Tuesday, July 05, 2011

EQCA's Palencia Pushes AT&T-backed Gala; 
Mute on Safety-Net Cuts

Today is Roland Palencia's first day on the job as the new executive director of Equality California. It's also the fifth day since Social Security and Medi-Cal cuts went into effect for thousands of gay seniors, disabled folks and low-income people.

Let the record show that on his first day, the initial press release from EQCA quoting the new boss was about an AT&T-sponsored gala money-maker for the group, where Adam Lambert and Facebook will receive awards of dubious merit:

Presented by AT&T, the awards are set to take place Saturday, August 13 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. “We’re thrilled to honor Adam Lambert and Facebook whose work has been a catalyst for social change and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality,” said Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia. “Their courage and leadership in entertainment and social media have helped Californians become more supportive of LGBT rights.” ...

More like he's thrilled the fundraising machine marches on to pay his salary. New boss, same old Gay Inc crapola of keeping EQCA in business. It's very telling where Palencia's priorities are today - with a corporate sponsor, an out singer who will get folks to open the checkbooks and getting cozy with a web giant.

What about the thousands of gays and people with AIDS who are contending with cutbacks to their health care and safety-net, while the cost of public transit, rent and basic necessities rise? EQCA has nothing to say.

The second EQCA release of the day addresses the State Assembly passing a gay education bill, mandating teaching about LGTB history, SB 48, that now goes on to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration. On the surface, this is a small advance for gays, but let's look a bit closer at issues surrounding the bill.

First of all, EQCA's gushing release omits the very salient fact that the vote was along party lines. To learn that you have to read the AP wire story. Why is this important? After the historic bipartisan support and votes that legalized gay marriage in New York last month, it doesn't say much good about SB 48's legislative sponsor Mark Leno and EQCA that they couldn't get Republicans to vote for the bill.

Second, recall how EQCA/Leno touted the supposed educational benefits of enacting a day of special recognition honoring Harvey Milk on his birthday, and that the annual recognition would engender teaching about his life and legacy in the schools. Harvey Milk Day has turned out to be a fundraising ploy for EQCA, and an excuse for gay politicians to show up at Harvey's old camera store and making another speech.

Third point is the lack of community engagement from EQCA/Leno over the bill. No town halls were held educating and mobilizing the community about it, no effort organized to send letters to lawmakers or get us to appear at Sacramento hearings. EQCA/Leno only engaged nonprofits and not the larger community.

Fourth, the same old fear of the grassroots and EQCA/Leno also kept us in the dark about hearings and today's vote. Who knew in advance that the assemby would vote on the bill today? Did EQCA/Leno really think it best to not inform of when the hearings and vote were happening on state government TV, so we could all tune in for the debate?

There is not a single YouTube video from EQCA/Leno about any of the hearings leading up to today's vote, but our opponents at the Traditional Values Coalition sure know how to take advantage of videos to keep their supporters informed and engaged on SB 48.

Color me skeptical about Palencia, EQCA and Leno soon getting around to addressing the SSI and Medi-Cal cuts. If they are capable of juggling their corporate sponsors' needs for publicity, keeping the money flowing into their coffers, passing bills that garner only Democratic support and helping low-income gays hurting today, I've not seen proof of it.

The folks at AT&T must be so pleased that Palencia today hit the ground running for them. Troup Coronado may be gone from EQCA's board, but AT&T having more influence of the group than low-income gays remains the same as it ever way.

(Photo credit: Karen Ocamb's LGBT POV site.)

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