Political Notebook: Gay men vie for entertainment post
by Matthew S. Bajko
Three gay men are among the six applicants vying for a seat on the city's Entertainment Commission as nightlife issues continue to be a flashpoint in San Francisco.
Incumbent commissioner, Jim Meko , is seeking a third four-year term on the nightlife oversight body. Those looking to replace him as one of two neighborhood representatives on the seven-person panel include Glendon Hyde , whose drag persona is Anna Conda, and attorney D. Gill Sperlein.
Meko and Hyde both ran against each other in last year's race for the board's District 6 seat. The winner, Jane Kim , has been pushing to see Hyde gain a city commission post.
As it happens, Kim chairs the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee, which will take up the appointment at its meeting today (Thursday, July 7). The committee's other two members are Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell , both of whom are more moderate than the progressive Kim.
That could bode well for Meko, who has been a vocal voice for homeowners and people who live next door to entertainment venues. At the same time, he has supported efforts to ensure that South of Market does not lose its international reputation as a hub for the leather community.
"Representing neighborhood concerns on the EC is not glamorous. The [Bay class=messagebody>] Guardian once described me as 'grumpy.' Well, if a venue has been keeping families awake at night, if it's been attracting a crowd that defaces your property or, God forbid, if innocent victims are injured or killed, that merits more than a frown," wrote Meko on his Facebook wall last week.
Asked about his being criticized for not being a more forceful advocate for nightlife interests, Meko said that is not his role to play on the commission.
"You do understand the purpose of this seat is to represent the interests of neighborhood associations? I know some people are talking about this as the community seat, but that is not the way the charter was written," said Meko, who chairs the Western SOMA Citizens Planning Task Force. "The whole thing is to keep peace between neighborhoods and the nightclubs. I think I have done a good job of doing that."
For the past month Hyde has mounted a very public campaign to secure the seat, starting a Facebook page to drum up support and enlisting the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, on whose board he sits, to press its members to contact supervisors and ask them to vote for Hyde.
In an interview Tuesday, Hyde said his pursuit of the seat is not directed at removing Meko from the commission.
"I really admire Jim and respect him a lot," said Hyde, who had lunch with Meko recently and joined the zoning task force he chairs. "I have never said it is time to get Jim off the Entertainment Commission. I don't know if it is or not; that is up to the Rules Committee."
Hyde dismisses the argument that because he performs in drag and once ran a club night at a Polk Street gay bar that he does not fit the criteria to be a community representative on the panel. He points to his serving on the board of the United Playaz and finance committee of the Shi Yu-Lang YMCA as just two examples of his community work.
"There has been much push back sighting [sic] the fact that I have worked in clubs and there for [sic] can not be a community leader," wrote Hyde on his Facebook page. "I think this is an example of what happens when you are a Drag Queen quite frankly. People look at you and believe that you can not be taken serious class=textexposedhide>...ly or that perhaps I will not be able to make decisions that will be fair."
Following his supervisor bid Hyde said he continues to want to serve the city in some public capacity and believes he would be a good fit for the Entertainment Commission. His ideas include pressing for 24-hour BART service to get clubgoers out of their cars and requiring entertainment venues give back to their neighborhoods.
Hyde also sees expanding the entertainment industry as one way to help solve the city's fiscal situation.
"New liquor licenses and entertainment licenses should come with community benefits attached to them," he said. "I think entertainment has a lot of answers to the city's problems that haven't been looked at. With the good neighbor policy it is time to start to explore how to use entertainment to be a guiding force in the future of our city's development."
Sperlein owns his own law office based in the Castro and is on the board of directors of the Free Speech Coalition. A Corona Heights resident, he used to live nearby club 1015 Folsom and believes he has a strong understanding of the issues he would handle on the commission.
"I think what it highlights is the importance for neighbors to have a voice," said Sperlein, who has the support of gay Supervisor Scott Wiener. "We don't want to live in a city without nightlife but where entertainment is handled in a responsible way so we have options."
Having experienced what happened when a murder occurred near 1015 Folsom, Sperlein said he would bring unique insight on how to address similar incidents.
"The murders happen here and there and can often be a single person who has nothing to do with the club, except they were close to the club," he said. "The ongoing problems – like noise, traffic and public urination – happen week after week. Ultimately, you want to create a level of respect between the neighbors and nightclub owners and hopefully the patrons as well."
The others who have applied include Shelly Tatum , a concert and special events consultant; Lolita Sweet, who works for the city's Public Utilities Commission and owns Bay Limousine Service; and government affairs consultant Chris Hyland.
The Rules Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. today in Room 263 at City Hall. The full board is expected to take up the appointment at its July 19 meeting.
D.A. adjusts to life on the campaign trail
Dialing for dollars has never been part of District Attorney George Gascón's career, until now.
The former police chief of San Francisco and Mesa, Arizona, as well as a high-ranking official in the Los Angeles Police Department, Gascón never had to raise money to finance a political campaign until this year when he was the surprise pick to replace Kamala Harris as San Francisco's D.A. Harris resigned after being elected California's attorney general.
"What I really dislike is raising funds. To me it is a very painful experience," Gascón said during a recent editorial board meeting with the Bay Area Reporter.
With two high-profile opponents gunning for his job – David Onek, a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, and Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock – Gascón doesn't have the luxury of eschewing the hunt for donations.
A bevy of local LGBT leaders, including Supervisor Scott Wiener and Treasurer Jose Cisneros, pitched in last Thursday, June 30 to help Gascón raise money and bolster his numbers in his next campaign finance report due August 1. The deadline for the reporting period was by midnight that night.
What Gascón has enjoyed, so far, is meeting the public and taking part in candidate debates.
"I like the exposure to sell my ideas and thoughts," he said.
Those ideas run the gamut from calling for a statewide referendum to repeal the death penalty as well as change California's three-strikes-law. He still stumbles, though, with his pronoun usage when pitching his platform.
"I keep using 'we' but it really is 'I.' My consultants keep telling me that, 'Now you are a candidate you have to talk about you,'" said Gascón.
Two questions Gascón won't be answering between now and November are who he is backing in the mayor's and sheriff's races. Asked if he planned to make endorsements in those contests, Gasc—n said he will remain neutral.
He does believe the police department is "absolutely" ready to be led by a gay man or lesbian, should the next mayor opt to seek a new police chief. He pointed to his number two person in his command staff when he was chief, assistant chief Denise Schmitt , as a prime candidate.
"This time it didn't work out that way. But yes, I strongly believe there are qualified [LGBT] people in the police department who could be chief," said Gascón.
Police Chief Greg Suhr, who succeeded Gascón, named three lesbians, including Schmitt, to his command staff. In a recent interview with the B.A.R., Suhr also pledged to recruit and promote more out officers.
Based on his experience working with the city's cops, Gascón said homophobic attitudes are increasingly a thing of the past.
"A lot of issues that were present a generation or so ago are not quite as prevalent. I don't think people are going to say I won't work under a gay or lesbian person," said Gascón.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. The column returns Monday, July 11.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.