Saturday, November 30, 2013

BAR: World AIDS Day, Executive Pay & Profiteer Dan Pallotta

(Credit: Ben Sklar, the New York Times.)

Kudos to Bay Area Reporter editor Cynthia Laird for her column this week marking the observance of 25 years of World AIDS Day commemorations, and with too much blather from AIDS Inc soliciting sympathy and donations all over social media and print outlets, for throwing a cold bucket of water on all the warm fuzzies for December 1st.

Think twice before donating to any AIDS organization, look at their IRS 990s over a few years, question why compensation packages are so high and ask how satisfied are people with HIV and AIDS with how the group handles their revenue.

Cynthia reminds us that for too long, two major nonprofits stonewalled opening the books on the California AIDS Rides put on by profiteer (and proud of it), Dan Pallotta, and once the truth came out, only after years of dogged reporting by the BAR, POZ magazine and Philadelphia Gay News, we all learned how the biggest beneficiary of the rides was Pallotta. My post earlier this month on Pallotta in the New York Times boasting of being a profiteer but not a queen, is here.

Read the full BAR editorial and share it far and wide, please:

Some people never change or fade away: Dan Pallotta is back, seeking to profit by preaching his flawed management gospel to the nonprofit world through a new organization, the Charity Defense Council. Local nonprofit executives should run for the hills – quick! 

Pallotta, a gay man, made his name in the 1990s through the California AIDS Ride and other massive fundraising treks like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Eventually it became obvious over the years that the AIDS Ride in particular began to line Pallotta's pockets with increasing fees at the expense of the charities. [...] 

He created this new entity [the Charity Defense Council] to enrich himself by doing what he knows best: priming charities to believe in his flawed fundraising model in order to sign them up as future clients. Nonprofits shouldn't give him $1 to support his outdated, inefficient, ineffective, and failed organizational philosophy. [...] 

Pallotta talks about how when he was doing major fundraising his ego was bruised because other wealthier people his age were driving BMWs and taking European vacations. "There are things you are not able to afford," he said. "It makes you envious. It makes you wonder, 'Do I really want to give up all of those things in the name of helping other people?'" Um, yes, Dan, you do. [...] 

[We] continue to see in the HIV/AIDS field, as well as plenty of other organizations that cater to the LGBT community and nonprofits in general [that executive salaries . In our view, six-figure salaries are rarely warranted for nonprofits that don't have multimillion-dollar budgets. [...] Some AIDS organizations have reduced client services in recent years yet salaries have stayed the same or increased in the executive suite. [...] 

This World AIDS Day, the 25th annual observance of an epidemic that wiped out a generation of gay men and continues to ravage communities around the globe, let's think about that.
NYer Mag Nostalgic for AIDS Plague Era of S.F. Gays Dropping Like Flies

(NYC DOH's most recent HIV/AIDS stats document drops in new diagnoses, as shown in the light blue line on the right. Source: NYC DOH Epi Division.)

Tomorrow is Sunday, December 1, which is World AIDS Day and that means it's time for bashing gay men, young ones in particular, and shoveling doom-and-gloom reports and statistics down people's throats, and generally failing to acknowledge advances since the 1980s and the valor of longtime AIDS survivors.

Writer Michael Specter of the New Yorker magazine has penned a prime example of the kind of World AIDS Day essay editors and directors of HIV prevention groups and researchers adore, titled "What young gay men don't know about AIDS".

Using the latest CDC behavioral statistics about sexual liaisons between young gay men, alleging lots of anal sex without condoms, the New York Times started the ball rolling for Specter with a story full of fear from federal health officials. If there has ever been a World AIDS Day where the CDC and the Times reported a single damn good thing done by gay men in the twenty-five years of using December 1 to call attention to the epidemic, please send me links to proof of such reporting.

I'm not saying there is no reason to be concerned about HIV transmissions in any population, but when health authorities and the press annually cry AIDS wolf and the umpteenth second wave of the plague, the alarmist message is tuned out. And yes, there is a vital need to acknowledge the historical and current contributions of homosexuals in controlling and contending with AIDS.

From the start of his essay, Specter is out to remind us of what he saw during the plague years with a nostalgic air hanging over his every word:

I used to keep a picture on my desk, taken on Castro Street, in 1983, at the moment when it seemed as if gay life in San Francisco was ending forever. There were two men in the photograph: the first, tall and gaunt, was leaning over the other, who was in a wheelchair, tucking a blanket around what little was left of the wasted man. [...]

The Castro was lined with thirty-year-old men who walked, when they could, with canes or by leaning on the arms of their slightly healthier lovers and friends. Wheelchairs filled the sidewalks. San Francisco had become a city of cadavers.

Yes, those were horrible years and the dying all around us was a terrible thing to bear witness to and fight against, but what does this heavy-handed emotional look back have to do with reaching young gay men today and why does Specter think such dramatic language will have meaning for young gays?

Specter goes on to cite more history and drop a few names before raising the issue of gay anal sex and data:

In 2002, while writing a Profile of Larry Kramer, the dark prophet of the American AIDS epidemic, I spoke to Tony Kushner, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his brilliant play about that time, “Angels in America.” [...]

“Unprotected anal intercourse is in a league of its own as far as risk is concerned,’’ he said. Three decades of data demonstrate the truth of that statement. If unprotected anal intercourse is rising among gay men—a trend noted not just in America but in much of the Western world—the rates of HIV infection will surely follow. 

(New York State epi report shows drops in new HIV cases over a nine-year period. Source: New York State AIDS Institute.)

There is no argument from me about the risks of contracting HIV through anal sex without a penile or anal condom, but the most recent data from the New York City Department of Health about new HIV diagnoses shows a decline has been underway since 2001. This statement of Specter's is simply not borne out by the NYC or San Francisco HIV statistics and if he has data to back up his claim, we all should see it:

Then people began to combine crystal with Viagra, and a new surge of infections began.

What does Specter propose be done today to reverse what he says is a resurgent epidemic? Homosexual historical fear:

Can we halt this epidemic once again? Of course, or at least the dangers can be greatly reduced. [...]

The only appropriate conclusion here is to listen, again, to Larry Kramer’s warning. What was true in 1983 may well become true again. “If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you,’’ he wrote in “1,112 and Counting,” “we are in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage and action, gay men have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get… Unless we fight for our lives we shall die.”

Look, I'm also friends with Larry and love the man and his work as much as the next radical ACT UP member and gay man living with HIV who wants an end to AIDS, but it is wildly irresponsible to suggest what he wrote for the New York Native three decades ago is going to motivate gay men today of any age to don a condom for anal sex.

Reading Specter I heard coded dog-whistle message of nostalgia for the bad old days of gays dropping like flies in San Francisco and New York City and other places. Has he never heard of post- and pre-exposure prophylaxis, and other new methods of HIV prevention?

Specter and everyone else would greatly benefit from reading longtime AIDS survivor Mark S. King's fantastic essay "Stop bludgeoning young gay men with our AIDS tragedy", because he makes so many necessary and realistic points about HIV today and prevention that works:

Plenty of us are more than happy to rob graves, however, in an attempt to frighten gay men into certain behaviors. This kind of horror-by-proxy happens all the time. Concerned that misguided gay men of a certain age hear whatever the latest HIV infection rates are, and the pull out the AIDS Crisis Card.

"If their friends died like mine did, maybe they would think twice before having sex without a condom," goes a typical remark drenched in self-pity and tenuous logic. [...]

The 1980's are history. They are not a prevention strategy.

Michael Specter has a lot to learn from Mark King's wisdom.
Plenty of us are more than happy to rob graves, however, in an attempt to frighten gay men into acceptable behaviors. This kind of horror-by-proxy happens all the time. Concerned but misguided gay men of a certain age hear whatever the latest HIV infection rates are, and they pull the AIDS Crisis Card. “If their friends all died like mine did, maybe they would think twice before having sex without a condom,” goes a typical remark, drenched in self pity and tenuous logic. The 1980′s are history. They are not a prevention strategy. - See more at:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Critiquing the 35th Annual Milk/Moscone Vigil and March

(Bravo to the Eviction = Death banner at the front of the march! Local progressives need to keep an eye on great signage at demonstrations, so that an image does not need a caption for the viewer to see a message. Credit: Liz Highleyman.)

After speaking today with longtime affordable housing advocate and my friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who was key to organizing the November 27 vigil and street protest marking the 35th anniversary of the killing of Harvey Milk and George, I decided to critique the night of events and state what I believe was either good or poor about what I observed from my computer screen and after hearing from folks who were present.

Due to a retraining order exacted as part of a political  vendetta by the District 8 Supervisor, I was unable to attend the events. Regardless of my non-attendance, I believe my observations contain truth that needs to be spoken.

Let's begin with the good news. There was a fantastic and large turnout at 7 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza of LGBT community organizers, political club leaders, a sprinkling of elected and appointed officials, members of the Gay Men's Chorus and ordinary folks. Some estimates peg the number at the plaza and who marched from there down to City Hall near 2,000 and videos and photos show hordes in the streets.

Earlier, the Harvey Milk Foundation held its annual remembrance top-heavy with ambitious queer and straight politicians, with Stuart Milk serving as the host. Other than exploit his uncle's name, Stuart is a very minor actor in the modern gay movement who wouldn't attract nearly as much attention as he does if his family name were any other than Milk.

(Credit: Patrick Connors.)

(Credit: Steve Rhodes.)

(Credit: David Elliot Lewis.)

From all accounts, the community organizers who were allowed mic time at the plaza rally tapped into the fighting spirit of Harvey to decry the years of evictions that have led to a debilitating lack of affordable housing crisis. It pleases me no end that not a single self-serving elected official was invited to speak and that the focus was on San Francisco's greedy gentrification displacing hundreds of longtime residents. Hundreds gathered at the end of the march at City Hall, with candle of hope lighting the darkness.

In the minus column is the lack of signage for individuals to hold up. While the organizers put time and money into creating a decent-enough poster announcing the vigil, which I'm not sure it was wise to put so much effort into that when there was beaucoup free mainstream media and social networking awareness about the Nov. 27 date and round-year anniversary, no comparable effort was made to print up legal-sized message-appropriate signs.

FYI, the Harvey Milk Democratic Club has $4,500 in the bank, according to their latest filing with the Ethics Commission. For $100-$200 bucks they could have created powerful visual message with some printed signs and given individual another way to engage - by holding a candle of help and "Housing for All" signs.

Good to see a few folks created hand-made and readable signs, but imagine if hundreds of people held up small posters saying, Housing For All, and that crucial demand were part of the visual messaging from Wednesday night.

(Credit: Brian Chickpea Busta.)

A chance to hold the elitist 1 percent Human Rights Campaign, which never advocates locally or nationally for affordable housing for queers and remains silent about cuts to the food stamps program, just two example of how they don't contribute to solving economic justice issues for us, was dashed by two of the organizers.

On the Facebook event page, people piped up about how HRC is in bed with a hedge fund vulture and other problems with the group and I thought the criticism might transform into demands made on HRC before engaging with them on the vigil. Why not, say, demand HRC commit to lobby the Mayor and Supervisors for anti-eviction laws or put pro-tenant signs in their windows, something visible and tangle?

Big ego Brian Basinger who operates an AIDS housing organization that does fine work for clients, and a vigil organizer, quickly put an end to that hope. He responded to HRC critics thus:

One of the folks involved reached out to the HRC store and asked if we can use their space to store the collateral. They said yes immediately so he brought the news to the group. We do not have the luxury of time to have our energies redirected into that conversation, so I let it go. I invite everyone to come to the corner of 18th and Castro today to help distribute posters and flyers.

Cleve Jones said:

Many of us have had many issues with HRC over many years. Nonetheless, the local folks who staff the HRC store have offered us their support in this endeavor. It's helpful. 

So, for a crumb of space in their store for the posters Brian and Cleve silence discussion about HRC and woefully mischaracterizes things. It's no luxury to put pressure on HRC at all times. Now that the vigil is over, what assistance do Brian or Cleve or the activist community have in hand from HRC in creating affordable housing for queers?

(Credit: David Elliot Lewis.)

This may be the best news of all, which comes from Steven T. Jones over the Bay Guardian. Some social shunning of the most polarizing San Francisco politician who continually betrays the agenda and legacy of Harvey:

Housing activist Tony Robles, a board member of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, recalled being a student at Mission High School when the news of the assassinations was announced, an event that profoundly affected him. He said they represented “the spirit of community and the spirit of fighting for what is right.”

Robles called out Sup. [redacted], a Milk successor representing the Castro, calling [redacted] unworthy of that legacy, citing [redacted]’s legislation allowing more apartments to be converted to condos and with closing the parks at night. “You were no Harvey Milk when you made that move, brother,” Robles said, closing with this hope: “Let the poetry of Harvey Milk’s struggle live on in the streets of San Francisco.” 

Tommi reports what happened next:

People booed when they heard "supervisor of this district."

Many thanks to all who made the people's vigil and march something to be proud of!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving & Hanukkah, From Us & Grand-Niece Malina

From the home of Mike and Mike, wishing all of you a bountiful and peaceful dual holiday today. We hope you enjoy the great photo of my grand-niece Malina Rose modeling her father Kevin's tennis shoes. Seeing her in such footwear inspired me to buy Malina Rose her first pair of Birkenstock's!

As you can imagine, after an eventful year with legal challenges and health issues to contend, Mike and I have much to be grateful for today and we're still in love with each other and happy. How was your Turkey Day?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

BAR: Candidacy Via Skype for Castro's Supervisor Seat?

(I promise a chicken in every pot, or tofu burgers for vegan voters!)

The Bay Area Reporter's veteran writer Matthew Bajko asked me on Monday about participating in candidate debates leading up to the November 4, 2014, election when I hope to be on the ballot vying for one of the three votes each voter in my district will have, and I hadn't thought about the potential use of Skype.

Makes sense to think of that and other ways of utilizing new media and communication tools to wage my campaign, and since San Francisco is both a hot-bed of new tech wonders not to mention also a bedroom community for Silicon Valley tech workers, it's not inconceivable new methods of engagement will aid in my effort.

My announcement about pulling papers to run for Supervisor of District 8 in the Castro area, is here.

Check out this extract from Matthew's story appearing on the BAR's site and in print this week:

Should longtime (and bullhorn-bearing) AIDS and LGBT global rights activist Michael Petrelis indeed run for District 8 supervisor next fall, it may be the city's first candidacy by Skype.

For due to a legal settlement stemming from criminal charges he faced, Petrelis is required to remain 150 feet away from the incumbent, gay District 8 Supervisor [redacted], who will be seeking a second term on the Board of Supervisors in 2014.

"Debates are going to be impossible," said Petrelis, who lives off Valencia Street with his partner, Mike Merrigan.

In June Petrelis pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from his taking a photograph of [redacted] inside a bathroom at City Hall. His stay away order expires June 12, 2016, and Petrelis can't contact [redacted] or his offices by any means including email or through a third party.

Asked about the possibility of participating via video screen through Skype or some other means of electronic communication in any debates regarding the supervisor race, Petrelis said he was unsure if that would be allowed.

"I think we would have to go to the judge to see about that," he said. [...]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GLAAD Silent on New Director's Salary Package

(Substitute GLAAD for Obama and this cartoon makes an important and painfully obvious point. Credit: Michael Ramirez.)

The leech upon the queer body politic known as GLAAD is refusing to divulge the compensation deal with their newly hired executive director Sarah Kate Ellis. Who is she? Someone with a very slender LGBT advocacy record.

What I'm concerned with is following the dollars that flow in and out of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, as it continues its slide into further irrelevancy. About the only people, gay or straight, who need this wasteful organization are vapid and insecure celebrities and politicians who need ego gratification with useless award ceremonies.

Conspicuously omitted from GLAAD's release heralding the hiring of the new head honcho is what her pay will be. My emails to and vmails for various GLAAD leaders seeking the salary details have gone unanswered.

This lapdog organization received a round of "coverage" from the straight and gay news and blogger outlets below, all of whom basically ran GLAAD's release almost verbatim and puffing up the group. Not a single one of these outlets bothered to raise the question of compensation.

Such "coverage" is a huge disservice to the audiences of these outlets. The question remains: What is GLAAD paying their new executive director?

From Google News:

LGBT Media Advocacy Group, GLAAD, Names Sarah Kate Ellis New ...

BuzzFeed-by Tony Merevick-Nov 25, 2013
GLAAD announced Ellis will begin her new role in January 2014. posted ... NEW YORK CITY — The national Board of Directors of GLAAD has ...
GLAAD Names Sarah Kate Ellis as President, CEOHollywood Reporter-Nov 25, 2013Sarah Kate Ellis Is GLAAD's New President And CEOHuffington Post-Nov 25, 2013Media executive and LGBT advocate Sarah Kate Ellis named new (blog)-Nov 25, 2013 all 24 news sources »

  • GLAAD announces selection of new President and CEO

    LGBTQ Nation-Nov 25, 2013
    NEW YORK — The National Board of Directors of GLAAD, the nation's LGBT media advocacy organization, on Monday announced the ...
  • GLAAD Names Sarah Kate Ellis as New President

    SheWired-Nov 25, 2013
    After a rigorous search, GLAAD's National Board of Directors has chosen Sarah Kate Ellis as the CEO and president of the media advocacy ...

  • Meet GLAAD's New CEO And President

    The New Civil Rights Movement-Nov 25, 2013
    GLAAD has just announced their new CEO and president is award-winning media executive and communications strategist Sarah Kate Ellis.

  • GLAAD selects new president

    San Diego Gay & Lesbian News-Nov 25, 2013
    NEW YORK -- GLAAD's National Board of Directors has elected Sarah Kate Ellis as the organization's new CEO and president. As a respected ...
  • GLAAD's What To Watch On Monday | VIDEO

    San Diego Gay & Lesbian News-5 hours ago
    GLAAD's What To Watch On Monday | VIDEO. Megan Townsend - Entertainment and Operations Coordinator, GLAAD November 25th, 2013. Tonight catch the ...
  • SF HIV Food Bank Open Hand ED's Exit Package = $317,000

    One of great unstated facts of City governance and AIDS Inc is that Tom Nolan, when he was executive director of the AIDS food bank Project Open Hand up until the end of 2011 when he retired from the agency, served more time performing his duties as chair of the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency than at the AIDS service organization.

    POH post's their most recent IRS 990, for fiscal year 2012, and the report shows Nolan's total exit compensation package was $317,453. Nolan's base pay was $193,886 he also received $123,567 in retirement benefits he'd been banking for a few years.

    The agency's revenue dropped from $9.2 million in 2011 to $8.8 million in 2012, while the deficit jumped from $600,000 to $1 million and their assets fell from $7.4 million down to $6.4 million.

    No matter how you slice Nolan's take-home package of $317,453, it's a robust amount for an executive of an AIDS non-profit agency. These executive directors sure know how to take care of themselves.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    WH Unsure: Person With AIDS Present When Obama Signed HIV Act?

    (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 

    Since the web page for the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy, ONAP, is rarely updated or relevant, I don't check it regularly. Until last week, it hadn't been revised since September 27, two-months ago showing just how inactive the page is for ONAP folks.

    On Thursday, November 21, President Obama signed a critical HIV piece of legislation, one that is very important to me and thousands of other people living with AIDS, in general, and particularly those of us over 50 years of age, called the HOPE Act. Extracts from Obama's statement at the bill signing:

    Earlier today, I signed into law the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that allows scientists to carry out research into organ donations from one person with HIV to another. [...] Our country has come a long way in our understanding of HIV and in developing effective treatments. And as our knowledge has grown, the possibility of successful organ transplants between HIV-positive people has become more real. The HOPE Act lifts the research ban. In time, it could lead to these organ donations for people living with HIV. And that, in turn, would help save and improve lives and strengthen the national supply of organs for all who need them. Improving care for people living with HIV is critical to fighting the epidemic, and it’s a key goal of my National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

    I asked the White House if any people living with HIV were present at the signing and received only a list of the attendees standing behind Obama, pictured:

    Left to right: Shamey Cramer, Bryan Boyarsky, Dr. Peter Stock, University of California San Francisco Medical Center, Representative Lois Capps, D-CA, Representative Barbara Lee, D-CA, Dr. Daniel R. Salomon, The Scripps Research Institute, Chris Collins, VP and Director of Public Policy, amfAR.

    In response to my follow up question about who may be poz, the White House replied:

    Michael – the only information I have is names, but have asked. (You may want to check with the folks directly as well).

    If the President was signing a bill about breast cancer or women's reproductive health, I'd expect him to have women living with breast cancer present and for the White House to know that the women at the photo-op. It's just needlessly sloppy that the White House can spout politically correct words in a statement about people living with HIV, but when it comes to make sure we're participating in a photo-op that will offer hope and courage to PWAs, the Obama administration is remiss in touting PWA participation or knowing if a PWA was there.

    The stigma PWAs live with could have been diminished if the White House information machine had mentioned that at least one person at the HOPE Act signing is openly HIV poz.

    Shamey Cramer, who was instrumental in getting the HOPE Act enacted and signed into law, is a longtime survivor of AIDS and was originally diagnosed with HIV in 1985.

    As a longtime AIDS survivor myself, I extend deep thanks to Congress, AIDS researchers, President Obama, Shamey Cramer and other PWAs who moved this bill to become reality and provide us with one more option for wellness and staying alive.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Weekend Woof #58: Handsome Homosexuals

    It's been a few weeks since I last posted a new collection of fine fellas catching my queer eye. Times just flies by when you're laying the groundwork to run for District 8 Supervisor, as I am for the next general election in November 2014. Please give me one of your votes, if you live in the Castro district. Now, on to the gay guys!

    The warm daytime weather has several dudes showing skin on the streets of San Francisco, and enjoying the golden sunshine, sometimes with a strut and a smile.

    The male eye-candy seen indoors is none too shabby, as witnessed here. The top photo is my friend Jimmy who used to be in charge of the SF Department of Public Health's AIDS Office and we ran into each other in a City Hall elevator this week. The stripes on his coat blend so well with the metal bars of the elevator carriage.

    I took the bottom picture at a recent HIV Prevention Planning Council. Tomorrow is the monthly CARE and HIV Services Council meeting and I'm not sure if I'll attend, but I again express a strong desire for the councils to merge into one, with fewer meetings taking up everyone's valuable time.

    Thanks men and boys, for gracing my lens.
    Vote For Me in the Castro District 8 Race for Supervisor

    Dear friends, colleagues and detractors:

    After many dedicated years of avoiding mainstream politics - not running for any office or even a seat on our local HIV panels - I have had a change of heart. San Francisco, get ready!

    In the spirit of neighborhood politicians like Harvey Milk and Sister Boom-Boom, I am tossing my hat into the ring. Specifically, I have filed papers to run for Supervisor for the Castro. Will the backbiting political machines be able to deal with me? Will they strive to again smear my reputation? Puh-leeze!

    My goal is to help my neighbors, inspire like-minded lefty liberals and wage a fun and political campaign. Please join me in my quest to spread sunshine throughout the sometimes murky state of San Francisco politics! Michael Petrelis for Supervisor!!!

    (My life-partner Mike Merrigan and I stood outside the Department of Elections office at City Hall on November 21, after I pulled the papers declaring my candidacy for Supervisor of District 8.) 

    (I've tossed my San Francisco Giants hat into the political ring!)

    (If you vote for me, I promise to deliver a chicken in every pot and vegan voters will receive tofu burgers.)

    (As the underdog in the election, I'll bark a bit but won't bite anyone. Count on some tail-wagging too.)

    A few areas of my concern should resonate with pockets of voters. I pledge to work for the following:


    - Question time on a bi-weekly schedule for each Supervisor on an individual basis at City Hall and broadcast on SF Gov TV.

    - Restoring a three-minute allowance for each speaker at public comment at weekly Board meetings.

    - Taking public comment at weekly meetings at 3:00 pm, ending disrespecting the public with a guessing-game of when the taxpayers get to petition their Supervisors.

    - Currently, the commissions for two City departments that eat up an enormous portion of the annual budget do not meet at City Hall nor are their meetings broadcast on government television. The Health Commission and the Fire Commission must hold meetings at City Hall and air them for the public on the web and TV. Following the money and machinations of two behemoth departments via public access cable and streaming should be equalized on par with that of the Entertainment Commission and the Taxi Commission.

    - Amending the Nonprofit Public Access Ordinance of the sunshine code mandating four open board meetings at charities receiving $100,000 in municipal funds, creation of a City web site providing details about which agencies fall under the purview of the code, where and when they meet, and requirements the charities post meeting info on their sites.

    - Establish a City web site disclosing all monthly City-funded travel, lodging and related expense reports prepared by City each agency and department.

    - The Mayor, all elected officials and heads of every City department must post their monthly office expense accounts and calendar at a new City site just for such disclosures. Additionally, they all must post their monthly calendars.

    - Let voters have the option of using one of our three options in election to vote for none-of-the-above in races for City offices. If the NOTA category garners more votes than a candidate, the candidate that came in second would win the election so as not to leave a seat empty.

    We must move away from placing the burden of disclosure on members of the public, bloggers and reporters and expand City transparency to require regular unveiling of City-generated records of how our employees are allocating their time on our behalf and our dollars.


    - If elected, I'll work to repeal the ban on nudity that stigmatizes people celebrating the beauty of the human body in all it's shapes, ages, tones, colors and genders. I favor making Jane Warner Plaza a clothes-free zone.

    - Further, I'll advocate for opening public parks to all citizens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    - Additionally, I want to return the entire Harvey Milk Plaza to the public and remove sole control of this historical piece of municipal property now in the hands of the GOP members of the Merchants of Upper Castro/Market.

    - We need to establish a committee comprised of staffers from the Department of Public Work, LGBT activists and area businesses and homeowners that jointly controls the rainbow flag and pole at the plaza, which shall be used for responsible political and cultural activities.


    - Merge the HIV Prevention Planning Council and the HIV CARE Services Council into one decision-making body and putting the needs of people living with AIDS first.

    - Urge the Department of Public Health to offer food and travel vouchers to clients of HIV/AIDS agencies.

    - Develop asset-based social marketing campaigns that recognize and celebrate the longtime survival of HIV positive and negative gay men over 50 years of age.

    - Recruit LGBT business people to reopen a gay bathhouse with private rooms and music at a low volume, abundant lube and penile and anal condoms, regular HIV and STD testing on-site, promotion of sero-sorting, and a performance space for entertainment such as Bette Midler impersonation contests.

    - Convene an AIDS Accountability Summit to examine salaries of nonprofit HIV agencies, overhead costs of fundraisers, percentage of poz people on boards of directors and leadership positions, effectiveness of prevention and care services, and planning for reduction of government grants.

    Voters of San Francisco's District 8, I ask for one of your three votes on November 4, 2014. 

    (Credit for all photos: LEAAPS, Let's Elect AIDS Activist Petrelis Supervisor!)
    Ex-BAR Editor: Reality Check on Harvey Milk's Writings

    [UPDATE: The Review has posted Lorch's letter and all correspondence from the current issue here.]

    The Gay and Lesbian Review's latest hard copy edition contains a letter from the former editor of the BAR newspaper, Paul Lorch, that is not posted online. I've keyed in excerpts for this post because I think Lorch illuminates gay historical issues in need of a wide audience.

    If Lorch wants to further assist academic and general gay public knowledge about Harvey and what he wrote, he would do us all a huge favor locating the documents he has in his possession at his home in Guerneville, California, and donating them to any one of the several archives that would love to add the documents to their collection.

    Extracts from Lorch's letter:

    In the last issue [Sept.-Oct. 2013], you ran a brief review of a newly published book from the University of California Press titled "An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk's Speeches and Writings", pictured. Included in the the 45 pieces of Milk's output are interviews, press releases, letters, and ten reprints of columns he submitted to San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter in the 1970s.

    The manuscripts of these columns are still in existence: they are stashed away somewhere in a back bedroom closet [in my home]. Needless to say, they were not consulted for verification.

    Harvey Milk had a column in the Bay Area Reporter until the week of his death, and I was his editor. Harvey Milk was not a writer -  neither any essayist nor a scholarly thinker. The column was important to him because of his need for continued exposure and it's prominent position in the paper. He had little concern for the end product, save that is appeared. His copy was always rushed, sloppy, and almost embarrassingly repetitious. [...]

    However, there was a more disturbing feature: what Harvey turned in was not always his own work but was instead the work of cohorts, supporters, staffers, and flaks. The pieces not written by Harvey were usually neater, of greater substance, and more presentable. The Berkeley scholars [who edited the book] have something to answer for here. They may well be promoting material as Harvey's output that was not his own.

    If the University of California plans to be the repository of the Milk memorabilia, it's off to a shaky start. Harvey Milk left little in the way of a literary trail because he was not a writer, and he was no memoirist. [...]

    Now that his renown is international and he's the subject of film and TV biopics along with presidents and movie stars, he has become the vehicle for any enterprising aspirant, including restless academics, in search of a personality to immortalize. [...]

    It would be wonderful to hear from the editors of "An Archive of Hope", Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris III, responding to Lorch's claims.

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    NY City Council Letter to Jamaican PM: Protect LGBT People

    (Credit: Collin Read, AP.)

    As she campaigned in 2011 to become the prime minister of Jamaica for the second time, Portia Simpson-Miller, pictured, made pro-gay statements including that "no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation" and she has held the nation's top political spot since January 2012

    (Courtesy photo.)

    This past September, while in Manhattan for the United Nations' General Assembly, members of the LGBT Jamaica diaspora staged a loud protest outside the Ford Foundation's offices where she delivered a speech to the grantmakers inside.

    On YouTube, YardieBoi2000 made this short vid of Simpson-Miller being heckled as she exited the foundation's headquarters, smiling and waving to the angry Jamaican gay protesters.

    (Click to enlarge.)

    I recently heard from my friend Jason Latty, a gay Jamaican emigre in the New York City area, about how he and colleagues in the Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand persuaded members of the New York City Council on November 12 to send a letter the prime minister, demanding action on behalf of gays. He shared the letter with me. Here's the full text:

    We are writing to express deep concern with the rampant human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Jamaica.

    Particularly gruesome was the July 22, 2013 murder of Dwayne Jones, a sixteen-year-old transgender youth, by a frenzied mob outside a party. Unfortunately, this crime is just one in a long line of killings that have taken the lives of youth, prominent activists, and foreigners in Jamaica.

    New York City is home to a sizeable and growing community of LGBT Jamaicans who have had to flee their country to save their lives. All of them have harrowing stories of Jamaican society’s virulent homophobia and the government’s complicity in such persecution.

    During the campaign, you made statements about addressing these human rights abuses. However, since you took office, the situation for LGBT Jamaicans has not markedly improved. The daily reality of discrimination, homelessness, domestic and street violence, mob attacks, and murder continues unabated.

    The climate of hate, coupled with your seeming inaction, has not only tarnished Jamaica’s image but has also destroyed the lives of many LGBT Jamaicans.

    We ask that you condemn the killing of Dwayne Jones and all other anti-LGBT murders, ensure the investigation and prosecution of all cases of homophobic and transphobic violence, work to repeal the discriminatory laws (Buggery Law) that effectively criminalize LGBT lives, and enshrine equal protection in the constitution.

    A total of nine councilmembers signed the letter including four LGBT members; Daniel Dromm, Rosie Mendez, Jimmy Van Bremer and Christine Quinn; while five straight members added their names; Annabel Palma, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Landler, Mark Weprin and Margaret Chin.

    There has been no response from Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to the New York City Council, nor has she taken any public steps to keep her 2011 campaign promises. Let's hope the letter generates press attention in Jamaica and action from the prime minister.

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Update on SF's Long-Delayed LGBT Shelter in the Mission

    Earlier this week, I dropped in at Bevan Dufty's office at City Hall to see what he was up to as Mayor Ed Lee's homeless czar. I asked what was happening with the long-delayed opening of the 24-bed queer shelter in the Mission district, that has been in development for nearly four-years now.

    Bevan asked Wendy Philips, the executive director of Dolores Street Community Services, the agency overseeing the project that will eventually operate the facility for homeless LGBT people, to provide me with an update and she sent this informative reply:

    The current status of the project is that we are waiting for approval of building permits by the Department of Building Inspection. Before those are approved, however, the plans also have to be reviewed by the Mayor’s Office on Disability. This review process will begin in early December. 

    Simultaneously, we are soliciting contractors to do asbestos abatement throughout the entire building. The abatement itself will happen in late December/ early January. Then once that is done, and we get the building permits, we will be doing several upgrades to the building, including rehabilitation and addition of bathrooms and showers, as well as accessibility and fire safety upgrades. 

    We are not sure at this point how long this all will take, so prefer not to guess at an opening date quite yet. But the entire project team is working diligently to ensure that it does open as soon as humanly and bureaucratically possible! 

    Swinerton Builders is the firm doing pro-bono construction management. The construction costs themselves will be covered by local funding through the Human Services Agency and federal funding from a Community Development Block Grant through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

    Thanks, Bevan for putting Wendy in touch with me and thanks, Wendy for the new information..

    Since the queer shelter is located in out gay Supervisor David Campos' district, and who IMHO has not devoted nearly enough personal or staffer time and energy to getting the facility open already, I cruised over to his Facebook page and Twitter feed looking for any updates from him on the project.
    None were to be found, but I did learn that his campaign for the November 2014 election for state assembly received the endorsement of the California League of Conservation Voters this week and yesterday a fundraiser in a private home was held to raise cash for his campaign.

    Hey, David, in addition to running for higher office, how about sharing weekly updates on the queer shelter with us, maybe stage a photo-op at the site showing how you're keeping tabs on the rehab work?

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    'Housing For All' Request to Muni Ends Public Service Alerts on Buses

    This is one more lesson showing how billionaires and private enterprises are able to have access to public services, including using public service alerts on the headers of San Francisco's bus fleet operated by Muni, and the public is denied equal access to those same services.

    Have you noticed in the last three years that Muni has run "Go Team, Go!" messages in-between bus read-outs telling you the bus route number and destination. It's not as if the owners of our local sports franchises lack for advertising dollars to spent on City bus shelters and other spaces throughout the Muni system, and I'm not necessarily opposed to charging up civic pride in sporting events regardless of my huge apathy toward professional and for-profit sports.

    What I'm troubled by is that my simple request in the summer to Muni to have the headers read Housing for All for a month, has not only failed to the agency saying yes, but they're also not been able to turn up a single page of written rules regarding such requests, and now Muni is ending the practice because a member of the public with an affordable housing agenda wants equal access to the bus headers that the billionaire have.

    In addition to the team-related messages, Muni has also allowed Equality for All and We Stand With Boston to appear on buses, pro bono.

    I complained on Tuesday, Nov. 19 directly to the full board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency during public comment, which aired on SF Gov TV, since my emails to spokesman Paul Rose weren't producing results. My comments start at the 2:40 mark:

      Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Excerpts from exchanges with the agency's flak:

    July 30th

    Paul Rose: We have received various feedback about the use of the head signs. We are currently establishing guidelines around the use of these signs beyond the bus’ destination. Conversations are taking place right now between various divisions and units within the MTA to explore this issue. As the conversation continues, I will be sure to include your request for consideration. At this point I do not have an answer, but will let you know when something has been resolved in the very near future.

    November 19th

    MP: It's been three months since I last heard from you about this matter. Are those conversations still taking place? I've noticed since we last communicated that some buses now say "Go Bulls!" on their headers. So odd that there are no written guidelines, yet it seems every sports team gets access to the headers. Please let me know the status of the conversations you've referred to, before the SF MTA meeting today at 1 pm. I wish to address this matter during public comment this afternoon.

    November 21st

    Paul Rose: I’m sorry it has taken so long to get back to you on this. We have received numerous complaints from passengers who have said that these signs hinder their ability to quickly read the intended destination information. Because of this, the SF MTA has decided to remove the sports signs from the entire fleet and will not post any additional information that is not related to the route’s destination. We have already started removing the signs from the bus fleet and the process should be complete by the end of the year.

    November 21st

    MP: This sounds so bogus, that for at least three years super wealthy sports teams have had plenty of access to the buses, as if they don't have ad budgets, and every thing is hunky dory. I come along and ask for equal access to the headers, and you shine me on for a couple of months, and now state, without any written or independent proof, that you've received complaints about the headers with messages and access to the headers will end for everyone. 

    And it took you all these months to determine such complaints before getting back to me, finally, after waiting months for information on my request to run Housing For All on the headers, to say I'm tough out of luck with getting what the billionaire owners of the teams have gotten for three years for free from SF MTA. 

    One more example of how public services and public space have been sold off or given free to private enterprises. 

    There's also the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza that is technically municipally-owned and managed, but instead controlled by the private MUMC group, and hardly a fortnight goes by without the City renting Civic Center to a big corporation for branding purposes and increasing profits, and making citizens pay for access to City land.

    I wish to appeal this decision to end the practice by the end of the year. I would like the chance for the Housing For All message to appear on the headers. How about giving the public one last chance at getting the equal of what the private sports teams have received from Muni these past years?

    We'll see if my appeal gets heard and considered at the SF MTA. I see no reason why my request can't be met. Maybe I should form the Housing for All sports team. That may be the solution. Let's put "Go Housing For All" on the buses for the month of December!
    Who's the Highest Paid AIDS Executive at $430K in Compensation?

    Every year, when the hot-meals AIDS nonprofit Food and Friends has filed its latest IRS 990, I receive a friendly note from their board secretary Mike Bento informing me the tax filing is now on their site and he also includes a PDF version for me. I much appreciate this favor and highly praise Food and Friends for posting seven years of 990s on their site. Compare that transparency with Freedom to Marry, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the LA Gay & Lesbian Community Center, three groups that refuse to share any 990s on their sites.

    However, such transparency does nothing to negate the outrageously high amount of pay at the Washington, DC, area nonprofit.

    The 2012 filing for Food and Friends shows that executive director Craig Shniderman, pictured, was compensated $430,000 for his services and the revenue was pegged at $7.9 million. As far as I can determine, after looking at the 990s for other AIDS service and research organizations, Shniderman's compensation makes him the highest paid AIDS executive director in America.

    Compare his $430,000 pay with what Kevin Frost the executive director at AmFAR, the AIDS research nonprofit, is compensated. For the same time period, Frost received $415,000 and AmFAR's revenue was $27.1 million, according to their latest 990 on their site.

    I asked Mike Bento for further explanation about Shniderman's compensation and he replied:

    We do a five year contract with Craig in which we set a compensation level and increases based on a market study that looks at comparable non profits by size, budget, staff, and volunteers – that looks in the DC area, and at similar AIDS service orgs nationwide.  So we’d look at Gods Love, but probably not at AmFar.  We’d look at Whitman Walker (if they disclosed…..) but not as much at HRC for instance.

    In 2011, Craig voluntarily didn’t take the 4% increase he was contracted for because the economy was tight and we weren’t able to give the rest of the staff a 4% increase.  In 2012 as things improved and we were able to budget increases for the entire staff Craig did come back up near the contract, but because of his voluntary give-backs, is still under the total comp level the contract authorized. 

    Bottom line, it’s a lot of money.  He’s a highly paid executive.  He’s also a very high performing executive.  Name me another AIDS org ED that you’d recommend we trade him for?   

    I’m only sort of kidding with that.  We look around the country, see folks struggling, see how they’ve disengaged from the gay community, and see them moving away from serving people living with AIDS, and we are pretty proud of that we’ve stayed true to our roots, to our community, and to our clients.

    My bottom line is that the executive director of Food and Friends is making too much money, his compensation could be cut and the money redirected to improve and expand hot-meals and other nutritional needs for people living with AIDS and other clients of the organization.

    Voice of Russia Lies About SF Gay Protests That Never Happened

    (Russian gay youths after being bashed by police in riot gear as the activist attempted to assemble for a Pride event, June 30, 2013. Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

    Why let a little thing called the truth get in the way of spreading propaganda, when it comes to a conservative Russia media outlet chattering about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? With President Vladimir Putin's government funding the Voice of Russia, don't expect actual facts to get in the way of pumping out the Kremlin line.

    A radio interview and this teaser created by reporter Ric Young were posted November 20 to the Voice of Russia's site, with the headline "American gay rights protesters don’t understand the Russian law" from their Washington bureau:

    Gay rights protesters demonstrate against Russian events in the US, but they don't really understand the Russian law that protects minors from homosexual propaganda. That's what VOR commentator and correspondent Dmitry Babich tells Host Ric Young. 

    Babich also said that recent protests against Russian ships in San Francisco harbor celebrating Russia’s support for the American North during the civil war and against the famous Mariinsky opera and ballet from St. Petersburg were two examples of how the American Gay movement is misreading the Russian law and hurting US and Russia joint ventures.

    There have been no demonstrations in San Francisco regarding the 150th anniversary of Russia's czar sending armaments to the Union side in our Civil War. As reported in October by RAI Novosti's Washington-based correspondent Maria Young with verifiable facts, Mayor Ed Lee and his staff used the potential of a protest by members of Gays Without Borders, something we were not privy to nor endorsed, to cancelled a planned commemoration.

    Oh, and I'm not overlooking the Kremlin's outlet contention that American gays haven't a clue about the anti-gay propaganda law in Russia. We do know what we're talking about and Russian LGBT people are quite aware of the many devious and bloody ways the law is harming them.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    NYC AIDS Hero, Dr. Paul Bellman, is Retiring

    This is a trend of concern to many longtime AIDS survivors. Our doctors, who've cared for and closely collaborated with us keeping us alive and thriving over many years, are retiring. In April, my long-term physician, Dr. Fred Strauss, exited from serving patients at the Castro Mission Health Center.

    Now, word comes from New York City that AIDS doctor and hero Dr. Paul Bellman, pictured, is closing his practice at the end of the year. He has snail-mailed the follow letter to his patients:

    (Click to enlarge.)

    I've had dealings with Paul over the years, not as a patient, but in our shared HIV prevention and treatment concerns and I found him to be dedicated and passionate advocate, qualities I'm sure he brought to be in caring for people living with HIV and AIDS.

    My friend and dynamic AIDS treatment advocate Mike Barr, and soon to be former patient, shared some thoughts about Paul and his work:

    He was also one of the few good physicians left who would agree to see ADAP patients. God only knows who they will find to take care of them now - but again I suppose the Affordable Care Act eventually will render that point moot? But what do they do in the meantime?

    His practice was also great but perhaps not unique in that everything was under one roof: phlebotomy, infusion therapy, etc. his phlebotomists, in particular, were greatly loved and famous for their conviviality, generosity, patience and charm. Where in the world will we ever find that to replicate?

    Also, many HIV docs in the city are not accepting new patients - especially, as you might imagine the really good ones (to the extent that any really great HIV doctors exist anymore!).

    Let's hope his patients are able to transfer their care to new doctors without too much stress and worry. Many thanks to Paul and his staffers for their years of unstinting service to gay men and people with AIDS.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    SF Pride to Ban Military Recruiters from Gay Celebration?

    Allow me to state my prejudice at the start. I am no fan of the U.S. armed forces recruiters and would be happy if they were banned from renting a booth at the Civic Center celebration during SF Pride weekend. Here's how the organization described the purpose of the forum held this evening (November 19) at the Metropolitan Community Church in the Castro:

    Since the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, there has been an increase in the participation of active LGBT personnel in Pride Celebrations and Parades. For the first time, the National Guard participated in SF Pride’s 2013 Celebration, sparking much interest and comment. The community is invited to participate in a forum on military presence at the San Francisco Pride Celebration. Speakers and invited guests are still being determined – check back for more information.

    Nothing said about a resolution being put forward for either the general membership of SF Pride or the board to consider, about anything related to this matter. Just a venting session, as far as I can tell from the only person tweeting from the meeting, my friend and fabulous skeptic Patrick Connors, alias @UppityFag.

    When the organization's announcement encouraging attendance hit my in-box, I first wondered why the forum was not part of a series addressing larger political.contextual issues that can't be addressed at either the monthly board or membership meetings.

    Given that SF Pride has under $200,000 in reserve, must radically reform its site to be user-friendly, has been asked to radically reform the parade that lasts 4 - 5 hours and the lineup that favors politicians mostly at the front, needs to expand the board membership with more worker bees and address diversity (or lack thereof) composition, deal with progressive grassroots queers demanding issues such as affordable housing and the eviction epidemic be part of the agenda instead of gay marriage sucking up all the political oxygen, and other crucial nuts-and-bolts concerns of Pride Week vie for attention, why did the board agree to make military recruiters the topic of their first town hall?

    No word whether the board has plans for more town halls and as per their custom, there were no tweets from the board members at the meeting and there won't be a report back to the community on the SF Pride site. I guess the board thinks it's not their responsibility to inform non-attendees what happens at meetings because James Patterson at the Bay Area Reporter is reporting on them. If the minutes from recent meetings have been posted in a timely manner at their site, I can't find them. Lemme know where they are shared.

    A selection of tweets from tonight:

    I'm glad the two dozen or more folks who showed up participated, but what does their discussion mean, if anything, for the rest of us and a decision about ridding the military recruiters from Pride Weekend? I'd like for the board to explain by the end of the week about their next steps on this. There must be real-time communication from the board at their meetings for the vast numbers of LGBT folks who can be present and want to and need to be kept abreast, along with reports back on the forums within days after they happen.

    The reform slate of candidates that won election to run SF Pride's board are over all quite lacking with on-going communication with the at-large membership and wider community. The board can take a serious and easy step to address this deficit by issuing a report from tonight's forum.

    Tawk to me awready!