Political Notebook: Lesbian adds Green tint to mayor's race
by Matthew S. Bajko
Green Party candidate Terry Baum is angling to become San Francisco's first out lesbian mayor. But in a city dominated by Democrats with no elected lesbian officeholders, the Castro resident and celebrated playwright is fully aware her bid is a long shot.
Yet, at the same time, Baum argues the obstacles she faces in capturing Room 200 at City Hall come November could also be advantageous. Voters, she argues, can help her not only make history as being the city's first mayor from the LGBT community but also ending Democratic dominance at City Hall.
"There are a lot of problems in San Francisco and Democrats have been governing a long time. They have to take responsibility for those problems," said Baum, 64, in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "We have a one-party city. It is not healthy for North Korea being a one-party state and it is not healthy for San Francisco."
City Hall is awash in cronyism, contends Baum, who argues electing her mayor would bring that to an end.
"The best way to break that up and bring some fresh air in would be to elect a Green mayor," she said. "People feel disconnected from politics because there aren't enough voices."
Due to ranked-choice voting, Baum argued she can't be tarred and feathered as a spoiler candidate, as Green candidates have been blamed in the past.
"There is no issue of throwing away your vote," said Baum. "People are free to vote for me as their number one and put the person they think has a better chance of winning as their number two."
This is Baum's second bid at public office; she ran for Congress against Nancy Pelosi (D) in 2004 as a write-in candidate (she lost a legal battle to be listed on the ballot). There were 6,132 write-in votes that year; the results do not disclose the names people wrote down.
Seeing a lack of true progressive candidates running to be mayor (before District 11 Supervisor John Avalos pulled papers), Baum decided to join the fray.
"Running for mayor and putting out my ideas, it is a good thing for San Francisco to have my voice in the race," said Baum, a Los Angeles native who moved to town in 1975 and has lived in the Castro for 33 years.
She is the second LGBT candidate to attract attention in the race. But unlike gay former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty , Baum is not seen as one of the top contenders in the race and has yet to be invited to any candidate debates.
She called Dufty, whom she did not vote for as supervisor, "great at the pothole level" but the wrong fit for mayor, as he is a product of the Democratic machine.
"If every single person who agreed with the Green Party over the Democratic Party voted for me, I would have a chance of winning," insisted Baum.
While she is not a current or former politician and hasn't raised "obscene amounts of money," like the top nine mayoral candidates, Baum said that should not preclude her from taking part in candidate forums.
"I am the only Green. We should have a range of opinions in debates," she said.
Support for artists like herself is one of her main campaign platforms. She is part of the Crackpot Crones, a sketch comedy and improv act with a "feminist and lesbian perspective."
Her ideas include launching an annual mural festival to attract tourists and paying artists to repair murals that are damaged. Baum also would promote nightly arts walk events around the city and wants to see housing dedicated for artists.
The city's arts program along the Mid-Market corridor doesn't go far enough, said Baum. She would push to see blighted and vacant spaces be given over to artists and arts groups for performance spaces and studios.
"The interests of artists, I feel, are taken for granted by the institutions of San Francisco," said Baum.
Having lived in Amsterdam for five years, Baum would like to foster a squatters movement similar to what she experienced in the European city. Vacant buildings would be used as housing until the property owners made use of them.
"As mayor I would support the nascent squatting movement that is now underground," said Baum.
Another major issue is seeing a public transit system "so great you don't ever need your car." She proposes a Downtown Transit Assessment District that would help fund running Muni buses every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight and every 30 minutes during late-night hours.
She also would halt the Muni's central subway "boondoggle" project, which will bore a tunnel from the ballpark to Chinatown.
"I would stop that if I could and use that money to fund buses," she said.
Having raised less than $20,000 to date, Baum is focused on collecting enough signatures to defray the $5,000 filing fee to get on the ballot.
From noon to 3 p.m. this Saturday, July 23 she and her "Baum Squad" of supporters will be at the 24th Street Whole Foods in Noe Valley, and during the same time Sunday, July 24 she will be at the Stonestown Farmers Market.
For more info visit her campaign site at http://terryjoanbaum.com/.
Drag queen nabs entertainment post
In a rejection of its Rules Committee recommendation, the Board of Supervisors selected Glendon Hyde, whose drag persona is Anna Conda, for a seat on the city's Entertainment Commission over that of Castro resident and lawyer D. Gill Sperlein .
Board President David Chiu was the deciding factor in the 6-5 vote. The board's two gay members split, with David Campos backing Hyde and Scott Wiener supporting Sperlein.
Shortly after the decision, Hyde posted a note of thanks on his Facebook account and added, "Now let's get to work!"
The two gay applicants sought the community neighborhood seat that had been held by gay South of Market resident and leader Jim Meko. During the rules hearing earlier this month, Meko failed to garner support for a third term on the oversight panel.
A number of supervisors said they were looking for fresh blood for the commission. But Hyde's connections to nightlife interests had triggered concerns about his ability to be a voice for neighborhood groups.
Hyde countered that he has volunteered for numerous nonprofits throughout the city and wanted to help broker compromises between residents and nightlife denizens. His appointment is a win for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, on whose board he sits and had vigorously supported his bid for the seat.
New sheriff contender picks up gay backer
Joining former police union head Chris Cunnie at City Hall Monday, July 18 as he pulled papers to run for San Francisco Sheriff was openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. The endorsement of Cunnie, a former undersheriff who left following the death of his 20-year-old son last fall, is due to their having known each other "a long time," said Wiener.
"I have enormous respect for him as a leader and member of law enforcement," Wiener told the B.A.R.
With the state transferring nonviolent offenders back to county jails, Wiener said Cunnie was the candidate best qualified to oversee the transition.
"He is someone who has so much experience that he will be able to hit the ground running," he said.
Cunnie's entrance into the race throws a wrench into the campaigns of District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose frontrunner status is now in doubt, and Sheriff's Captain Paul Miyamoto, who is backed by the sheriff's deputy union and Dufty.
It further complicates the bid by openly gay former sheriff's deputy Jon Gray, who has struggled to gain attention in the race and backing from LGBT officials. Gray had been trying to secure support from both Wiener and Dufty.
New York flag unlikely to fly over Castro
As the B.A.R. reported on its blog Monday, July 18, openly gay New York state Senator Tom Duane (D) has sent an official Empire State flag he purchased to be flown over the Castro this weekend.
Local gay blogger Michael Petrelis , who is friends with Duane, asked him to send the flag so San Francisco's LGBT community could honor New York lawmakers' legalizing same-sex marriage. The first gay nuptials are set to take place Sunday, July 24.
The Castro merchant group that oversees the flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza agreed to fly the New York State flag below the over-sized Rainbow Flag. But it then reversed course, saying it was technically not possible.
As of press time Wednesday it seemed unlikely that the East Coast flag would be unfurled at all. Petrelis said plans to raise the flag from Milk's home state had been scrapped due to the inability for community organizers and the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro to resolve the issue.
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. This week's column reports on the Planning Commission vote for a controversial youth housing project in the Marina.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.