Thats All, Folks!
With Bill Barnes
Committee Member Bill Barnes at this month's Democratic County
Central Committee endorsement vote.
Monday, August 29, 2005, 6:45 p.m.
Right now Im out on the playa at Burning Man, but last
week I promised to write a column and I want to keep my word.
Late Friday afternoon before I left town, Publisher Tom Horn and
Editor Cynthia Laird informed me I would no longer be the political
columnist. Although Tom, Cynthia and I had earlier discussed my
service on the Democratic County Central Committee and decided
it wouldnt pose a conflict, after I cast endorsement votes,
Tom said it does create a conflict. Although this view differs
from our original agreement, I respect that the publisher has
reached a new conclusion. My understanding is that the paper will
devote more of its political space to focus on marriage equality.
Twice in my short time in San Francisco, Ive been asked
to fill some pretty big shoes in the LGBT community. When Mayor
Willie Brown named me to succeed Dick Pabich as the Citys
AIDS policy adviser, and when Tom Horn and Cynthia Laird asked
to write a column in the space that had contained Wayne Fridays
words, I was honored. The LGBT community is stronger when we recognize
those who have gone before us, building upon their efforts and
adding our own voices. I want to thank everyone in the BAR family,
especially the reporters who track down stories and the unsung
design and distribute the paper. I also want to thank the BAR
and all the readers whove given a young gay black man the
opportunity to share some of my thoughts about politics. I know
I see the world through a different set of eyes because of my
life, and I hope people find some value in that.
One Final Correction
Last week, two letter writers personally attacked me because of
observations I made about Assemblyman Mark Leno. The prior week,
a letter from board members of Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic
Club took issue with some comments, but didnt level personal
criticism. One signer told me that the Assemblyman requested folks
send the letters. Other folks have reported receiving calls from
the Assemblyman related to me and some items in the column.
According to Tom Horn, none of these calls or personal attacks
was the basis for ending the column. I would be remiss, however,
if I did not correct inaccurate statements made about me just
last week. Although some publications let a writer respond to
letters to the editor the same time they appear, the first time
I saw the text of these letters was in print last week, so this
is my first chance to respond.
One letter came from Nanette Lee Miller, (she was the treasurer
for the PG&E backed campaign to kill public power, 2001s
No on I). She took issue with my comments about the Plumbers
Hall evictions, but Ive already addressed that so Im
not going to revisit it. Ms. Miller also states that I personally
attacked Tom Ammiano by describing the problems his bond measure
was facing and without naming names, Mr. Barnes claims there
is mounting opposition to Ammianos measure, implying
that I was simply making it up.
To name names, opponents include Supervisor Sean Elsbernd (who
wrote the official opponent argument), State Senator Carole Migden
(who voted no at the Central Committee), the Coalition for San
Francisco Neighborhoods and the San Francisco Taxpayers
Union, a group of real estate interests and
fiscal watchdogs. Its hard to get two-thirds without opposition
-- a well funded No campaign usually kills a bond. Thats
a political fact of life, not an attack on Supervisor Ammiano
or his generally good works.
Then, Julius Turman wrote that the origins of my report about
a political contribution Assemblyman Mark Leno received, and has
now returned, from Badlands owner Les Natali are similarly
suspect, and continues on to say that I had previously
campaigned for Mark Lenos opponents in both the
Board of Supervisors and Assembly races. Thats just
In 1998, when citywide elections were in place, I supported Supervisor
Lenos first election. In 2000, even when I was managing
Chris Dalys campaign, I backed Leno in District 8 for re-election.
For what its worth, Leno and I endorsed the same candidate
to succeed him in 2002 -- BART Director Tom Radulovich. It is
true that in March 2002, I supported Harry Britt over Leno, and
Ive got no regrets. Harry Britt ran in 1987 for Congress,
in a race that Dick Pabich managed. He was brave enough to fill
Harvey Milks shoes after Harvey was assassinated and Im
sure if he won, Harry Britt would be doing a great job in Sacramento.
That doesnt mean I havent also supported Leno, which
I have in the General Election in 2002 and both elections in 2004.
Ive supported Harry Britt in one of one election and endorsed
Mark Leno in five of six elections.
Ive known Mark Leno since before he was appointed to the
Board of Supervisors. He was one of the first people I met when
I moved to San Francisco in 1997, when I was 19 and he was an
older person I looked up to.
For a time, he was a close personal friend and that meant a lot.
In 1999 he appointed me to the San Francisco Youth Commission.
I still believe that he might be a decent person. During the last
few weeks however, Ive felt the unbridled power of a powerful
state legislator calling on people in our town to attack me because
I wrote things he didnt want in the paper, namely public
contribution information from the Secretary of States website.
People associated with the Assemblyman have attacked me in print
and are privately saying that I crossed the Badlands picket line
(simply untrue). Im sure there are those among the political
elite who will believe my departure comes as the result of some
of the Assemblymans phone calls. Despite all of the other
San Franciscans hes called, the Assemblymans never
picked up the phone to take issue with me about any of the facts
about him in the column. To me, that speaks volumes.
Im wrapping up this run with my head held high, and Im
still young and trusting enough to believe that the reasons for
my departure are completely unrelated to these efforts by a powerful
politician. I just hope we get to a day in the LGBT community
where all of us spend our energies building the community we envision
rather than grasping for that elusive 16th minute of personal