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    Castro Improvements, Armistead, and Upcoming Elections

    zoeCastro Street

    This issue of the Bay Times is focused on how our “gayborhood” is changing, and nothing is more visibly changing than Castro Street! Thanks in large part to the leadership of Supervisor Scott Wiener, the Castro Street Improvement Project will make a huge difference for our residents and the thousands of visitors to the Castro every year. If you are one of the 23 readers who has not been to the Castro in the past nine months, the project has involved the widening of sidewalks on the two blocks of Castro Street up to an additional 10 feet in width; pedestrian safety improvements at the intersections of Castro and Market, 18th, and 19th streets; streetscape enhancements including lighting, street trees, bike racks and street furniture; special sidewalk/crosswalk paving; and landscaping and pocket parks. It has been quite challenging for the local businesses and residents, as sidewalk and road access has been severely restricted at various points during the construction, but in the end it will be a beautiful shopping and dining district our community can be immensely proud of. As of this writing, the final palm trees are being planted and construction is estimated to end by November. I for one can’t wait!

    One City, One Book Features Our Own Armistead Maupin

    On July 30, 2014, I was sworn in as a new San Francisco Library Commissioner. One of the San Francisco Public Library’s most popular programs is its annual “One City, One Book” event—you may have seen advertisements on bus shelters and throughout the city. It is an annual citywide literary event that encourages us to read the same book at the same time and then discuss it in book groups and at events throughout the city. The hope is that by building bridges between communities and generations through the reading and the discussion of one book, we can make reading a lifelong pursuit and build a more literate society. This year, our own Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has been selected as that “one book.” It has always been one of my favorite books, and I’m excited that an LGBT author is being celebrated and featured. There will be a number of events throughout October, but the biggest one will be Armistead Maupin in conversation with K.M. Soehnlein on Thursday, October 23, at the Main Library, in the Koret Auditorium. I hope to see you there.

    Vote

    The November 4th elections are coming up! If you are not yet registered to vote, your registration card must be received by the SF Department of Elections by October 20, 2014. To request a voter registration card, email or call the Department of Elections or register online with a California driver’s license or ID at the California Secretary of State’s website: http://registertovote.ca.gov

    Or, you can come to the Castro Street Fair on Sunday, October 6, and stop by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club’s booth—the club will have voter registration forms there. Fill one out with your information and the club will submit it for you. Another handy tool to check your registration is http://sfelections.org/tools/reglookup/ There, you can check if you are registered, find your polling place, and see a sample ballot.

    We take for granted our eligibility to vote, but over the past 200 years many have fought for, and even been jailed and killed, trying to remove unfair restrictions. Step by step, property ownership requirements, religious testing, and prohibitions on the eligibility of Native Americans, African-Americans, poor whites, women, and young people to vote have all been struck down. Yet, in off-Presidential election years, our turnout has been shameful. In the past two elections (June 2014 and November 2013), less than 30% of registered voters in the city and county of San Francisco cast ballots. In my humble opinion, if you are eligible, yet you fail to exercise your right and privilege to vote, you relinquish your right to complain about the decisions your elected officials make. As a democracy, we are only as strong as our civic involvement. Out of respect to those who fought before us to ensure we have a voice in our government, please use that voice.

    Until next time, enjoy the Castro Street Fair, the Castro Street improvements, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and vote!

    Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, as a San Francisco Library Commissioner, and as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.