Thursday, March 25, 2010

HRC's Legislative Director Came to SF and ...

Allison Herwitt, who serves as the legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign and earned $163,891 last year, like her boss Joe Solmonese, came to professional gay advocacy after working on abortion. She was the governmental director for NARAL. Solmonese was at EMILY's List for 11-years. Herwitt's background, on a highly controversial issue, could serve her very well in pushing gay rights on Capital Hill.

Yesterday I learned that Herwitt had been in San Francisco last weekend for a panel discussion at the one-day annual Givers and Shaker's meeting, organized by the Horizons Foundation. Deb Stallings from that org shared more info with me:

With regards to Givers and Shakers, I’ll attach to this email some info about the event. You’ll see that the morning plenary featured not only Ms. Herwitt but other leaders of the LGBT movement as well. [...]

I will also let you know when the audio files are available. To be honest it probably won’t be as soon as I would like since our communications person is out of the office on family leave, but we’ll get them up just as soon as we can. I hope you - and others - will find the information interesting.

This is the info on the panel held on Saturday:


Matt Coles, Project Director, ACLU LGBT and AIDS Project
Allison Herwitt, Legislative Director, Human Rights Campaign
Russell Roybal, Dep. Executive Director of External Relations, NGLTF
LĂ©onie Walker, Advisor, National Civil Marriage Collaborative

MODERATOR: Roberta Achtenberg,
Trustee, California State University

I have no problem with Horizons Foundation putting on the event, nor do I object to charging folks $50 to attend. I'm very much looking forward to listening to the discussion, once the audio is made available to the community on the web.

What I do have a concern with is that Herwitt and HRC apparently made no effort whatsoever to also stage their own panel discussion, or town hall meeting, open to the full breadth of the Bay Area's vast and diverse gay community.

In particular, it would have been engaging on so many levels, especially here in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district, if we had heard from Herwitt about HRC's agenda with her, and how we, her constituents, could apply pressure on her and move our legislative gay agenda forward through the Speaker.

Here it is 2010, there is significant gay and progressive community impatience to see DADT lifted and ENDA passed, a ravenous hunger for true leadership from HRC executives and lobbyists, and an overwhelming desire to see some of our national problems solved through Congressional and White House action.

Yet, what I see is boring and ineffective HRC business as usual. When was the last time any top leader from HRC came to San Francisco and made a genuine effort to outreach, engage and mobilize the local community? And I don't mean showing up for a basically private chat that costs money, or for the annual HRC dinner.

If HRC and Herwitt had an inkling about motivating the community and truly moving us beyond the in-fighting and attacks on them, they would put some muscle into creating new ways of interacting with the community out here.

Why are the words "community engagement" not an integral part of HRC's lexicon?

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