There are two things I haven't made much of over the past seven years on City Council. I haven't made much of the fact that I am the first openly gay elected official in Long Beach (was first elected in 1992 to LBCC Board of Trustees) because I am who I am and that "am" includes a lot of things, not just the gender of the person I love. And, the second matter is that this is the age of "gotcha politics" however I have found that sometimes it is best to let slights go by the wayside and not expose the smallness of others.
But as we are in "LGBT Pride" week and the City is getting ready to open up Harvey Milk Park, I thought that enough is enough.
Several weeks ago, the Mayor and the Vice Mayor held a public news conference on top of the Civic Plaza to raise the "Pride Flag" in solidarity to show the Supreme Court that Long Beach supported the overturning of DOMA and Prop 8.
I was purposely not invited to this event. Instead, a member of the news media called and gave me the invitation. When asked why I wasn't invited, the Mayor's office responded that it "had been on Facebook." I attended anyway and neither the Mayor nor the Vice Mayor had the courtesy to introduce me as even being there let alone as the only member on the Council who actually has a 33 year relationship that will be impacted greatly by the court's decision. I took it in my stride and then that evening helped organize a rally in the Civic Center Plaza on behalf of Marriage Equality.
Then it happened again. An invitation was sent announcing the opening the Long Beach's Harvey Milk Park on May 21st. I wasn't sent an invitation by the Mayor or the Vice Mayor who are hosting this event. A kind staff person at City Hall sent it to me because she knew I had not been invited to to the flag ceremony.
When I asked the Vice Mayor (who by the way I had nominated for that position at his request), why I had not been invited, he also dismissed me saying "it was on Facebook" and then blamed his Chief of Staff who I understand was sent to my office to "apologize."
Mistakes do happen so let's give him the benefit of the doubt. But the following is no mistake.
I asked to be able to speak at the opening as the first openly gay elected in Long Beach and because I had suggested that the park include a place to honor local LGBT leaders which apparently is also happening. I thought it would be appropriate. The Vice Mayor responded that I could not speak because the City Parks and Recreation Department had a policy that only the Mayor and the councilperson for the district could speak.
Funny, I always invite the Mayor and City Council to all of my events and if they attend ask them to speak because these are public parks and that is professional courtesy.
Well, you guessed it. The City Manager confirmed "no such policy exists." If it did, representatives of the Harvey Milk Foundation would not be able to speak at the opening this Tuesday.
I know this is campaign season and obviously someone thinks he will get "political Brownie points" if he keeps me out of public events. But that kind of smallness doesn't reflect what Gay Pride is about or what Harvey Milk worked so hard to achieve.
When the City of San Francisco opened up the first Harvey Milk Plaza in 2001, all openly gay electeds were invited to speak because it was understood that the "soapbox" Harvey Milk used when he talked was more than a prop, it was a statement to focus on how important it was for our community to be heard and not silenced. (I understand there is a copy of that soapbox in the Long Beach Harvey Milk Plaza.)
Harvey Milk's most famous line was "you gotta give them hope." I am hopeful the inclusiveness Milk advocated will catch on here in Long Beach.