Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SF Cop Stops Gay Sex at Street Fair

The Dore Alley Fair took place on Sunday, July 26, in San Francisco's SoMa district and it was a fantastic street fair for consenting adults into kink and those who like to watch BDSM activities.

As usual, I enjoyed myself tremendous seeing old friends and making new pals. I shot lots of video footage and snapped a few photos.

Toward the end of the fair, with absolutely no one complaining and not a single person being harmed in any fashion whatsoever, a cop whom I believe is a lesbian and has been at previous fairs where she's thrown her cop-privilege around, again stopped consenting gay adults from enjoying public sex.

I learned this year that Folsom Street Events, the nonprofit that sponsors the Dore Alley and Folsom Street Fairs, as with all street fairs in the City, has to hire a certain number of SFPD officers for security purposes. Sounds like a great way for the City to collect money from organizers, many of whom handle their own security just fine.

In this instance with the female cop putting a stop to the gay dudes having a wee bit of sex, we see how an SFPD officer engages in sex police monitoring. Would have been better if she minded her own business and simply took care of more pressing problems or just walk away from the sex scene.

Check out my video from Sunday:

Plaza 16 Leader Demands Democracy from SF Bike Coalition

The coordinator for Plaza 16, the nominally community-based group in the Mission fighting to stop Maximus Partner's huge condo development at Mission and 16th Streets. As I've said in recent months, Plaza 16 is too controlled by nonprofits and folks who don't live in the Mission, and suffers from a huge lack of democracy and transparency.

Imagine my surprise learning Plaza 16's chief coordinator, Andy Blue, who is no supporter of democracy within his organization, is demanding it from the San Francisco Bike Coalition. The biking advocacy folks are contemplating changes to their board and policies, upsetting Blue as he outlined in a Facebook note.

How ironic and hypocritical of Blue to complain about another group that does have printed rules on the web for all to read, allows members to vote on leadership and other matters, democratic principles that are not part of Plaza 16.

Marc Salomon, who lives a stone's throw from the 16th Street BART Plaza where Maximus Partners is ready to build apartments, called Blue on his nonsense:

"Andy Blue, I celebrate your conversion to grassroots democracy and await the Plaza 16 coalition's self-conversion from a closed group of nonprofit operatives who meet at their convenience into a a democratic, open participatory Mission resident collective!"

Bravo, Marco, for calling Blue and his coalition on their hypocrisy. If only Plaza 16 had meetings open to all in the Mission community and folks beyond the nonprofit world were allowed to set the agenda, we would be able to discuss holding all activists accountable including Blue and his cohorts.

Monday, July 27, 2015

BAR Op-Ed: Mission Needs Housing & Democracy

This column of mine appeared in the July 16 issue of the Bay Area Reporter:

My husband, Mike, and I recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of when we first met, and the 19th anniversary of living together in the same apartment.
I jest about how we're more concerned with having our names on a lease than a marriage license, illustrating the importance we place on our housing security. We're not married in the eyes of the law, but are very much husbands, quite happily reclaiming that word for our purpose.
We experience aging in San Francisco as long-term AIDS survivors, with health challenges always evolving, and the stress that impacts our mental and physical wellness from housing worries is managed as best as possible.
Watching our neighbors in recent years displaced because of flipping properties, outrageous rental increases or fires, and construction dearth of new housing that would be affordable to us, has been the basis for many conversations over the breakfast table.
In the past year, I've attended various events in the Mission, where we live on the border of that neighborhood and outer Castro, and gotten to know and observe leaders of housing and Latino nonprofits, and other local renters.

The Plaza 16 group fancies itself a grassroots coalition and it's certainly tapped into widespread anger and nervousness over evictions and luxury condo developments, generating much legacy and social media attention, but it's too much under the thumb of nonprofits.
One of them is the 42-year-old Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, which has had a light touch with Plaza 16 but is the engine behind the condo development moratorium that has gone through several iterations, none successful, and may be on the November ballot.
The eviction epidemic, one aspect of the complex housing crises we face, was no overnight development. Warning signs were evident for years, yet no organizing took place pressuring the Mission's supervisor, David Campos, to hold hearings and propose legislative relief.
It took more than four years for city agencies, Campos, and the Dolores Street Community Services nonprofit to bring an existing building up to code, ready to provide 24 shelter beds and services to homeless LGBT adults.
If the politicians and nonprofits need that extended period for that small project, it doesn't instill confidence in us that they have their act together to address much larger housing concerns.
There are numerous excellent ideas, including an eviction moratorium, which has a groundswell of support across political differences, but they're the idea du jour that too often fail to turn into reality.
A huge deficit for Mission nonprofits and Plaza 16 is the absence of radical inclusiveness and democratic principles, starting with the former not holding any public board of directors' meetings and the latter maintaining an erratic monthly and steering committee meeting schedule.
Consistent meeting dates, times, and locations would allow more Mission residents to participate in the decision-making process and goal-setting of Plaza 16, which might produce tangible affordable housing solutions.
Fear of Mission renters, and others who don't pass political litmus tests, keeps out fresh ideas and voices, tamps down vibrant political engagement, and diminishes democracy. New leaders and organizers are always needed to achieve social justice.
I had hoped the grassroots energy of the Mission would be nurtured and sustained for genuine community organizing that is not a path to either Democratic Party campaigns or driven by potential candidates to replace Campos and Supervisor John Avalos when they are termed out of office.
What we have instead is not enough transparency and too much hopscotching. One day the development moratorium is not going the ballot route, only to see a last-minute effort mounted. If it qualifies, valuable community enthusiasm and resources will be diverted to campaigning for a measure that is very likely to be defeated just as the anti-speculator Proposition G initiative was in 2014.
Labor leaders essentially hijack the opposition to the Maximus proposal for 16th and Mission streets for a demonstration at an office with questionable links to the developer. The week after, the union collaboration vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
About 13 lots in the Mission allegedly suitable for purchase by the city for building hundreds of low- and moderate-income housing units were recently identified. I never saw a list of the properties, same for a plan to underwrite actual construction of even half the lots.
Plans A and B from the current crop of Mission leaders seem to be the same. Maximize nonprofits and political operatives' dominance of the professional and grassroots networks working on housing problems and keeping people in their homes, and minimize engagement with diverse individuals who think plans C through Z are needed.
Win or lose, the luxury condo moratorium will require many plans the day after the election to give Mission renters hope, plans that must be devised with greater democracy and accountability than we've had up to now.
As two mature gay and HIV-poz men, our stressors over personal housing security are equal to that of thousands of other tenants. We all deserve a better organizing structure and process and quickly too, before more of the Mission is further disfigured by greed and gentrification.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

USF Scrubs Bill Cosby Page & Makes Statement on Degree

Back in December, I corresponded with Anne-Marie Devine, the communications director for the University of San Francisco, regarding any effort to rescind the honorary degree they conferred upon Bill Cosby in 2012 or otherwise distance USF from him as a parade of women alleged sexual misconduct against him, and his legal challenges mounted.

The university was waiting for facts to be established by a court of law before undertaking any action.

In recent days, Noah Zimmerman, an alumnus of USF, unhappy with his alma mater's association with Cosby, alerted me to the scrubbing of the communications office's page containing a news release about Cosby receiving the honorary degree.

I contacted Devine over the weekend seeking deets about the removal of the USF release and why just the headline remains on the page, and she issued this statement:

"The status on Mr. Cosby has not changed. Should this change, I will [alert] you. The statement on this matter is as follows: 'The volume and nature of these allegations are deeply disturbing, and the University of San Francisco (USF) takes sexual assault seriously. USF leaders are closely monitoring the legal developments surrounding Mr. Cosby to determine the proper next steps regarding his honorary degree.'"

Quite odd to delete the body of the page but leave the headline intact. I searched for a cached version from 2012, after Cosby appeared at USF and generated a tremendous amount of free publicity, but couldn't find one. If you locate the post's cache image, please share it with me.

Meanwhile, it was time yesterday for USF to find its spine on their relationship with Cosby and finally take full and substantive stand on the allegations and such piling up against him. Two terse statements in eight months just doesn't cut it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What's in Ex-Supervisor Chiu's Housing-related Emails?

A few months ago, I filed a public records request with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisor, Angela Calvillo, for copies of emails sent by former Sup. David Chiu related to housing issues during 2014.

Her aide, Wilson Ng, was tasked with reviewing and releasing responsive records and he's recently provided me with emails from Chiu.

Click here to read the January 2014 collections of relevant emails, and go here to read the February 2014 batch.

I believe it's important to share these responsive public records and hope everyone interested in learning more about housing issues in San Francisco, and how Chiu developed his affordable housing views while serving his last year as president of the Board of Supervisors, reads the emails.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Filthiest Rainbow Flags in the Castro: Remove 'em!

Last April and May, I complained to the Department of Public Works about the ratty rainbow flag banners in the Castro district, of all the places - the birthplace of the iconic image.

Part of the responsibility rests with the Castro Merchants group, some with DPW, a bit with state-senator wannabe Scott Wiener and none with ordinary citizens.

In the year-plus since my initial complaint went to DPW boss Mohammed Nuru, and the banner were not removed, the blight worsened.

More filth from exhaust pollution and bird poop, a lotta sunshine and wind, all contributing to make these existing eye-sores even more displeasing to my queer eye.

Check out my video shot this month around the Church Street to Castro Street corridor, documenting yet again the dozen rainbow banners that should have been removed when Bevan Dufty was supervisor of District 8.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

'Free Michael Johnson' Signs for Black HIV+ Gay on SF Streets

A grave injustice against a black gay HIV positive young man, Michael Johnson, who was recently sentenced to 30-years in prison for non-disclosure of his sero-status with sex partners who claim he infected them, needs more community attention and is getting some on the streets of San Francisco.

Johnson is 23-years-old, and was charged and found guilty of HIV transmission in Missouri under draconian laws passed in 1988, the plague years, and he was wrongfully demonized across social media. A few hookups were with men who were fully aware of his poz status and continued sexual relations with him after learning he was living with HIV.

He and I are exchanging snail-mail letters, and I'm committed to regularly writing him and remain a link to the outside world that has not forgotten about the miscarriage of justice he's suffering through. It's amazing how upbeat Johnson's letters are, considering all the legal and medical woes he's experiencing. His letters are private and I will keep them confidential.

Here in San Francisco, it looks as though Gay Shame has taken up Johnson case and created posters reading, "Free Michael Johnson. Decriminalize HIV. Celebrate Black Queerness".

I took pictures of two locations with heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic, where the posters are wheat-pasted at eye-level and hard to miss. No group's name appears on the posters. I couldn't agree more with the messages of the signs and will Johnson aware of them in my next letter to him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

HRC: FLOTUS Aide = Spokesperson, Sainz Out. Is Griffin Going?

What's happening at the executive level of the Human Rights Campaign, as Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign to become POTUS every day gears up more machinery and rakes in more money? HRC, the gay wing of the Democratic Party in all but name, and HRC, the candidate, have never been far apart and expect no sunlight to come between the HRCs.

I received this auto-reply from Fred Sainz, one of the five top executives under Chad Griffin, who was in charge of communication, is on his way out:

"Thank you for your email. Over the next few weeks, I'll be transitioning out from the Human Rights Campaign. I will no longer be actively checking this account. It's been my great honor to work for this organization that I admire deeply."

Sainz is gone and here's who has replaced him, according to a July 14 release:

"Olivia Alair Dalton, who was senior VP for SKDKnickerbocker and spokesperson for First Lady Michelle Obama, has joined the Human Rights Campaign as senior VP-communications & marketing. [...] At SKDKnick, she worked with HRC to help manage a communications "war room" in support of the Respect for Marriage Coalition. [...] The new HRC staffer also served as spokesperson for former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Vice President Joe Biden."

From Dalton's perch as an aide to FLOTUS and the Veep, not to mention collecting a paycheck from the powerhouse lobbying and PR firm where Hilary Rosen, former HRC board of directors president, is a longtime managing director of political affairs, we're witnessing Democrats rearranging the pieces on their political chessboard.

Mighty small 1% of the LGBT elites from HRC to SKDKnickerbocker on over to the DNC still running the show for themselves, and ordinary LGBT folks are barely on the radar. These moneyed queers are looking out for themselves first and foremost.

Those are verifiable facts and I also wish to pass along a rumor I've heard that cannot be substantiated. Make of it what you will.

A branch of the gay grapevine has buzzed in recent weeks that Griffin was moving on to pursue other endeavors. Whether that's due to his own choosing or a push from the board is unknown, is mere speculation. Btw, BuzzFeed's gay reporter Chris Geidner conducted a lengthy interview with Griffin published on July 16 and his employment status was raised:

"As to another rumor circulating — that, with marriage done, Griffin is readying to leave the organization — he laughed. 'I did not come here to this organization for marriage,” Griffin said. “I have my dream job. I have never had a job that I’ve loved and enjoyed more than this one.'"

Remaining or leaving, expect Griffin to put all of his skills toward (re)electing Clinton to the White House where he worked during Billary's first Oval Office stint and where he probably wants to find himself again employed.

Just my two queer cents, at this point in the 2016 presidential race which I am already quite over!
Queer Iranians' Global Candle Campaign for Hanged Juveniles

Arsham Parsi was born in Iran and as a gay man was forced to flee to Toronto to save his life. He's been head for many years of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and he recently organized a candle-lighting campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of Iran hanging gay juvenileMahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni on July 19, 2005.

In an email, Arsham said more than 50 photos were uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

From inside Iran to around the globe in Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, many LGBT Iranians created private memorials for Asgari and Marhoni, who were executed for gay crimes.

On behalf of Gays Without Borders, I wish to acknowledge the bravery of the queer Iranians who participated in the July 19 day of solidarity with each other and their creativity remembering the hanged teenagers, while courageously calling for an end to all executions in Iran and everywhere.

Many thanks go out to Arsham and his team of board members, donors and volunteers at the IRQR for their continued effective organizing protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iranians in their homeland and in exile.

These are the most evocative photos:

 Location: Toronto, Canada

 Location: Unknown

 Location: Erfan, Turkey

Arsham Parsi in Toronto, Canada

Over in London, international human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and his foundation, along with leaders of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group held a vigil on July 19 to mark the anniversary of the hangings and stand in support of queer Iranians in their struggle for freedom. More than thirty people participated in the event which was witnessed by hundreds of passers-by at St. Martin's in the Field Church in Trafalgar Square.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

DA Gascon Guilty of Public Calendar Violation Sez SOTF

Since 1999, the district attorney of San Francisco has been legally required to maintain an accurate calendar of daily meetings and events and to provide the public with it when requested. Current DA and ambitious political animal, George Gascon, didn't get the memo outlining the law about calendars so he just didn't keep one.

I filed a public records request for Gascon's calendar for the first five months of 2015 and received woefully inadequate responsive records. The majority of days were totally blank, as shown above. Not satisfied, I lodged a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force alleging the DA was violating our public records law.

The complaint committee of the SOTF heard my evidence against Gascon at a June hearing, and the DA's public information officer, Alex Bastian, represented the department. Bastian basically had no clue why the DA wasn't keeping a full and genuine calendar and the committee recommended a vote about a violation before the full SOTF.

On July 1, in a unanimous vote, the SOTF issued an Order of Determination finding Gascon in violation of the sunshine statute. Chair of the SOTF, Allyson Washburn, referred the matter to the compliance committee to monitor the new calendar policy in development at the DA's office.

To ensure Gascon finally complies with all applicable sunshine laws, once July has concluded, I'll make a request for this month's calendar. We'll see if he once and for all fulfills his legal obligations to taxpayers.