Saturday, February 28, 2009

Disjointed Impact: 100K in SF
for Prop 8 Supreme Court Hearing?

Until a few days ago, I had no idea a small city, 100,000 people, were descending on San Francisco for the Supreme Court oral arguments hearing on March 5. I checked out the latest news from Amy Balliet at her Join the Impact site and learned about all these folks getting ready to be here in less than a week:

In an initiative begun by California college students, and joined by equality groups around the nation, we ask that you join us on March 5th for a moment that will make history! Please, come to San Francisco on March 5th and show the nation just how important equality is to you. We know that we’re asking a lot in this current economy, but this is huge!

If I didn't know Amy was a woman, I'd say, based on her fixation with large crowds, numbers and huge things, I'd imagine the person writing her posts was a size queen of the male species.

There is only one comment at Amy's post, and it's from me, questioning if 100,000 people are actually going to show up. Amy's partner, Willow, replied to me:

I know of student groups that have gotten funding for vans from their universities, and am getting several emails a day from folks coming from as far away as Boston, Cincinatti and Virginia- and I know not everyone would reach out and tell me. I think there’s just lots of folks that are arranging their own car pools and not relying on eride share.

This is mostly being organized by college students, who have their own ways of spreading the word to get folks to come from all over CA. Since we knew many people throughout the country would want to be involved we’re letting folks know what’s up.

That's nice, but if these activists really are expecting 100,000 folks in San Francisco, they should get around to recruiting a few of us locals to be there and maybe pitch in to fill the Civic Center plaza. No announcement about the huge rally was made at the February 26 town hall, nor was any flyer distributed to encourage us locals to attend, and after days of asking everyone I know if there were planning to be at the rally, knew nothing about it.

Would it be so terrible for those college students to build coalitions with gay grandfathers like me and other San Francisco adults?

A harsh-on-the-eyes web site, created by unnamed organizers, is up for the 100,000-person rally. Click here to read it. (Memo to the organizers: Please create a second version of the site for gay senior eyes such as mine that have trouble reading dark black background sites. A softer color tone would be appreciated by this old-timer.)

The site brags what anti-gay forces are saying about the upcoming rally:

So the Yes on 8 folks are taking us seriously.

Too bad the same can't be said of the local gay and alternative press, or activist community. Even if the unnamed organizers are young and not into reaching out to the dead-tree media and those who still rely on it to learn about demonstrations, it still behooves them to make an effort to make the publications aware of the 100,000 about to hit town.

Nothing appears in the Bay Area Reporter, the Bay Times, the Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, and of course the SF Chronicle and SF Examiner. If there's been any promotion by local bloggers or signs posted around the Castro, Polk and Mission districts, I've missed it.

At the e-rides share site, there are only 7 rides offered listings and just 6 listing for those needing rides. And at the FaceBook page for those attending the rally, 16 messages are posted, about half from folks expressing regret they can't be in SF on March 5. This leads me to ask the question: Exactly where are the 100,000 folks coming from and who are they?

Maybe the web site creators and Amy and Willow at Join the Impact can turn out one-hundred thousand folks on March 5, and all it's going to take are a few blog posts and a site. If that happens, I'll be the first to applaud the throngs and encourage the organizer to patent their organizing idea.

On the other hand, if there are far fewer than that six-figure estimate who show up, I'd like an online discussion with the organizers about their tactics and efforts. Maybe they can tell me who is helped when community organizers announced enormous numbers,and only 1,000 or so actually make it to the rally. Whose credibility will be shot to pieces if 100,000 don't show up?

In the coming days, I suggest the March 5 rally planners do serious outreach to the local community and press, both online and dead-tree versions. There is still much time left to expand the extremely limited and poorly executed outreach of Join the Impact.

Let me end by saying I'm all in favor of big ideas, youth organizing for grand societal change, pounding the pavements for justice and gay equality. But none of those ideals are met when a disjointed impact occurs because of lazy organizing and the inability to attract a promised crowd the size of a small city.

(Photo credit: MO Obama 4 President site. Picture of 100,000 people cheering Obama in St. Louis in October. I don't think we'll see that size crowd in SF this week, not unless the president shows up!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

NYT: Gill Action's NY State
Lobbyist Draws Attention

Did you catch that story today in the New York Times, about an adviser to NY State's Gov. Paterson who's involved with pushing for gay marriage equality in the Empire State, and the significant role of the Gill Action Fund?

I missed it until this afternoon when I read a hard-copy of the Gray Lady this afternoon.

To be honest, the only reason why I read beyond the headline, which had nothing to do with gays, was because I thought the story would be about influence-peddling conflicts in Albany, unrelated to anything gay-specific.

Who knew "Paterson Adviser Has Private Clients and Public Ties" had a thing to do with the gay agenda?

From the Times:

When Gov. David A. Paterson asked his former top aide and close confidant, Charles J. O’Byrne, to return to his old job earlier this month, Mr. O’Byrne said he would instead take an unpaid role on Mr. Paterson’s political team, which would allow him to continue to work for private clients. ....

But it turns out that Mr. O’Byrne has stayed involved in New York politics behind the scenes, advising a gay rights group in its dealings with the Senate majority leader, Malcolm A. Smith, who will hold much sway this year over whether the Legislature legalizes same-sex marriage. ...

Mr. O’Byrne’s other clients have been purely political.

One is Gill Action Fund, a political advocacy group in Denver that poured money into the New York State Senate races last year, seeking to shift control to Democrats and thereby make it possible to legalize gay marriage.

Mr. O’Byrne, who was chief of staff to Mr. Paterson when he was Senate minority leader, was hired by Gill to advise the group on its dealings with Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens during and after the wrangling that led to Mr. Smith’s election as Senate president, said a friend of Mr. O’Byrne’s.

Mr. Smith punctured the hopes of many gay-rights advocates by declaring that he saw little chance for passage of a gay marriage bill this year, but advocates now say they believe that Mr. Smith will allow consideration of the bill once they have corralled enough support to pass it.

A spokeswoman for Gill declined to comment. ...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

300 At SF Prop 8 Forum;
'No. More. Closets.'

America's gay Mecca finally got around to holding a proper town hall to vent and plot strategy. In terms of numbers, just a little more than three-hundred people were there at the height, a good number considering it's four months after the election and this forum was not well publicized by the organizers.

I thank everyone who came, no matter where on the A-gay to D-list political and social spectrum you fall, if you were there, I'm happy you were there. Here are a few snapshots and pieces of commentary.

Four fabulous gay activists from Fresno. Local lesbian leader Robin McGehee is second from the left. I don't know the names of the others. They are planning the Meet in the Middle of CA 4 Equality, the Saturday after the Supreme Courts renders a decision, regardless of the ruling.

Two uniformed members of the SF police force, taking up space.

Steve Smith, the straight political consultant who really ran the lousy campaign, on the left, with Dan Hawes of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force holding his bottled water. They should never be allowed anywhere near another gay-related ballot measure.

Mark Leno at the podium, welcoming the panelists and the audience to the forum. Nice of him to thank this blogger for being so pushy and nudging everyone to hold the public meeting, and receiving a round of applause from the crowd.

Lining up at one of the two open mics to speak. On the right, is Cathy Brooks of the Equality Camp effort to bridge the digital divide in the gay community. She's one of the brightest lights of new youth leaders to emerge in the past few months.

From the left, Geoff Kors, Matt Foreman, Kate Kendell. Whatever ballot initiatives we face as gays in CA in the future, and there will be more, let's make sure these three have no say over the decision-making of the next campaign.

Two gay youth of color, who like everyone else in the cavernous auditorium, complained about the deep chill of the space.

During my public comment time, I asked the crowd to join me in a chant: "No. More. Closets."
To my delight, they not only chanted, but many were pleased when I tore up an "I Do" sticker because it doesn't say gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or same-sex.

Outside the auditorium, the lone protestor, who, when I offered to debate him, just smiled at me and said he'd be happy if I took his photo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who Murdered Robert Wone Concerns DC Gays

The gruesome death of a straight attorney, Robert Wone, in a case that implicates several high-powered gays in Washington, is something I've paid a small amount of attention to, thanks mainly to articles in the Washington Blade.

A friend the days when I lived in DC, Craig Brownstein, emailed me recently to tell me that he and some friends had created a blog about the murder of Wone. Correctly thinking I needed a refresher of the outlines of the case, Craig provided these details:

I’d like to put something on your radar. Privileged and successful gay men in DC beating a murder rap... It’s about the gruesome murder of a straight man, Robert Wone, in 2006 at the home of DC gay rights attorney Joe Price.

While murder charges have not been filed, Joe, his partner Victor Zaborsky and their roommate Dylan Ward are all facing multiple obstruction of justice, conspiracy and tampering charges related to Wone’s death.

This case moves to trial in April and since there hasn't been enough media attention on the case, so we replaced our initial primitive blogspot site with one on wordpress to help stir interest in Wone's death. Click here to visit our site.

What began as a conversation about this shocking and convoluted crime at my birthday dinner back in December grew into a blog that has attracted eyeballs, some media and the attention of various legal teams. I’ll be the first to admit, we’re amateurs at this, both as sleuths and bloggers, but that lack of experience hasn’t stopped us from trying to make sense of this senseless and horrific crime that goes straight to the heart of the DC gay community.

If you haven’t read up on the details of the investigation, I’ll warn you that it isn’t pretty. Robert appeared to have been incapacitated with a paralytic drug, sexually assaulted then stabbed in the chest and left to die.

Joe & Victor were prominent and high profile A-Listers in gay DC who along with their friend Dylan, all maintained what looked to be a clandestine and reckless lifestyle that led to the murder of their mutual friend.

All three defendants were at home when the crime occurred and none of them saw a thing maintaining their innocence, while all of them were only just a few feet away while Robert was attacked and killed.

A re-air of “Party Monster” on cable the other night brought up some haunting imagery, but instead of glitter, boas and platform shoes, these defendants which include a prominent K Street lobbyist wear Brooks Brothers, Thomas Pink and Johnson & Murphy. The drugs however seem to remain the same: X, K and the entire alphabet soup.

We’re honestly trying to strike the balance between journalism (two of us are/were credentialed members of the DC press corps) and conjecture all the while showing sensitivity and sobriety since there is a grieving widow, family and many of Robert’s friends left behind. And while Joe, Victor and Dylan could easily be described as a "family," myself and my fellow editors very much consider ourselves family too. We’re close friends, boyfriends and in some cases, ex’s and this vicious attack and murder occurred mere blocks from where we all live.

Details aside for just a moment, because I have to say that if I were murdered I'd sure as hell want a full and competent investigation carried out, and if the cops couldn't make an arrest, for my friends to make a stink about lack of justice.

That being said, the wrongful death suit filed by Wone's wife, according to a story posted at the Blade site today, written by Lou Chibbaro, continues along this Friday, when a judge will hear arguments to release emails and phone records of the suspects. Click here to read the article.

As someone who has worked to bring attention and justice to cases of murdered gays, I know the importance of speaking up for law enforcement officials to perform their duties to solve the murders and punish those responsible. This is why I'm blogging about Wone's murder. I want to make a small web-based contribution to help solve the murder.

Check out the Who Murdered Robert Wone? blog and watch the short YouTube video. Let's hope those who killed Wone are soon prosecuted.

Agenda for Feb 26 Prop 8 Town Hall Released

It took a few days of emails and phone calls, but the organizers of tomorrow's long-awaited public forum on the failures of the No on 8 executive committee and how to organize for the future, have released the agenda for the meeting.

I'm pleased the usual suspects - gay politicians, A-gays, nonprofit executives - will have just a short time at the start to introduce themselves, before we move into public comment. Is 120-seconds enough time for community members at the open mic? No, and I will ask the moderators to allow for 2-3 minutes of comment per speaker.

Also, who decided we need to hear from the closeted folks at Let California Ring about our next steps and that they warrant time on the official agenda? Let California Ring is the arm of EQCA that recently launched the closeted "I do" poster campaign and is nothing more than a continuation of the failed No on 8 mentality. Give a speaker from this group 2-3 minutes like everyone else and let the audience decide the next steps.

See you all tomorrow night!

Community Building Town Hall
February 26, 2009

Doors Open, Seating

Welcoming Remarks - State Senator Mark Leno

Introduction of No on 8 Campaign Leaders and Executive Committee members
Cynthia Laird, B.A.R. and Kim Corsaro from SF Bay Times

Open Mic -- Direct Questions, Comments from Audience to
No on 8 Campaign Managers and Executive Committee
(2 minutes per speaker)

David Binder
Executive Summary of Post Election Research

Next Steps - Let California Ring & Building Community and Movement with Coalition Allies

Andrea Shorter
Wrap Up - Acknowledgements
Program Ends

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Gay' Omitted From New EQCA
Gay Marriage Push

Over the four months since gays lost marriage equality in California, the moneyed elite controlling EQCA has claimed they've heard the loud criticism about how they designed and executed the No on 8 campaign.

Geoff Kors and his colleagues have repeatedly stated they've learned from their errors of the campaign, and that their advocacy is radically different. Allow me to call them on their b.s.

As we all know, the No on 8 executive committee, at the direction of EQCA and their leader's fundraising prowess, produced a closeted and fearful poster and button campaign, one that many gays and queers simply didn't own politically or emotionally.

You may recall my posts way before the election, objecting to No on 8 omitting the words 'gay' and 'lesbian' and even 'same-sex' from their posters and t-shirts. Click here for a refresher in what EQCA/No on 8 was peddling all summer and fall.

(Official No on 8 window signs.)
Recently, the Let California Ring affiliate of EQCA launched an ever-so-slight variation on their losing signage and language - "vow" and "I do" - and is getting an all-out, you'll pardon my use of the word out, push. Click here if you feel like spending your gay dollars on promoting the closet and ineptness of EQCA and its many affiliates.

Out. That simple word, and loaded philosophy, is not in the DNA of EQCA and the people who run it. The new t-shirts and signs and buttons will be a great boon to the unions producing the materials, but they will be as effective as the No on 8 signs.

No. More. Closeted. Campaigns.

When Feinstein Asked: What's a Glory Hole?

At the February 14 Equality California $350-a-ticket gala at City Hall, a lifetime achievement award was presented to longtime lesbian Democratic leader and officeholder Carole Migden, who entertained the elite troops with her banter.

She lost her state senate seat to gay Democrat Mark Leno last year, but is still on the state's payroll as a member of the sewage and waste advisory board, and is doing an excellent job of keeping her name in the news.

Witness last week's report in the Bay Times on her remarks at the A-gays dinner, in which Migden teased the crowd, leaving them begging for more talk from her:

Then she ended on a laugh, saying, “Next time you invite me, I will tell you about the time then Mayor Dianne Feinstein sidled up to me and asked, ‘Carole, will you tell me what a glory hole is?’”

Oh, to have been on my knees at a large hole in the wall of the room where Carole had to explain the concept to DiFi, with my ear sticking through the hole, sucking up their exchange of fluid words.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Time-Limit for A-Gays at SF Prop 8 Forum

Here we are, three days away from the first San Francisco gay community accountability town hall, starting at 6 PM on Thursday at the Civic Center auditorium, and the A-gay organizers have not made the agenda and structure available for public discussion.

Late last week, an announcement went out from the A-gays that omitted anything about an open mic for public comments and questions from D-list gays. Curious omission from leaders who claimed they've changed their non-transparent ways of organizing.

The release boasts of the participation from politicians, profession advocates, nonprofit leaders, religious and labor promoters, and pollsters, but nothing is mentioned about audience participation, other than a cameo reference to a Q&A at some point during the forum.

Efforts to extract information from Andrea Shorter, the forum's lead organizer, about duration of the open mic, rules governing that time, and the meeting's over all agenda have produced vague replies. From Shorter:

Trust that we are doing our best to bring the community together to hear each other, learn, grow, and move on.

Sorry, after the flushing of $43 million gay dollars down the toilet and a losing campaign executed by some of the folks putting on the February 26 town hall, I want more than a request to trust the same people again on something as important as the agenda for an important community gathering.

As we wait for the A-gays to provide the community with the February 26 agenda, I want to raise the matter of time limits being applied to the A-gays who will be on the panel.

Most likely, we will see time restrictions placed on speakers during public comment, something we'll need to keep the meeting moving, but it shouldn't be just the D-list open mic speakers who are held to a few minutes of talk.

I understand that the organizers have granted Robin McGehee, a lesbian leader with the Gay Fresno group, who will be at the forum to promote and recruit for a number of important visibility actions fast approaching in her city, two-minutes measly minutes of prime-time speaking. McGehee will certainly make good use of those 120-seconds, but she should get the same allotment of time as the A-gays who are on the top of the agenda.

We also should apply similar limits on the many invited panelists, to keep them from rambling and taking up too much time. Let's have some, um, equality in the application of speaking time limits on Thursday night.

NGLTF: Silence Best for Race Questions
During Black History Month?

Nearly two weeks ago, I posed a few questions to the communications director, Inga Sorensen, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, related to my concerns over their ad campaign featuring only white people in ads for their Winter Party mega-fundraiser in Miami at the end of the month. The questions came up after my initial post about the supreme whiteness of the ad.

Here's what I asked the task force:

Is it racist to exclude black people from the ads? Given that it is Black History Month, could the task force have included blacks to sell tickets to the party? Does the task force have a duty to feature black gays in outreach media, including web ads?

After a few days, and no reply from Inga, I emailed her again, copying the note to her communications colleague Pedro Serrano, and the executive director, Rea Carey. Some phone messages were also left.

I eventually had a phone conversation with executive assistant Julie Childs, who assured me Rea was diligent about addressing bloggers' questions, that the development department was drafting a reply to me, and that a reply was in Rea's queue. Great promises, but not kept.

In her State of the Movement address at the Creating Change conference in Denver, Rea made some interesting remarks about racism and the gay community:

It is not politically correct to challenge racism.

Have we done enough as a community to deal with our own racism and to make sure that our movement is one that reflects the true diversity of LGBT people?
We sure haven't. ...

I have had enough. WE have had enough. ...

Totally fabulous words, but, they're hollow to my ears. I've had enough of NGLTF saying they're leading the community's discussion about racial issues, but when pressed to have a dialogue about their lack of diversity in their White Party ads, the organization's leaders and communications department go mute.

This is all probably not about black or white issues for the task force, but more a matter of raking in some green.

Hey, Rea, why not be really politically incorrect and tell me why your organization can't put black gays in your ads?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Advocate: Gay Inc Executives Refuse to Cut Salaries?

The super-rich Harvard university, as with so many institutions today, is suffering because of the recession. According to a story in today's New York Times, Harvard's endowment, which has recently seen $8 billion disappear in the bad economy, is down to only $29 billion. To help cope with the money crisis, some important measures have been implemented:

Harvard has frozen salaries for faculty and nonunion staff members, and offered early retirement to 1,600 employees.

The topic of a salary freeze is high up in the Times article, as it should be because the story is about an institution facing serious fiscal constraints.

Compare today's article with a story earlier this week in the Advocate magazine about the social service and professional political advocacy groups that comprise Gay Inc, as the organizations grapple with dwindling donations and resources.

The Advocate piece, written by news editor Kelly Eleveld, is about a recent meeting of gay executive directors at a closed-door invitation-only conclave in Washington to discuss how our organizations will address financial constraints now, and in the near future:

According to participants, a wide variety of alternatives were presented by a facilitator, ranging from sharing the costs of administrative items such as computer services, health insurance, and office rent to teaming up on programming or even joining forces in cases where two organizations might have similar missions.

The discussion also included an overview of how different organizations are faring financially at the moment. ...

Mergers, though presented as a topic for consideration, were barely discussed according those in attendance. But Chrisler, whose organization recently merged with a smaller regional nonprofit from Minneapolis, said nothing should be taken off the table.

One thing was not on the table apparently, or, at least not broached by the Advocate, is the matter of Gay Inc considering salary freezes or even cutbacks. I'm not sure who in the gay community is served when a leading news magazine devotes serious space to the fiscal health of our organizations, and compensation of top executives is not part of the story.

I see two problems here. First, there must be sunshine and real transparency when dozens of gay leaders gather to map strategy for our groups and their agendas. I'm sick and tired of the A-gay executives meeting amongst themselves, keeping out general community members and the press, and then telling us afterward what they discussed and decided.

Second of all, even though Eleverd was not at the leaders' meeting, she still could have broached the subject of salaries. Maybe even point out that Harvard and a few Big Banking firms are limiting pay and bonuses for executives, good examples that Gay Inc leaders ought to consider, in order to better serve our community.

BTW, I can't believe the above stock image was used by the Advocate editors to illustrate their story. They couldn't have picked a better image of a nice clean-cut A-gay executive reaching for the bucks, while our non-profits cut services and programs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Academy Awards = Non-Profit
That Files an IRS 990

Somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was a tax-exempt advocacy organization, but I never had looked at their IRS 990 filings. Until today.

With the Oscars upon us this Sunday, I just had to see what was in the academy's latest report to the IRS. Lo, lots of big numbers that would make the average social service non-profit executive director green with envy.

For FY2007 the academy reported revenue of $80 million, had $65 million in total expenses of which $20 million went for the awards TV broadcast, and paid the executive director, Bruce Davis, $490,409.

The organization had $151 million in assets at the end of the year, earned $70 for the broadcast rights, meaning the show brought in $50 million in revenue. Nice chunk of change, and don't call it profit!

And how does the academy explain the relationship of its charitable activities and how they fulfill the exempt purposes of the charity, as required by federal law?

If you think the explanation has to do with getting Oscars' viewers into theaters or shelling out bucks for DVDs, downloads and pay-per-view screening, or increasing the profit margin of the studios, all of which seem to be the prime reason for the awards and their airing on TV, you're wrong.

Let me enlighten you with the AMPAS's explanation to the IRS:

"Broadcast royalties are in connection with promoting public interest in arts and sciences [...] in connection with the Academy Awards television program, which fosters and maintains the public's interest in the art and sciences of motion pictures.

"Publications keep members of the academy and the general public informed about the arts and sciences of motion pictures, and fosters educational activities between the professional community and the public-at-large.

"Theater operations provide a common forum and meeting ground for various branches and crafts, and keeps members of the academy informed about the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

"Membership dues are received in exchange for benefits provided to members."
Promoting public interest, such a noble endeavor, wouldn't you say, like working to eradicate landmines or discover the cure for HIV/AIDS. I'll be thinking of the public interest as I watch all the glamourpusses walk the red carpet or scurry to the stage to accept a statutette.

Otherwise, I'll be rooting for Werner Herzog to win for his documentary "Encounters at the End of the World."

Click here to read the current IRS filing from the academy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kors' Millionaire Partner Loaned
No on 8 $570,000

The official, professional leader of California's gay community is Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California and a key architect of the No on 8 debacle. Kors, a gay millionaire, not only comes from family wealth, he knows how to get other rich people to open their checkbooks. His partner, James G. Williamson, is an investment management powerhouse and fabulously wealthy.

Public records show that Williamson made a $10,000 donation to the No committee in August, and that it was refunded in September, and one of his firms made an rather large loan of $570,000 to the committee. As with the loan from the LA gay center, the CA Secretary of State's web site gives no information on the Williamson load being repaid by the No on 8 committee.

But the matter of repayment is not my chief concern here. My point is that Kors and Williamson are healthily endowed with money, and they spread it around during political campaigns, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. After all, the gay community prides itself on our rich diversity and gay millionaires have a role to play in our quest for full legal equality and social respect.

Just don't try and force me to swallow gay millionaires Kors and Williamson as the best and the brightest of California's gay strategists. They're model GWMs, gays with money, and their wealth is a contributing factor that helps to understand why Equality California doesn't advocate for lower-income gays.

If Equality California gave a damn about non-wealthy gays, it would call for restoration of the state's renter's reimbursement program that was eliminated in October and affected thousands of gay seniors and disabled people on fixed-incomes.

(Photo caption: Kors, on the left; Williamson, in light shirt.)

From the SF Chron's Prop 8 search engine:

Contributor nameWilliamson Capital, Lp
CitySan Francisco
State or countryCA
Payment typeLoan
Transaction date10/20/2008
Committee nameNo On 8 - Equality California

Contributor nameJames Williamson
OccupationInvestment Manager
CitySan Francisco
State or countryCA
Payment typeMonetary
Transaction date8/4/2008
Committee nameNo On 8 - Equality California

Contributor nameJames Williamson
OccupationInvestment Manager
CitySan Francisco
State or countryCA
Payment typeMonetary
Transaction date9/29/2008
Committee nameNo On 8 - Equality California


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SF Weekly: Prop 8 Town Hall
Could Get Ugly

Oh, puh-leeze. The SF Weekly thinks the February 26 Prop 8 meeting may get ugly because of me?

The ugliness of a terrible, closeted ballot campaign, the flushing of $43-45 million gay dollars the toilet, the loss of marriage equality in California, the obscene length of time it took for San Francisco A-gays to hold a town hall meeting are matters that simply refuse to go away.

And it isn't as if lots, and I mean hundreds, of people haven't said to me, and in general, "stop looking back and criticizing the mistakes. Our leaders were accountable in LA and Denver; no need for more accountability in SF. Focus on the future."

But despite all those naysayers, a simple open forum about the Prop 8 mess and the stench of the aftermath is finally going to happen, and it isn't because I've relentlessly demanded a meeting. If it were just me being pushy about a forum here, the February 26 town hall at Civic Center auditorium wouldn't be happening.

In addition to questioning what I may say or do next week, I wish the SF Weekly took the time to ask the A-gays organizing the meeting they evolved from no desire for it to now pulling out some of the stops to organize and promote the meeting and make it a success?

I say some of the stops, because if you look at the calendar for Equality California, the group that put on the LA summit last month and will gear up its machinery every time Geoff Kors wants to remind the community that he is somehow relevant, you'll see the February 26 forum is not listed
. Did I mention EQCA has not issued an announcement about the meeting?

Click here to see that Kate Kendell's National Center for Lesbian Rights is following EQCA's lead and not putting out a release for the meeting. If anyone has seen a release from gay politicos Dufty, Ammiano or Leno, all who will be at the forum, kindly share those releases to me. I can't locate them.

On the other hand, the mainstream corporate media heterosexual alternative paper the SF Weekly, is doing more to get the word, um, out about the forum than the leaden gay advocacy professionals and gay elected officials combined. Harvey Milk must look down from heaven, see this complacency from the A-gays, and weep.

From the SF Weekly:

Town Hall Meeting to Address Prop 8
SNAFU Could Get Ugly

by Ashley Harrell

Almost four months after voters stripped gays of their right to marry in California, a Town Hall-style meeting addressing what went wrong will finally happen. Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and Senator Mark Leno will all apparently be there, as will ball-busting gay blogger and activist Michael Petrelis, who has spent a whole lot of time castigating the architects of the No on 8 campaign. ...

Then said he hoped the executive committee, which included Kors, would spend the next year sweeping the streets of gay neighborhoods and participating in other acts of penance for wasting $45 million on losing gays the right to marry. Yep. This meeting could get very interesting.

It happens Thursday, February 26th, between 6:30 and 9 p.m. at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Pollster David Binder will present findings on the vote, and Cynthia Laird, the editor of the Bay Area Reporter, will lead the discussion. Apparently, she'll be ensuring accountability and objectivity, whatever the hell that means.

LA Gay Center: $1M Prop 8 Loan

Was For Ads, Repaid in Full

Before I get into the meat of this post, I first want to give a shout-out to the media office at the Los Angeles gay community center, and, today, in particular, a public thanks to Thomas Soule from that office.

This morning, I emailed a few questions about a $1 million loan from the center to the No on 8 committee, both about the terms of it and if center programs were affected, and within hours I received what I wanted: a brief, but detailed, answer. Click here to read my original post about the sizable loan.

Let me also say that in my dealings with the LA gay center since the Prop 8 loss, despite my sometimes withering criticism directed at the leaders, the press office has acted in a professional manner. For that, I praise them. And not just because I want answers to my personal questions, but because I see the center making a genuine effort to provide accountability and transparency, to at least this blogger.

This rapid turnaround from the center puts the executive director and communications staff at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to shame. It's been more than a week since I emailed a few simple questions about the all-white people in NGLTF ads for its upcoming Winter Party fundraiser in Miami, and despite numerous calls and emails, no reply from the progressive gay group. Rea Carey's assistant, Julie Childs, last week told me a reply was coming before the holiday weekend. A promise not kept, but enough digressing.

All that being said, it's fascinating that even though the No on 8 campaign was raking in unprecedented millions in contributions, the campaign still needed extra dough in the final week. I was wrong in thinking our side had enough bucks at the end of the election. Also, interesting that Gill Action Fund executive Patrick Guerriero, who was on, ahem, loan to the No on 8 committee, didn't secure the loan from his boss, Tim Gill.

I sure would someday like to know more details about what went down in final days of the campaign, but for right now, I'm pleased with answers about the LA center's loan.

Without further comment, here is the statement from center:

The loan was to enable the campaign to make media buys in the final week of the campaign.

The campaign had projected that it would be receiving sufficient funds to cover the cost of the ad buys, but the funds would not actually be received in time to make the buys (as television stations require payment in advance for such advertising).

Patrick Guerriero requested that the Center make a very short term loan to the campaign of $1 million.

The Center board of directors approved the loan to be made by a draw on the Center’s credit line and it was made on October 28.

As agreed, half of this was repaid 3 days later and the other half was repaid a week after that.

No services or Center operations were impacted.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

LA Gay Center's $1 Million Loan to No on 8:

Was it Paid Back?

There seems to have been only one loan to the losing No on 8 committee, and made only six-days before the election.

Since I'm not a campaign expert, I don't know if it's odd that a committee in the closing week of an election gets an enormous lending of money from a non-profit, but this loan sticks out, if only because of its size.

I'm very surprised the LA gay community center is rich enough to extend such a large amount of cash to a political campaign, and I also wonder how much good $1 million could do in terms of housing subsidies for gay seniors, disabled persons and people with HIV/AIDS.

Mighty curious to know if the load was repaid, and if so, when. Come a return to business for the LA center on Tuesday, I'll be in touch with them to get more details on the loan.

From Debra Bowen, the California Secretary of State, and her department's web site:



NYC Protest to Mayor:
Gay Sex Stings = 'Blow' to Liberty

Thanks to Joe Jervis of the site, for lots of photos and a report, and the Associated Press' account, I have some info to share on today's demonstration at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's private home.

From the AP wire story, which apparently was written before the protest took place:

Gay New Yorkers staged a protest near Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home Saturday, asking him to stop police from what they say are arrests on false prostitution charges.

"This is a strange, weird kind of thing, where an undercover police officer is offering to pay money to an individual," said Bill Dobbs, a gay activist. "And all of a sudden, there's an arrest -- whether or not the individual accepts the money."

He said police have targeted Manhattan shops that sell erotic materials, approaching male customers and offering them sex and money. The men are then arrested on prostitution charges. ...

Dobbs helped organize the demonstration near Bloomberg's home on East 79th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. Police stood guard outside the mayor's home and set up barricades on Fifth Avenue to contain several dozen activists. ...

"The city is using gay men as a means to shutter places," said Dobbs, who is an attorney. "This is a blow to civil liberties, it's a dangerous kind of sting." ...

While the JoeMyGod report clearly is an after-the-fact report on what went down:

Today a group of LGBT rights and sexual freedom activists gathered just down the block from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Upper East Side mansion to protest the false arrests of gay men in NYC's adult bookshops. Robert Pinter, a victim of this campaign, gave interviews to a number of local and national newsmedia outlets as two dozen gay men marched with placards denouncing Bloomberg and the NYPD.

On hand were a number of familiar LGBT activists: Brendan Fay, Gilbert Baker, Ann Northrop, Father Tony, Eric Leven, John Weis and journalists Andy Humm and Duncan Osbourne. It was Osbourne's relentless pursuit of this story that brought the entire illegal campaign to light.

A super-huge shout-out to our brothers and sisters who staged and participated in this important demonstration for sexual freedom, especially since it's so cold back East. Thanks guys, for the great job!

Here is a fabulous video of the action. It was made by Louis Flores. Big thanks, Louis, for the YouTube:

[Photo credit: Joe Jervis.]

Gucci Gays v. Goodwill Gays:

Separate Agendas

There are two Gay Americas, divided primarily over economic issues, with separate agendas.

The latest stark example of these two Gay Americas is the matter of the $350 per-ticket price for Equality California's gala dinner at San Francisco's City Hall tonight, featuring this year's Amanda Bearse, remember her?, Wanda Sykes as the emcee.

To digress for a moment, I am amazed that the group's nincompoop chief, Geoff Kors, who royally botched the No on 8 campaign, has the gall to price his tickets so high and on top of that, Gucci Gays, are shelling out the bucks to be at the gala.

On the other side of Gay America, where Goodwill Gays reside, $350 is considered a lot of dough and not best spent on a single night's entertainment, with the proceeds going to an incompetent advocacy organization that rarely focuses on economic issues.

That $350 amount was the figure of what the California's annual renters reimbursement program gave back to senior citizens, the blind and disabled persons who are low-economic status and rent their housing.

In October of last year, when the state legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger finally cobbled together a long-overdue crisis-driven budget, the reimbursement program was eliminated. This cut directly affected thousands of gay seniors and disabled citizens, including persons with AIDS.

From the Franchise Tax Board's web site:

The state budget approved for the 2008/2009 fiscal year deleted funding for the Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program. Since there is no funding in the state budget for this program, 2008 claims cannot be paid or processed.

Of course, not a peep of protest from Kors or EQCA, a group that sends out a release at the drop of hat to keep themselves in the news and relevant. No part of the EQCA machinery was activated on behalf of gay Californians who lost the yearly reimbursement, to many one month's rent, even to express concern for gay housing rights.

Fortunately, longtime queer progressive and tenant's rights advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and his allies, banded together to oppose the cut. The Bay Area Reporter, which was the only news outlet to cover this story, brought much-needed attention to the cut and how it hit some gay people:

The rebate gave $150 million to the elderly and the disabled across the state, including people living with AIDS, to defray housing costs. Housing advocates fear more drastic cuts in the next round of budget negotiations.

A rally is planned for next week. ...

The cut concerns the LGBT community, as people living with AIDS will see a series of small reductions in their incomes this year, including Medicaid cuts and no cost of living increase, said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling services at the Housing Rights Committee.

"We are looking at people who need every cent they can get to keep alive," Avicolli Mecca said.

The cuts in the renter's rebate will also affect LGBT seniors, who are "just as poor as any senior," Avicolli Mecca noted.

James Nykolay, 60, who's living with AIDS and has been living on disability since 1998, told the Bay Area Reporter that even the smallest cut has a dramatic impact on his fixed budget. The renters rebate gave Nykolay an extra $350 a year. ...

When he got the letter informing him that his renter's rebate was cut, Nykolay immediately stopped buying the vitamin supplements he'd been using throughout his cancer treatments, which he credits with bolstering his immune system. He's trying to save all of the money he can in preparation for further cuts. ...

"We cross all lines," Avicolli Mecca said. "A lot of issues that don't seem to be gay issues are." ...

Kors wasn't quoted in the story, but I'm sure the BAR would have included something from him, if EQCA had issued a statement, but the cut simply didn't impact him or the Gucci Gays who keep him in business.

According to public records, Kors and his partner James Williamson live in the Marina district, and real estate documents from 2006 show that the property they own was purchased for $3,275,000.

If a Gucci Gay leader is paying that much to own his home, it's don't difficult to understand the reasons why he isn't concerned with the housing needs and economic pressures of gay renters.

In these hard times, let's not forget the Goodwill Gays, their needs and admirable advocates for them/us, especially Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feb 14 Gay Sex Arrests Protest
at Bloomberg's Home

Gays in the New York City area are urged to make it to this important demo. Bloomberg's cops have been targeting consenting males in sex venues for false arrests and a lot of pissed off sex activists and civil libertarians will be there. You should be too. There's been far too little gay focus on sexual freedom issues for way too long a time.

Like millions of gays and our allies, I've been in the streets demanding marriage equality, but I can't think of the last occasion when I stood up for sexual liberties. And make no mistake about it: Gay sex in NYC is under surveillance and sexual happiness is on my gay agenda.

How about your gay agenda? Does it include getting up off our knee pads and standing up for the right to pursue sex in a public venue without police entrapment? I sure hope so.

If you're in Manhattan on Valentine's Day, stop by Mike Bloomberg's home and join in solidarity with all the other fine people who'll be there.

Here's the info from the official flyer:

Mayor Bloomberg:
Stop the False Arrests of Gay Men for Prostitution!


Where: 17 East 79th Street

When: Saturday, February 14, 2009

Time: 12 Noon – 1 PM

In an overzealous and illegal effort to close down adult video stores in Manhattan, the New York Police Department has been found to be engaging in the false arrests of gay male patrons of these stores, charging them with prostitution. The cops then cite the establishments for condoning illegal activity and the City sues to shut them down as public nuisances.

Scores of innocent men have been swept up in these false arrests, documented in the Gay City News. Young undercover cops go up to middle-aged gay men, cruise them, ask for consensual sex, and then offer to pay the older men to have sex with them. Though none of the men agree to the offer, they are then arrested by a gang of undercover cops and put through the system. None of the men have prior arrests. And while only 17% of male prostitutes arrested Citywide are over 40 years old, 66 percent of the men arrested at these targeted video stores are. The legitimacy of these arrests is inconceivable.

These false arrests have been condemned by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Member Rosie Mendez and State Senator Tom Duane. Mayor Bloomberg must put a stop to these arrests now and bring the rogue cops engaging in these crimes to justice.


1. MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Stop the false arrests of gay men for prostitution now!

2. GOVERNOR PATERSON: Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate these crimes by the police.

3. The Mayor, Police Commissioner Kelly and District Attorney Morgenthau must sit down with gay groups and individuals now to get to the bottom of this outrage and stop the arrests now!

Sponsored by the Coalition to Stop the Arrests

For more information call Robert Pinter at 212-674-3495, or send email to: stopthearrests (at) aol (dot) com.

Tranny Inmate Raped by
Cellmates Can Sue Guards

I almost missed this article by longtime court and legal reporter Bob Egelko in the SF Chronicle this morning because it was buried on the State News page, surrounded by wire stories.

The problem of sexual assaults in county lockups and federal penitentiaries across America is usually dismissed with a few offensive wisecracks, and a snickering "well, what do you expect" attitude.

I'm writing this post in a small effort to shine some gay blogger attention on the court ruling, and call on gay male and transgender legal advocates to keep informed on cases that uphold or expand protections for inmates at-risk for or experiencing sexual violence, and for gay legal eagles to offer up an opinion on this case.

To learn more about the problem of rape and other forms of sexual bashing in prison, and what is being done to address it, click here and visit the Just Detention web site.

From the Chronicle today:

The state Supreme Court allowed a transgender former prison inmate on Wednesday to proceed with a lawsuit accusing prison guards of failing to protect her from being raped and beaten by her cellmates.

In her suit, Alexis Giraldo said she was being held at Folsom State Prison for shoplifting and a parole violation in January 2006 when a cellmate began assaulting and raping her on a daily basis. She said prison staff ignored her complaints until March 2006, when she was transferred to segregated housing after a second cellmate attacked her with a box-cutter. She was paroled in July 2007.

Prison officials denied failing to protect Giraldo, who was housed at the all-male prison because she had not undergone surgery. A San Francisco jury rejected her emotional-distress claim against six prison employees in August 2007 after the trial judge dismissed her claim of negligence, ruling that guards have no legal duty to protect inmates from harm. ...

Let's stop here for a moment and consider that last part, about the guards are not lawfully bound to stop violations on inmates, of any gender, by another inmate. That's an illogical decision. If it isn't the guard's duty, we as a society are saying it's okay to allow abuse of prisoners while they pay their debt to society. Sexual assault is not part of one's sentence.

Back to the decision yesterday for Alexis Giraldo. In my book, this is a laudable court ruling and I wish her the best in her lawsuit. All prisoners deserve protection from jailhouse predators.

Over at the, Mike McKee looks at some of the larger ramifications of Giraldo's suit moving forward:

Michele Kane, a public information officer for the Department of Corrections, wasn’t sure what the immediate impact of the court’s denial might be. But she said it probably wouldn’t change the agency’s mission.

"Our primary concern is to provide a safe and secure environment for all inmates," she said today. "CDC considers numerous factors when considering inmate placement. Being transgender doesn’t necessarily warrant a special housing assignment."

Among the factors taken into account, Kane said, are a person’s mental health, medical needs and safety concerns. "And that includes transgender inmates."

Giraldo’s attorney, Gregory Walston of San Francisco, didn’t return a call.

Monday, February 09, 2009

SF Finally Holds Prop 8 Town Hall:
Miracle Meeting on Feb 26

It will be nearly four long months since San Francisco gays lost the right to gay marriage, but the city is finally going to have a town hall later this month.

Why it's taken so long can only be chalked up to the calcified and closeted ways of the political leaders in San Francisco who delivered the crappy No on 8 campaign, and then did everything to avoid any sort of public forum to address accountability concerns.

I notice that Supervisor Dufty believes there will be a tremendous turnout, so he's secured the cavernous Graham Civic Auditorium to hold the expected large crowd.

Let's hope at least one hour is set aside for nothing other than public comments from the community. Sure, it will be nice to get the professional A-gays running the movement these days to speak with the rest of us, but I'm more interested in making sure they hear what us Goodwill-shopping D-list gays have to say about the Prop 8 campaign and need for better leadership.

Do not forget the months of demands for such a forum from just a handful of people that has finally brought about what should be a regular occurrance here - public gay community meetings.

Here is the announcement from Dufty that hit my in-box this afternoon:


Thanks for your e-mail message, asking that I write rather than speak by phone.

Last week, there was an evening discussion led by Andrea Shorter and Shum Preston with Kate Kendell and Geoff Kors following up on the Los Angeles Forum. Kimberly Alvarenga from Assemblymember Ammiano's office also attended.

Although I came late because of other meetings, there was discussion about the desire to have a forum in San Francisco about the No on 8 campaign.

It was suggested that Thursday, February 26th would be a good date, since it falls one week before the Supreme Court hearing on the case to overturn Proposition 8.

I offered to secure a venue that could expand in response to interest. I did not want to use the LGBT Center that could easily become overcrowded. It is my belief that a large number of people will attend.

So I have secured Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on 2/26 from 6:00-9:00 p.m., expecting that the program would begin at 6:30 p.m.

Cynthia Laird is willing to serve as a moderator/facilitator -- I would like there to be clear objectivity in leading this important discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the No on 8 campaign, as well as principles going forward with any future campaign.

In addition to Kate and Geoff, Steve Smith has confirmed his attendance and David Binder will come to present his findings analyzing the vote and other factors.

It is important to me that there also be meaningful preparatory work, looking at the recently released No on 8 financial report and any other relevant analysis that can inform the discussion.

If you are willing to help me with any aspects of this planning, research and mobilization -- I would welcome your insight, direction and leadership.

I have called this a Community Building Town Hall with principles of open access to information, mutual accountability and a shared commitment on how we move forward. I have spoken with Mark Leno, who plans to be with us and Tom Ammiano, through his staff.

It is my hope to put information up on Facebook and through other means within the next 24-48 hours. EQCA and NCLR will also be publicizing this Forum.

Feel free to either e-mail me or call me.