Online Extra: Political Notes: SF supe candidates divided over designating an LGBT seat on city panels
by Matthew S. Bajko
The lack of LGBT representation on San Francisco's numerous citizen oversight panels and public commissions has rankled leaders of the LGBT community since the start of the year.
Many of the more high profile commissions currently lack any LGBT members, such as planning, recreation and parks, fire, airport, or ethics. Most other oversight panels only have one LGBT member, except for the Entertainment Commission, which has an unusually high number of four out members on it.
Part of the problem is that the city does not ask applicants for vacancies on the various boards if they are LGBT. In February both board President David Chiu and gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has repeatedly spoken out about the lack of LGBT representation on city commissions, told the Bay Area Reporter they supported adding a question about sexual orientation and gender identity to the forms.
But as of Friday last week the PDF file for the form that applicants download from the Board of Supervisors' website had no such question where someone could state they are LGBT.
After being asked about the forms by the B.A.R. , Wiener said he spoke with the city clerk's office. It is redoing the form to add an optional question for someone to state if they are LGBT, said Wiener.
As for when the new form would be posted to the website, Wiener replied, "It looks like it is imminent."
His concerns remain, however, on the lack of LGBT people serving on the city's various oversight panels.
"This is an ongoing issue and it hasn't been resolved," said Wiener. "There are still major commissions with no LGBT people and that needs to change."
The B.A.R. included the issue on its questionnaire sent to those candidates seeking the odd-numbered supervisor seats on the fall ballot this November. Asked if all city commissions should set aside at least one seat for an LGBT member, two out of the 16 candidates who turned in responses said they do not support such a requirement.
"I believe that the LGBT community should have a large presence on the city's commissions and boards, but as this is a very diverse city, I don't think its plausible to set aside seats purely for LGBT members without setting aside seats for many other groups as well," wrote District 1 candidate David Lee .
He did pledge to make the LGBT community aware of the city's online listings for when there are vacancies to be filled.
"If we make people more aware of the database, there will be more people who will be willing to point out which boards and commissions could use LGBT members," wrote Lee.
Sherman R. D'Silva, another District 1 candidate, also sees no need to have a set number for LGBT commissioners since he favors picking appointments "at random from a list of applicants."
A majority of the respondents were non-committal about designating an LGBT seat. Incumbent District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar was among the eight candidates who did not come out in clear support for having such a set aside requirement.
"It is important that all of our communities, including the LGBT community, be well represented on city boards and commissions," stated Mar, "so that all of our residents have a real voice in decisions that affect them."
Chiu, who is running for re-election to his District 3 seat this year, also did not directly answer the question. He did point to his backing the appointments of five out commissioners during his first term: Police Commissioner Julius Turman; Entertainment Commissioner Glendon Hyde; Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker ; and Board of Appeals members Chris Hwang , currently the president, and Arcelia Hurtado.
"I have worked for years to ensure greater diversity on our city commissions and advisory boards so that the voices of all our communities are heard," wrote Chiu, adding that he "will continue to fight to make San Francisco a leader in including qualified members of diverse communities in leadership positions."
None of the District 7 candidates seeking the west of Twin Peaks seat, including gay journalist Joel Engardio , stated support for having designated LGBT seats.
"Ideally" the oversight bodies "should resemble" the city's population, responded Engardio, who pledged "to recruit the most qualified candidates who happen to be LGBT."
District 7 candidate Michael Garci a, who stepped down in May as president of the city's Board of Appeals, expressed support for having LGBT people on city boards but did not outright back having a designated LGBT seat.
"Yes, I believe, insofar as it is possible, to ensure that the diversity of San Francisco is represented on each commission," wrote Garcia. "The LGBT community is at the heart and soul of what has made San Francisco the world-class city that it is and I believe deserves representation in city government."
Another candidate in the race, Port Commissioner Francis "FX" Crowley, was also vague in his answer.
"I think it's important that every commission reflect our city's diversity," answered Crowley without specifically stating how he would do that other than to "support and recommend qualified LGBT candidates for commission appointments."
The remaining six supervisor candidates all said they believe that each city commission and board should designate at least one seat for an openly LGBT member.
"If a commission is to be representative of San Francisco, it should have at least one LGBT member," wrote City College board President John Rizzo, who is seeking the District 5 seat.
Two other challengers in the race, London Breed and Hope Johnson , stated support for having designated LGBT seats, while Julian Davis merely stated that for those commissions with board-appointed seats the supervisors have "the ability to ensure" there is "proper LGBT representation.
The incumbent in the race, bisexual District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, said she supports having designated LGBT representation on the oversight bodies.
"As a member of the Board of Supervisors I will support the appointment of LGBT appointees brought forth by the mayor, and will advocate for board appointees to include representatives of the LGBT community," wrote Olague, who had been president of the Planning Commission before stepping down earlier this year when Mayor Ed Lee appointed her to fill the vacant board seat.
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos , like Olague, said that all boards "absolutely" should have at least one LGBT person. While it is imperative for the board and mayor to nominate LGBT people, the LGBT community also bears some of the responsibility for seeing that happens, added Campos, who had served as a police commissioner.
"Part of the effort requires greater involvement by members of the LGBT community because some of these vacancies wonÕt be filled by LGBT people unless LGBT people actually apply for the vacancies," wrote Campos, who is running unopposed for a second term.
For more information on which city commissions have vacancies and how to apply, visit http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=3045.
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