campaign space go to the dogs, Dufty said, "It is a great opportunity for them to have a visible storefront in the neighborhood. We also have a water bowl and biscuits for dogs from Best in Show so we have a steady stream of canine visitors."

A straight woman who grew up on the streets of San Francisco, Boucher has been bringing adoptable dogs to the corner of Castro and 18th streets on the third Sunday of the month for nearly a decade. HIV-positive, and clean and sober for 12 years, Boucher owns three dogs, one of which is a guide dog, and is a client with PAWS, Pets Are Wonderful Support.

She said the LGBT community in particular has been of immense help with her group, from adopting dogs to serving on the board. By teaming up with Dufty, she said she hopes to further raise awareness about Rocket Dog Rescue.

"I would love to have a storefront in the Castro, even if temporarily. We could show a dog a day," said Boucher, 43, who lives in Bernal Heights.

Each weekend Boucher plans to have six to seven dogs on hand. So far two have been adopted at Dufty's headquarters while a third was adopted by the owner of a pet store she stopped at on her way home Saturday.

Rocket Dog has placed more than 950 dogs into loving homes since 2001 and continues to rescue abandoned canines from the Bay Area and as far away as Sacramento and Modesto. For more information, visit or stop by Dufty's headquarters at 2344 Market Street.

Candidates' forum

A community group is hosting a debate forum for candidates in the District 6 Supervisor race at 6 p.m. Friday, September 8 at the Tenderloin Police Station Community Room at 301 Eddy Street at Jones. Pat Murphy , editor of the online political site San Francisco Sentinel, will serve as moderator.

It remains to be seen if incumbent Supervisor Chris Daly will attend. The famously combative Daly, who was once arrested at a rally protesting Hastings Law School's parking garage proposal, had a falling out with his former friend Murphy in 2004 and the two have traded barbs ever since. Last summer, Daly tried to have Murphy's Sentinel Web site investigated for breaking campaign finance rules. In turn, Murphy has made no secret he wants to see Daly defeated this fall.

Daly's campaign Web site doesn't list the forum under upcoming events and no one answered his headquarters office phone Tuesday. David J. Villa-Lobos, director of Community Leadership Alliance/Democratic Collaborative, one of the groups that is hosting the forum, said that everyone but candidate Davy Jones has confirmed but that Daly "is full of surprises."

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