I Believe That We Will Win!

Tonight concludes my term as President of San Diego Democrats for Equality, and it also concludes 26 consecutive years of service on the Executive Board. I have served as Executive Vice President, Membership Director, Legislative Advocate, and two stints as Publications Director. I also served as Past President, since I previously served as President in 1991 and 1992.  My 1991 election was the club’s first contested election for President.  I had to actually conduct a campaign that included a brochure, direct mail, telephone calls and a get out the vote drive … and I won, by two votes. This time around, I reluctantly consented to run as a caretaker for a year until we could find someone new willing to take over. But it didn’t make sense to change leadership in 2012 during an election year, and then the club restructuring process stretched my term out to three years. That totals five years as the length of my combined terms as President, more than any other President – although Jeri Dilno still holds the record for four consecutive years as President.

Over these past 26 years, I have attended over 500 board and club meetings, with close to perfect attendance.  If anyone still has doubts about my commitment to the club, they need only to look at my T-shirt [which read “I believe that we will win – SDSU Basketball”].  As my Facebook friends all know, I am an avid Aztec men’s basketball fan and season ticket holder. As I speak, the team is preparing to tipoff their Sweet 16 game against Arizona. I would love to be with the Aztecs up in Anaheim, but I know that I belong here with my club.

As anyone who follows Aztec men’s basketball knows, the mantra of the fans for about the last four years has been “I believe that we will win!” To be perfectly candid, I’m not 100% confident that the Aztecs will prevail over the Wildcats tonight [as it turned out we came awfully close], but I am when it comes to the San Diego Democrats for Equality and the LGBT equality movement, I have no doubt that we will prevail.

That confidence hasn’t always existed.  I’ll note that during my first term as President, the Aztecs men’s basketball team went 2-26. The prospects the club faced when we were founded in 1975 were just a bleak.

In 1975, we were considered criminals. “Homosexual sodomy” was a crime in California.  The Legislature, in a dramatic vote, struck down those statutes in 1975, the bill was signed by Jerry Brown during his first go-around as Governor and the repeal went into effect January 1, 1976. The club’s focus back in those days was on preventing harassment (even from the police who should have been protecting us) and to pass laws to keep us from being fired from our jobs or discharged from the military merely for being gay or lesbian.

Then came the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which led in initial polls but was eventually defeated. That initiative would have prevented gays and lesbians, and even those who supported us, from teaching in public schools. Fast forward to now, when an openly gay member of our club is serving as President of the San Diego Unified District School Board. We are winning.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, marriage equality was not something activists expected to see in our lifetimes. Back then, we were fighting for dignity not equality.  Look how far we’ve come. Just three weeks ago, a Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 59% of Americans support marriage equality, with majority support in every part of the country. Who would have predicted in 1975, that in 2013, we would have an African-American President of the United States call for full LGBT equality in his second inaugural address? We are winning.

In 1975, there were no openly gay or lesbian elected officials in the State of California.  Harvey Milk broke that barrier in 1977 when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Look at where we are today.

Without a doubt, Chris Kehoe would never have become the first LGBT elected official in San Diego if it weren’t for the groundwork and grassroots work done by our club. We were a leader in the campaign to have district elections in the city, and we were instrumental in drawing the lines of the Third City Council District so that an LGBT candidate could win.  Our club provided the core volunteers and donors for the Kehoe campaign. Her opponent called the campaign a crusade – and it was – and we won.

Chris’ election paved the way for the subsequent elections of Toni Atkins, Todd Gloria, David Roberts, Kevin Beiser and others. In my first term as President, Toni Atkins was a Vice President of the club. Now she has been elected as Speaker of the Assembly, arguably making her one of the most powerful women in California. We are winning.

Despite progress, we still have a long road to travel until we reach our destination.  Last summer, after the Supreme Court decision striking down Proposition 8 and DOMA, a reporter and I were discussing the impact of the decision. She asked whether I still saw a need for organizations with a mission of promoting equality. My response was that the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 didn’t end racial segregation in public schools (I can attest to that since I grew up in the South in the 1960’s) and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 didn’t end racial discrimination. Just as the mission civil rights groups wasn’t complete then, there will continue to be a need for LGBT organizations to defend the rights we have earned.

But we do live in different era, and the club needs to evolve with the times. That’s why the club established the Transformation Task Force to ensure that we rise to the next level. It is a blueprint for a revitalized organization, and it is now up to a new generation of leaders to do the implementation.

I’d like to highlight two themes from the Transformation Task Force as being successful to our future success.

First, we need to expand our vision of equality by becoming more involved in other important social justice and progressive causes and not focus exclusively on LGBT rights. We need to fight for and defend equality for all. And when it comes to LGBT equality, we need to put more emphasis on the “T.”  The transgender equality movement is not too far removed from where the LGB movement was in 1975. We have work to do, but I believe that we will ultimately win that arena too.

Second, we need to expand and engage our membership.  It was reassuring to learn that 30 members have already signed up for committees.  That is how we can get members involved and develop future leaders.

We also need to have more fun! The club picnic last August was a big hit, and we should consider the model of local groups like HRC and the Victory Fund who have happy hour receptions with elected officials to build their base of support.

But while we are having fun, there is some hard work to do. We need to return to being a grassroots organization. As many of you have heard me say before, and I’ll repeat tonight: wearing buttons is not enough. Wearing T-shirts, displaying bumper stickers or yard signs, going to debates and endorsement forums, attending fund raisers (although political contributions are also important) are not enough. We need to walk the precincts, staff the phone banks, do the data entry, or whatever volunteer work you are able to do.  That’s how we got Chris Kehoe elected, and that’s the only way we can continue to win elections. And that’s why we’ve invited the GO (Grassroots Organizing) Team to make a presentation tonight.

Finally, we need to do the community outreach necessary to grow and diversify our membership and to attract more youth, allies, people of color and others.

I’m confident that the new Executive Board is up to the challenge.  They are indeed a winning team.

As I pass the baton, I would like to take a moment to thank all of board members who served on the Executive Board with me over the years, especially during the past three years. I’d also like to thank you, the members, for giving me the opportunity to play a leadership role in the club during these exciting times. The campaign for LGBT equality is truly the civil rights movement of our generation. And, as the saying goes, all politics is local. Our club has certainly been and continues to be on the forefront of that battle.

I believe that we will win!

Remarks delivered by Doug Case, immediate past President, at the installation of new Democrats for Equality officers.

 

 

Why our elected County Clerk Needs to be Fired on June 3rd

The Incident

In July of 2013, our County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk hired anti-gay extremist lawyer Charles LiMandri to stop marriage equality in California.  LiMandri describes gay relationships as “pathologic,” “deviant,” and “perverse.” Not surprisingly this is the same guy who wrote the blueprint and plan for Prop 8 to get it on the ballot in California.

 At the time Clerk Ernie Dronenburg was concerned that everyone know he wasn’t a bigot.  He was just seeking clarification about what the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Prop. 8 meant.  Now that he’s up for reelection, he’s resurrecting that clarification claim to convince voters that he’s really a nice old man that wouldn’t harm anyone, and therefore deserves reelection.

Well, the facts speak for themselves.  Filing a lawsuit claiming the California Attorney General doesn’t have authority to enforce a US Supreme Court ruling aimed at the State of California is not an act of clarification.  It is a claim that he, and only he, can decide what laws he has to follow.  Likewise, claiming that the US Supreme Court ruling and two underlying rulings overturning Prop 8 should only apply to the couples named in the case, or the two counties which they lived, is not an act of clarification.  It’s an attempt to find cover for disobeying the law by refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox stated Dronenburg acted on his own. Tim McClain, spokeperson for county Supervisor Ron Roberts, offered this statement from Roberts:

“This petition was filed without my consent, consultation or support. I am disappointed and had thought we had moved past such divisiveness after the U.S. Supreme Court’s declarative ruling.”

County Supervisor Dave Roberts also condemned Dronenburg’s actions. The County’s lawyers refused to assist Dronenburg.

Perhaps most importantly, hiring LiMandri – who represented the Prop 8 proponents in California District Court, the Court of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court, losing at each step – to file a copycat petition of the one he [LiMandri] had filed on behalf of his anti-gay group that according to State Attorney General Kamala Harris, “offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights…” is no search for clarification.  It was an attempt to use his non-legislative office to legislate an extremist agenda.  As for Dronenburg’s claim that he didn’t hire LiMandri at the taxpayer’s expense, perhaps the Fair Political Practices Commission said it best,

 

“You are the County Clerk of San Diego County, an elected position. Part of your official duties include issuing marriage licenses.Following the United States’ Supreme Court’s decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U.S. _ _ (2013) and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s lifting of its stay banning same sex marriages in California, which together effectively legalized same sex marriage in California, you requested legal representation by the county of San Diego for the purpose of limiting this ruling. Through the requested attorney, you intended to file a writ of mandamus against Governor Jerry Brown, and others, requesting that the California Supreme Court order the Governor not to enforce the State Registrar directive to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The county declined to provide legal representation. You then arranged with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (attorney Charles LiMandri)  to provide all legal services….”

  You can read more about the FPPC Oct 14, 2013 letter to Dronenburg at http://tinyurl.com/ltouxz2.

 

RIO

Other than abusing his elected position to push his personal agenda, Dronenburg is surely doing a good job for us, right? Nope.

The State of California mandates every property, both residential and business, be assessed yearly.  Since Dronenburg took office in 2010, the Assessor’s office has been unable to get it done.  But remember, Ernie doesn’t believe that the State can order an elected official like himself to follow their rules.  So rather than meeting the standard, Dronenburg lowered the goal first to 99% and later when even that goal proved elusive, 98%.  A 2% failure rate doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But in a County the size of San Diego that percentage equates to thousands of businesses and homes every year that don’t get assessed and end-up with back dated bills or corrected bills, often hitting small business and families with unexpected expenses.  Until 2010, the Assessor’s office had a 100% track record for several years.

Dronenburg claims a 98% customer satisfaction rate on his ballot statement but his own filed records show a lower rate.  How can we trust any number given by Dronenburg since he refuses to use the County’s system to record customer feed-back.  Dronenburg prefers the hand-written cards filled-out at the desk, which are subjectively sifted through to categorize as positive, neutral or negative. 

Perhaps if Dronenburg spent his time actually working at the job of being our Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk, he would have done a better job.  Dronenburg’s nickname is RIO. That’s not a trip down south for Carnival.  That’s Retired In Office.  He is in his 70’s, lives on his flower ranch all the way up in Fallbrook and apparently can’t be expected to drive all the way down to Kearny Mesa or any of the other offices once or twice every week.  He can’t be expected to go out and talk to community groups, taxpayers and County citizens about the work and services provided by his office, even if he collects a $1000 travel mileage allowance to do so. 

Throughout his non-tenancy in the Clerk’s office, Ernie Dronenburg has failed to provide oversight to his office, his employees and his budget and the result is inconvenience, expense and even devastatingly unexpected tax bills to the County’s residents. He has done an impressively bad job for all the residents of San Diego County.  Dronenburg raised the budget by millions of dollars after taking office; hired more staff; dramatically increased fees for everything from birth certificates to licenses over the past three years; and, has missed thousands of basic deadlines.  How many of you are receiving “corrected” tax bills? How many of you are still waiting on your property valuations to be resolved? How many of you are receiving back-dated bills even after you thought you were all paid-up? 

Or what about Dronenburg’s claim he returned a few million back to the budget since he took office? This seems great until you realize Dronenburg was required to return the money after jacking-up the fees and low-balling the anticipated numbers in the budget.

Dronenburg can be summed-up as out of control, out of touch, out of date and should be, out of the office.

 

The Solution

 

Susan Guinn, Endorsed candidate for San Diego County Assessor/Clerk

Fortunately, on June 3rd, we have a far superior alternative to Dronenburg.

Susan Guinn is running for San Diego County Assessor/Recorder Clerk.  She has spent her career fighting for people to make sure they get a fair deal. She is passionate about consumer rights and has a proven track record of results. She has protected taxpayers from fraudulent taxes and fees, and fought for families and businesses to collect from insurance companies after catastrophic losses.  She is committed to protecting taxpayers from overpayment, for modernization of the Assessor/Clerk’s office and providing transparency to the office.

Now that you know, it is critical to give Susan Guinn the tools she needs (financial, volunteer support, etc.) to put this race on the County’s voter election radar.  Whether it is $25 or $700, give today!  Spread the word.  Do not be complacent.  Get in touch with her at http://www.susanguinn.com/ and together instead of RIO we can make Ernie Dronenburg RIFRetired In Fact.

David Warmoth

President-Elect, San Diego Democrats for Equality

Congratulations to Toni Atkins, California’s next Speaker of the Assembly

Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins

Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins has been unanimously chosen by her Assembly Democratic colleagues to succeed Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez as the next Speaker of the Assembly.

With her selection as Speaker, Toni becomes only the second Democratic woman and second member of the LGBT community to hold the post.

Toni represents the coastal 78th Assembly District in San Diego and was elected to the Assembly in 2010 following eight years on the San Diego City Council.  In 2005, she served for several months with distinction as Acting Mayor following the resignation of Mayor Dick Murphy.

A native of Appalachian Virginia, Toni moved to San Diego in 1985. She worked as Director of Clinic Services for of the WomanCare Health Center in Hillcrest, and later served on the staff of City Councilmember Christine Kehoe, San Diego’s first LGBT elected official.

Toni is known as a passionate supporter of affordable housing, assistance for the homeless, reproductive justice, access to health care, LGBT equality, and issues affecting veterans. She considers the San Diego Democrats for Equality as her political home, and served as the club’s Executive Vice President in the early 1990’s.

Toni currently lives in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego with her spouse Jennifer LeSar and their dogs, Haley and Joey.

January Club Meeting Change

In order to avoid conflict with the Roe v. Wade Dinner, the January club meeting has been moved to Saturday morning, January 25 at 9:00 a.m. at the Joyce Beers Uptown Community Center. We will be conducting candidate forums and considering endorsements in the San Diego City Council races (even number seats are up for election in 2014) as well as the San Diego County District Attorney race. Coffee, juice, fruit, and doughnuts will be served, and for those who are available, we will participate in a precinct walk for David Alvarez immediately following the meeting.

Help David Alvarez win the race for San Diego’s next Mayor!

David Alvarez

Mail ballots will be sent next week to San Diego voters to elect the city’s next mayor. Democrat David Alvarez is now running neck-in-neck with his special-interest-backed Republican opponent – meaning what you and I do now will determine the outcome on February 11.

The campaign’s Kearny Mesa headquarters is at 8316 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 212, San Diego, 92111 (in the same office complex as the County Democratic Party Headquarters). Precinct walks are scheduled every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. or Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The campaign also organizes phonebanks every night from 3 to 8 p.m. Click here to sign up to volunteer or call at 619-420-1330.

If you’d prefer to make calls from home anywhere in the county, go to www.sddemocrats.org/phonebank for info on how to get started.

Click here to donate to the campaign. Any amount would really help.

Let’s resolve to make history together by electing David Alvarez in 2014!

Holiday Party Set for December 14 – Update

Holiday party graphic

The San Diego Democrats for Equality’s 2013 Holiday Party will be Saturday afternoon, December 14 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

The party will be held in the private Pacific Beach home of Laura Mustari and Lorie Miles.

Please RSVP to Craig Roberts at [email protected] or 619-865-4550 by Thursday, December 12.

All attendees are asked to bring a side dish or a dessert (the club will provide the main dishes and beverages).