Lee Ousts Gays from Health Panel
Mayor Ed Lee has ousted the only two openly gay people from the San Francisco Health Commission.
His decision leaves the seven-member panel, which oversees a Department of Public Health budget of about $1.6 billion - including millions related to HIV and AIDS - without anyone from the gay or HIV/AIDS communities for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Steven Tierney, 60, who had been serving as the commission’s president, and Jim Illig, 63, a former president, received news earlier this month that Lee had decided not to reappoint them. Their terms expired in January but they had continued to serve as the mayor made his decision.
Tierney, who once served as the city’s HIV prevention director, said, "My hope would be that somebody from our community" gets a commission appointment.
"In a city with the HIV situation we have, and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health issues, it would be important to have at least one from our community," said Tierney, who’s HIV-negative.
Illig, who works at Project Open Hand, a local nonprofit that provides meals to people with HIV and AIDS and seniors, said having experience in the HIV/AIDS field "is just as important as having a doctor and a nurse on the commission." Illig is also HIV-negative.
Nicole Wheaton, the mayor’s appointments secretary, couldn’t be reached for comment.
However, Christine Falvey, the mayor’s press secretary, did not rule out that an LGBT person would be appointed to the one vacancy. The mayor earlier named Belle Taylor-McGhee to fill one of the vacancies.
"The mayor has several very well-qualified candidates for the open seat" on the commission "including LGBT candidates. He will fill the vacancy as soon as he has met with candidates."
It’s not clear why exactly Tierney and Illig were booted from the commission.
Tierney noted the terms are four years.
"I had one, and it’d be nice to get another one but when you get a new mayor it’s his or her right to appoint his or her own people. ... I don’t think it was anything personal," he said.
Tierney supported former Supervisor Bevan Dufty in the 2011 mayor’s race. Lee became interim mayor last year and was elected to a full term in November.
Asked why he hadn’t been reappointed, Illig, who was first appointed in 2004, laughed and said, "You tell me. ... I have no idea." However, he added, "I know it’s politics," since the new mayor gets to put his own people in place. Illig supported Lee for mayor.