Saturday, October 23, 2010

E. Bay Gay Leader Wants 
to Sway SF Castro Supe Race

Dana Van Gorder lives in Emeryville. For the past two decades he has not paid taxes or voted in San Francisco, where he is not a resident. Click here and here for verification of his East Bay residency. And the fact that he doesn't live here is omitted from his latest letter to the Bay Area Reporter this week, about the race for the Castro's seat on the SF Board of Supervisors.

Van Gorder is backing former Human Rights Campaign board member Scott Wiener in the District 8 race, and he now heads the HIV treatment org Project Inform. Of Wiener's qualifications, he wrote:

But I have worked most closely with Wiener over the years, and know that his values and politics compel him to assure the highest possible response to this ongoing epidemic [...] Wiener has been a strong supporter of LGBT youth, including in his role helping to build the LGBT Community Center [...]

The BAR doesn't list his city of residence, as it does with practically every other letter-writer. Van Gorder is IDed only as executive director of Project Inform, as if that is where he lives. I asked BAR editor Cynthia Laird to explain their ID rules on letters. She said:

With the letters, our general policy is that for executive directors of organizations, I list their title and agency, as I did with Dana this week. Other examples of that, from a quick review I did, include the executive director of the Castro CBD (letter 7/15/10); Milk Club leaders' letter (8/26/10); PAWS President letter (9/23/10).

Okay, but why not add two things, Emeryville and CA, to Van Gorder's letter? And why exempt executive directors from providing their city of residence when getting a letter published in the BAR? In other words, have a policy that applies equally to all letter-writers.

Prior to becoming leader of Project Inform, Van Gorder was the key mover behind the SF gay community center. During his tenure as gay liaison within the SF Department of Public Health, his main goal was the center, even though there was little clamoring for one.

With the center largely rejected by ordinary SF gays since it opened, and financial troubles derailing the center, the BAR in March 2008 wrote:

"Queer youth and newcomers to San Francisco need a rich resource to help them build community in healthy ways," [Van Gorder] wrote. "In study after study, gay men, at least, describe their feelings of isolation and a lack of a sense of community. And yet the center is always somewhat starved financially in the midst of enormous community assets."

The BAR omitted the relevant info that he doesn't live here, yet he's a supposed expert on what SF gays need to build community. Allow me to digress and point out that Van Gorder, who as head of an HIV treatment org ought to know better, cites studies about the alleged isolation and other problems of SF gays that are the reasons why a center is needed. He has never produced _any_ these studies.

Then in March 2009, with more dire fiscal news for the center, the BAR again contacted him:

"I worry, of course, about their financial situation. From my perspective, the center has always been underfunded by the community," said Van Gorder. [...]

"In a community like San Francisco's LGBT community with the resources, creativity, and needs we have, I am perplexed that people don't gravitate toward the center more to really help it to thrive," said Van Gorder.

Again, the BAR leaves out a crucial factor: Van Gorder doesn't live here and really does not have the pulse of what local gays want. He and his A-Gay pals decided behind closed doors in the late 1990s that SF simply had to have a center, whether we wanted one or not. The project was more about Democratic Party patronage at the local and state levels.

In 2008 San Francisco was swept up in a controversy over a Board of Supervisors member named Ed Jew, who among his many faults, actually lived in Burlingame, not the Sunset district. He not only broke residency laws for elected positions, but was also taking bribes and is now serving time in a penitentiary.

It's just one more example of people who don't live in San Francisco having undue influence over local politics and programs for those of us who do reside here.

The BAR should start to inform readers that Van Gorder lives in Emeryville, every time he is quoted or they print a letter from him about anything to do with San Francisco. At the same time, us locals should insist that only people who live, pay taxes and vote here be allowed to make important decisions about the direction of local issues.

1 comment:

Veronika Cauley said...

Great Job Michael! You are correct, and standards should be for everyone across the board when submitting "letters to the editor!" Until I read your Petrelis Files, I always thought that Dana lived here!