to Receive ACT Degree
President Obama will hold a town hall meeting on May 11 in conjunction with CBS News on the economy and I've lost count of how many such forums he's held, either as a candidate or since moving into the White House. One thing no one can criticize Obama for is lack of town halls. The same cannot be said about out gay California state Senator Mark Leno.
Whenever I've asked Leno staffers why he's never held a town hall meeting, they say he's simply way too busy grappling with the perennial state budget crisis. The tone of their answers is always one of umbrage that he should find the time to organize regular public meetings with constituents, when he is so devoted to solving fiscal problems.
Leno will be taking time away from his budgetary work on May 21 to accept an honorary degree from the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco. This is just the kind of event he loves. A great photo-op with happy and smiling people, no chance for constituents to ask hard questions and a local cultural institution is left with warm fuzzies linked to Leno.
According to the ACT announcement, Leno had this to say regarding his symbolic degree:
Although I am not an actor, I am indeed a theater fan. Your recognition of me with this honorary M.F.A. will be treasured for a lifetime. ...
What would be an additional treasure for the voters of San Francisco is if this state senator finally emulated the fine example of President Obama and Congressmembers who consistently hold open meetings.
If Leno can find the time to accept honorary degrees, speak at Equality California galas, schmooze at open bar nights in the Castro for the Bay Area Reporter, and appear at countless civic events where he speaks for a few minutes before splitting, he should be also be able to allocate time for town halls of his own.
I won't be at all surprised if at the May 19 gay marriage town hall EQCA is hosting at the SF gay community center, Leno makes welcoming remarks touting his legislative work and praising attendees for showing up, then doesn't stick around to listen to what community members have to say and certainly not make himself available for questions or criticism.
Back in February 2009, after I spent four months screaming and demanding that the No on 8 campaign leaders hold a public forum here, an audience of 400 attended a town hall meeting at which Leno opened the session and then left. Back then, according to a BAR story, Leno singled me out for my leadership making the meeting a reality:
But local blogger Michael Petrelis, who Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) acknowledged from the stage for pushing for the forum to happen, decried the fact that the current "'I Do' support the freedom to marry" campaign – organized by the Equality California Institute's Let California Ring campaign – doesn't make it clear that the campaign is about same-sex marriage. ...
How much longer must San Francisco voters wait before Leno finally holds his first-ever town hall meeting, and why did he not learn from the well-attended February 2009 meeting that his constituents hunger for public forums?
Sorry to say, but Leno desperately needs to get with the democratic engagement events agenda necessary for a healthy relationship between a politician of any sexual orientation and the voters. Only queens un-accountable to their subjects refuse to hold town halls.