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10 Medical pot crackdown 15 25 Behind Cirque doors. Mustaches for cancer research The Serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities since 1971 Leno: EQCA ‘unstable’ by Seth Hemmelgarn S tate Senator Mark Leno is expressing serious doubts about the future of Equality California, the largest – and only – statewide LGBT lobbying organization. “They’re without a leader, and they’re staffing and funding at this point appear uncertain and unstable,” the openly gay Leno (D-San Francisco) said in an interview Tuesday, October 18. “That would give anyone Rick Gerharter reason for concern.” Leno’s remarks State Senator came just a week after Mark Leno EQCA announced the resignation of Executive Director Roland Palencia, who had been on the job for just over three months. EQCA has also missed two self-imposed deadlines to release a transition plan in the wake of Palencia’s resignation. Spokeswoman Rebekah Orr wouldn’t say when the organization would reveal its plans. Palencia is just one key staffer departing the organization, and Orr said she didn’t know who the interim director would be. Asked if he’s confident about EQCA’s future, Leno said, “I’m hopeful they can survive.” His comments are surprising. For years, Leno has worked closely with the nonprofit on legislation, most recently Senate Bill 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act. Leno authored the bill, which requires teaching LGBTs’ historical contributions, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law in July. Palencia, 54, said last week that his decision to quit was “personal.” He hasn’t elaborated, but he did say that nobody on the board had asked him to leave. He was hired in May to replace Geoff Kors, EQCA’s longtime executive director who resigned in late March. Palencia started the job in early July. His salary was $170,000. Orr said last week EQCA won’t be shutting down. In an interview Tuesday, she indicated the organization would be shrinking, though. She said the organization’s “changing ... both in terms of the work that needs to be done and the resources there are to do it.” As for Leno’s remarks about EQCA’s instability, Orr said, “I’m not really sure what he means by that, to be honest.” However, her subsequent comments help illustrate what he said. Orr said that “very often” people offer help when there’s a campaign, but she indicated there’s a decline in support between major efforts such as the fight over Prop 8. Kors was one of the key figures in the campaign, in which he and others raised more than $40 million in an unsuccessful fight against the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Voters passed Prop 8 in November 2008. See page 20 >> Vol. 41 • No. 42 • October 20-26, 2011 SFAF-Stop AIDS merger Services likely to expand I by Matthew S. Bajko f its absorption of two other agencies is any guide, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s merger with the Stop AIDS Project should lead to an expansion of the HIV prevention agency’s programs. As the Bay Area Reporter first reported online Tuesday, October 18, the two agencies announced this week that they had agreed to merge. The long talked about consolidation should be finalized November 1 and is not expected to result in a diminution of services at Stop AIDS other than the loss of one staff position. Since the AIDS foundation assumed oversight in 2007 of Magnet, the gay men’s health center in the Castro, and the Stonewall Project, which offers substance abuse treatment to gay and bisexual men, both have been able to expand their clientbased services. Stop AIDS Executive Director Kyriell Noon, who will become the director of prevention services at the foundation, said both entities share similar philosophies toward prevention that should prove to be fruitful. The foundation has set a goal Jane Philomen Cleland Jane Philomen Cleland SFAF CEO Neil Giuliano of reducing new HIV infections in San Francisco by 50 percent come 2015, two years ahead of the city’s stated goal. “There is a great deal of programmatic synergy that will benefit the community at large,” said Noon. “The outcome is better for everyone involved, I think.” Stop AIDS Executive Director Kyriell Noon Once Stop AIDS is formally brought into the fold of SFAF, AIDS foundation CEO Neil Giuliano told the B.A.R. that he expects Stop AIDS will witness a similar growth spurt as Magnet and Stonewall See page 20 >> Gays recall Oakland firestorm by Tony K. LeTigre T wenty years ago today (Thursday, October 20) the hills in Oakland and Berkeley erupted in a firestorm that ultimately claimed 25 lives and left hundreds injured. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed in a blazing inferno that took almost 72 hours to control. Some of those affected were gays and lesbians, who recently recalled that day. “What an appalling day that was,” said registered nurse Alistair McElwee, 47, who watched it unfold from the Pacific Park Plaza in Emeryville, “at first thinking it was just a little brush fire and then being astounded as my building was surrounded with smoke.” After dark, McElwee watched in horror as large, expensive homes in the hills went up like torches, one after another, consumed in minutes. The firestorm had its beginnings October 19, 1991 when a brush fire, the cause of which has never been determined with certainty, ignited near Grizzly Peak in the OaklandBerkeley hills. Fire crews were dispatched to fight it. The hot, dry Santa Ana wind wasn’t blowing that Saturday, and by 7 p.m. the brush fire was considered under control. But on the morning of October 20 high winds arrived, and the game changed. Relief crews found hot spots flaring up everywhere, tossing sparks and embers far and wide. Embers became blazes, which grew until they were licking the tops of pine and eucalyptus trees. Dispatchers were understaffed, and the Oakland and Berkeley Darlene/PhotoGraphics A burned-out car and chimneys are about all that remained following the Oakland Hills firestorm in October 1991. fire departments were not operating under a unified command. Confusion grew along with the fire – 50 acres, then 100. At the critical moment, technical issues caused a communication breakdown. It was indeed “a perfect firestorm,” in the words of Peter Charles Hoffer, whose 2006 book Seven Fires places the East Bay inferno alongside the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and others that changed the course of history. By noon the blaze had become a firestorm, flying on the wings of high winds gusting up to 65 mph. It spread in all directions: northwest toward Claremont Canyon, southwest to Hiller Highlands, east toward Fish Ranch Road, south to the Caldecott Tunnel. It sprinted across Highway 24 like a demon racer. Residents evacuating on steep, narrow roads created bottlenecks in a situation where one minute could mean life or death. A traffic jam on Charing Cross Road became a deathtrap, and some unfortunate souls died in their cars. Others stayed in their homes and vehicles till See page 18 >> { FIRST OF TWO SECTIONS } B.A.R. election endorsements REMEMBER TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 8! • General election • • Ballot measures • San Francisco Mayor: San Francisco Props: Bevan Dufty, first choice Dennis Herrera, second choice Ed Lee, third choice Vote YES on: A, B, C, E, F, G Vote NO on: D, H District Attorney: George Gascón Sheriff: Ross Mirkarimi Emerville City Council: Ruth Atkin College of Marin Board: Stephanie O’Brien

October 20, 2011 edition of the Bay Area Reporter

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