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    Remembering Stu Smith, Tenants Rising, City College Update and More

    Rafael Mandelman

    Rafael Mandelman

    I’ll admit it. I have trouble letting go. But saying good-bye to Stu Smith, who died on February 3, has been especially tough. Stu’s death was awfully fast, coming less than a month after his cancer diagnosis. But it was also just awful, awful that such a sweet man – one who had given so much to so many of our communities and who clearly had so much more to give, one who had in the autumn of his life found and just begun to explore a great romance with his partner Dave Earl – should be taken with so much life still in him ready to be lived.

    The depth and breadth of Stu’s civic engagement was extraordinary, and his accomplishments and activities too many to number: active volunteer and board member at the Shanti Project, member of San Francisco’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, champion of the Castro Country Club, proud troublemaker on the Civil Grand Jury, television show host, columnist for the Bay Times, friend to drag queens, sponsor, mentor, mensch.

    I got to know Stu during my Supervisor campaign; mutual friends had suggested that he would be good supporter to have. So I set about wooing him, and were they ever right! Stu could be tough on politicians, withering in his condemnation of those whom he felt had let him or San Francisco down. Happily, I managed to stay on his good side. And Stu’s good side was a wonderful place to be. I will miss him very, very much.

    Had he lived to see it, I imagine Stu – who as a member of the LGBT Aging Task Force had focused on the problem of displacement of queer seniors – would have been delighted by the massive turnout for the February 8th citywide tenant convention. More than 500 politicians, labor leaders, activists and regular worried San Franciscans showed up to pack the Tenderloin Elementary School and consider various proposals to address skyrocketing rents and rising evictions. One of the most popular ideas was a measure Harvey Milk had championed more than three decades ago: an anti-speculation tax that would penalize property flipping. The quicker the flip, the higher the tax. Look for
    activists to build on the momentum from the convention to move for legislation this year at City Hall and at the ballot box.

    Meanwhile, in City College news, our queer elected officials have been lending their heft to the fight to save City College. Senator Mark Leno has introduced a critically important bill to stabilize funding for the College, where enrollment has plummeted over the last two years and which, as a consequence, could lose upwards of twenty million dollars in the next fiscal year. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation to prevent the State Chancellor’s Office from suspending locally elected boards of trustees. Now I would be the first to admit that City College’s Board had its problems, but the reality is that without a democratically elected Board, important decisions about City College’s future are being made by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats with no particular connection to the College or even to San Francisco. That’s just wrong.

    And now an apology: Last month, I sang the praises of returning Milk Club president Tom Temprano, forgetting that this year he is being joined by co-president Laura Thomas. This really was an unforgiveable oversight. Laura is an amazing activist, policy advocate and friend. Deputy State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, she is wicked smart and reflects the combination of policy savvy and conviction that is the Milk Club at its best. Congratulations, Co-President Thomas!

    Lastly, the LGBT Community Center, of which I am Board co-chair, will be having its Annual Soiree at City View at the Metreon on April 5. It’s a fun way to support a great cause. Get your tickets today at www.lgbtcenter.org. See you at the Soiree!

    Rafael Mandelman was elected to the San Francisco Community College Board of Trustees in 2012. He is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.