Sunday, April 11, 2010

Strong Presence of Lesbian and Gay Political Power at Goodbye Party for Laura Spanjian

State Senator Mark Leno with Laura Spanjian

There was a strong presence of lesbian and gay political power at the goodbye party for Laura Spanjian of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on April 8 at Don Ramon’s Restaurant. Not since the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club’s large meetings during the times of Mayor Willie Brown had Don Ramon’s seen so many lesbians and gays in positions in power enjoying quesadillas and margaritas with their straight allies and co-workers.

Spanjian’s family and friends joined together with her charming partner Susan Christian and her PUC co-workers, her supervisor campaign staff and volunteers, and various LGBT and non-LGBT activists. It was a tribute to Spanjian that the restaurant was packed with people who mingled and politicked, and then were attentive when the speeches started. Spanjian has been receiving a lot of attention lately because of her run for San Francisco District 8 City Supervisor, and some consultants gave her a chance of winning due to the ranked choice voting system. Her new job takes her to Houston to work for the newly-elected lesbian mayor Anise Parker. And Spanjian is also moving for love since her partner lives in Houston.

The honors for Laura began when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff Steve Kawa took some time away from running The City to proclaim “Laura Spanjian Day” in San Francisco. Kawa, with his lover and two children, was an inspiration to Mayor Newsom for the surprise same-sex marriages at City Hall. Spanjian was also honored with plaques from her co-workers at the PUC, who spoke about dams, water, and reclaimed grease and sewage, and then CA State Senator Mark Leno had some complimentary things to say when he gave her a large framed state proclamation.

Spanjian’s expertise in the greening of San Francisco as the Associate General Manager for External Affairs at the PUC has led her to the new job in Houston, a city that wants to catch up with other locales in recycling and energy conservation. Spanjian also worked for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and before that she worked as a legislative aide to lesbian Supervisor Leslie Katz.

Former lesbian San Francisco City Supervisors Roberta Achtenberg and Susan Leal spoke fondly at the microphone about Spanjian, and Leal told some funny work stories from the days when she was PUC General Manager and Spanjian’s boss.

Roberta Achtenberg with Laura Spanjian

Among the lesbian and gay guests were PUC Secretary Michael Housh, a longtime activist at the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and an important aide to legislator John Burton. He was also the campaign manager and aide for Supervisor Tom Ammiano. Former Supervisors Leal and Katz worked with Ammiano to pass the first domestic partners law in San Francisco. Paul Hogarth, the attorney for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, was seated near the front of the event. He is also a marriage equality activist and managing director of A former aide to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Catherine Dodd socialized at the event. She is a now Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Gavin Newsom and she is active as an RN in national and local health issues. The PUC’s gay General Manager Ed Harrington was out of town, but all of the other ranking PUC managers attended the sad and happy occasion.

Activist/philanthropist Jody Cole and her partner Katherine Cole of Wild Rainbow African Safaris were there happily sporting Dallas Cowboy jerseys. And Pam David, who worked for San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and is now the executive director of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, made the rounds.

The exertion of lesbian and gay power that started with Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin with their Daughters of Bilitis, and The Society of Individual Rights in the ’50s and ’60s, and with the Tavern Guild and Jose Sarria running for supervisor in 1961, to Harvey Milk’s election in 1977, all culminated in events like the one for Laura Spanjian. The lesbian and gay presence was strong and the political descendents of the founders are accepted for their professionalism and experience.

The event ended with hugs and handshakes and messages of good will for Spanjian.

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