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Todd Gloria hoping to make history as San Diego mayor

He’d be the first gay and person of color to run America’s 8th largest city

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Assemblymember Todd Gloria Feb. 2018 in San Diego (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Compassion can’t be ordered up like a dessert item on a road-stop menu. Compassion is a character trait developed through hard earned experience and the willingness to walk in someone else’s shoes. And compassion, California Assemblymember Todd Gloria believes, is an attribute LGBT people can uniquely bring with them into elected office.

In an America fuming over Donald Trump’s divisive toxic masculinity, Gloria stands for the triumph of humanity over smug cruelty and neglect. It’s a practiced philosophy he intends to bring to his hometown of San Diego where he hopes to be elected mayor in 2020. 

“I’m third generation San Diegan. I know where the city has been and I have a vision for where I’d like to take it. The opportunity to lead my hometown—the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the nation—is one that I don’t want to pass up,” Gloria tells the Los Angeles Blade by phone from Sacramento. “This is where I believe I can make the most meaningful impact.”

There’s a calm excitement in Gloria’s voice, as if he’s mentally transported himself to some San Diego site where, shovel in hand, he’s about to dig a new beginning.

“I believe San Diego is at an inflection point where we can build on the things that I did while I was a city council member, city council president and interim mayor in the past,” he says. “We must take on new challenges. We are the eighth largest city in the nation and we have the fourth largest homeless population in the United States! I think we should fix that.”

There’s also a housing affordability crisis that’s hurting the middle class “that allowed me to get an education and build a career and a life in my hometown. That’s imperiled at the moment,” he says. “We need to build a world-class public transportation system – that still has not happened but could happen with the right kind of leadership.” He’s offering a new direction “that’s more reflective of our big city status rather than the small town ways that have often held us back held back in realizing the full potential of our great city.”

And, for the city often identified as the birthplace for the infamous anti-immigrant Prop 187, Gloria says:  “We are moving toward a new San Diego that is inclusive of all people. A city where everyone can make a life for themself.”

Gloria would be the first openly LGBTQ person and the first person of color elected mayor in the eighth largest city, of particular intersectional interest since San Diego is a border city immediately adjacent to Baja California and Tijuana Mexico.

“My upbringing as the son of a maid and gardener very much colors my point of view on what we can and should be doing for San Diego,” Gloria says of his mixed Native American, Filipino, Dutch, Puerto Rican heritage. “My parents are incredible people, hard working folks with high school educations who, despite significant challenges, were able to build a life – buy a home, put their two kids through college.”

Gloria officially came out to his parents at 18, though he jokingly says he was never “in” the closet since he and apparently everyone at school knew he was gay. But he survived those difficult times to go on and graduate summa cum laude from the University of San Diego, having majored in history and political science.

“My concern is that that story is not as easily replicable today because of the challenges San Diego has not taken head on,” he says. “We had a recent report where there’s 40,000 San Diego young people in their late teens and early 20s who are completely disconnected from the worlds of education and the world of work. Those are young people who are going un-utilized in our economy and that’s a missed potential towards the vision I have of a great city.”

Gloria says he wants to “keep that ladder of opportunity in place. I want to rebuild it where it may have been broken. I believe it because I’ve experienced it and I want others to have that same experience. And right now I think there’s good reason to doubt that that ladder exists. But my goal, my ambition, my vision is to rebuild it – not just for queer kids of color like me but really for every person who is going to work hard in San Diego.”

Relatable compassion matters. “Anyone who has grown up LGBT publicly comes out with two qualities,” he says. “One is compassion because what we often experience really allows us to feel other people’s experience and understand and relate to them. When you’ve gone through junior high—it’s a difficult experience so there’s a level of compassion that many of us bring to our work. I certainly feel that.”

Second, “there’s also a level of strength,” Gloria says. “If you can get through adolescence, through high school, through the worlds of work and career—it is not always easy. There are often daily challenges about whether you come out to those you’re interacting with—what is the risk involved in that? I think back to my time at the University of San Diego—a Catholic institution in the 1990s—weighing my academic success about who it is to be authentically me.”


State Sen. Scott Wiener, then-Sen. Ricardo Lara, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, then-LGBT Legislative Caucus Chair Assemblymember Evan Low, Caucus Vice-Chair Assemblymember Todd Gloria at at 2018 EQCA event in Los Angeles (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

But that turmoil created a deeper sense of humanity and “a level of personal inner strength that I think you want in your civic leaders so that when times are tough, you know that you’re not going to bend,” Gloria says, “that you have an authenticity, a resolve, a strength that will be used for the benefit of the people that you’re elected to serve. But that’s coupled with a level of compassion that allows you to understand and to perhaps walk a bit in the other person’s shoes. So you can credibly say that you may be one person but you may understand the plight and the lived experiences of, in this case, the 1.4 million people who call San Diego home.”

Gloria believes people want to know “that you understand a bit about their lives and consider that when you’re doing your decision-making. I think that’s a part of the benefit that being LGBTQ has for those of us that are lucky enough to serve in elected office.” 

Along with compassion and strength comes a deep sense of responsibility. At the beginning of February, for instance, Gloria, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and Equality California teamed up to introduce AB 493: the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019 – a bill that would require California schools to provide annual teacher and staff training on how to support LGBTQ students at school and in their local community.

“According to the 2017 National School Climate Survey, 82 percent of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks in their school; approximately 7 in 10 reported being called names or threatened because of their sexual orientation; and more than one-third of students who identify as LGBTQ reported missing at least one day of school because of feeling unsafe,” EQCA reported in their press release introducing AB 493.

“The bullying and name calling I experienced in school as a young gay kid is still a reality for today’s LGBTQ youth. No child should have to experience that. Students should feel safe, accepted, included, and supported in their school,” Gloria said at a news conference at a San Diego high school. “Equipping educators with resources to better support LGBTQ students will create a safer and more inclusive environment for these students to be successful.”

And then there are the most marginalized of the marginalized—LGBTQ kids who wind up in the foster care system. In April 2018, Gloria introduced AB 2119 to demand that the state system connect trans and gender nonconforming youth to gender-affirming care, if and when they ask for it. According to the Williams Institute and other reports, LGBTQ kids are over-represented in the foster care system and are mistreated and abused more than non-LGBTQ kids.

On Sept. 14, 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Gloria’s bill.  “This is the beginning of a new and hopeful day for the many foster youth in California. With the signing of this bill, we tell our foster youth that no matter who you are or how you identify, there is a place for you in California,” Gloria said. “We want our future generations to know they have a safe place to grow up and live. At its core, that’s what this bill does — we empower transgender and gender non-conforming foster youth to live authentically despite their circumstances. I want to thank Governor Brown for signing this bill into law — an act which I truly believe will save lives.”

And it’s that power of compassion, strength and responsibility that Gloria hopes to bring home to San Diego. “I often talk on the campaign trail about this being a mayoral campaign and a hopeful administration that is focused on real people and on real problems,” Gloria says, adding that he carries the voices of LGBT history with him. “Hopefully, I can make our community proud.”

For more, visit: toddgloria.com

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West Hollywood

Federal Jury convicts Ed Buck in the drug deaths of two Black men

Also convicted on charges of maintaining a drug den, distributing methamphetamine & enticement to cross state lines to engage in prostitution

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ED Buck at the time of his arrest by a Federal Task Force (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – Barely four and a half hours after being handed his case for deliberations, a federal grand jury convicted the former West Hollywood resident and Democratic political activist/donor Ed Buck on the nine-count indictment of charges he supplied the methamphetamine that killed two Black men during ‘party-and-play’ encounters at his flat.

Buck was also convicted on charges of maintaining a drug den, distributing methamphetamine and enticement to cross state lines to engage in prostitution.

The conviction could mean that Buck, 66, will be facing a sentence where he could spend the rest of his life in prison for his actions that killed Gemmel Moore, 26, in July 2017, and Timothy Dean, 55, in January 2019. The convictions for supplying the meth that resulted in death each carry a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The verdict concluded a two-week trial that featured harrowing testimony of Buck’s accusers and victims which was shocking. Prosecutor’s use of Buck’s seized videos offered jurors a disturbingly graphic look at the chilling indifference displayed by Buck as he victimized those unfortunate to enter his flat.

Buck would solicit his victims on social media platforms, including Grinder, and on Adam4Adam, a gay hook-up site. Buck’s profile solicited men who shared his underwear fetish and wanted to “party and play.” His profile also contained a ‘Rose’ emoji which symbolized that he was generous or in plain terms, willing to pay cash for his “party and play.”

Jurors heard testimony from several of the Black men victimized that Buck’s preference was to personally inject victims, and he pressured or incentivized victims to let him do so, sometimes offering large cash bonuses to coerce a victim to agree to an injection or additional injections. At other times, Buck simply injected victims while they were unconscious.

“I know this has been an arduous, lengthy and difficult process,” U.S. District Judge Christine A. Snyder told jurors after she read the verdict shortly after 2 p.m. Pacific.

Christopher Darden, a lawyer for Buck, told the jury his client was on trial “for conduct that millions of people engage in.” He dismissed the witnesses against Buck as manipulative escorts and drug abusers who used Buck for his money, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The evidence is going to show that these grown men made a conscious decision to go to Ed Buck’s apartment for whatever reason,” Darden said in his opening statement.

Ludlow Creary II, another of Buck’s attorneys, argued that his client did nothing more than enjoy party-and-play sessions involving drugs and sex with men he met online. Buck could not be held responsible for the serious medical conditions that caused the deaths of the two men at his apartment 18 months apart, Creary argued in court.

“This is a subculture, a lifestyle that may be shocking to some of us,” Creary said during his summation. “Everyone involved was there voluntarily.”

The Times noted that Assistant U.S. attorney Chelsea Norell called the defense’s strategy “despicable victim shaming.”

Buck showed no emotion as he heard the verdicts.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder did not set a sentencing date, but scheduled post-trial motions on Aug. 9.

“It was a tremendous honor to vindicate the rights of the victims,” Norell told reporters after the verdict was read.

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West Hollywood

Arrest made in a kidnapping in West Hollywood bar & nightclub district

Detectives seek to speak with any additional witnesses or anyone who has had contact with Diaz on the night of the incident or in the past.

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Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department announced in a tweet that deputies had arrested Fernando Diaz, 50, at 3 a.m. Friday morning after he was seen allegedly carrying an unconscious woman to a van and then driving off. Diaz was released on bond a day later, officials confirmed Sunday.

Diaz’s bail amount was set at $100,000 and he was released on Saturday after posting bond, according to the Sheriff’s Department’s inmate locator.

Detectives seek to speak with any additional witnesses or anyone who has had contact with Diaz on the night of the incident or in the past.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Cynthia Mejia at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Detective Bureau by calling 310-358-4028 or [email protected]

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California

California voters give Newsom thumbs down on homelessness response

“I don’t think homelessness can be solved – I know homelessness can be solved,” said Newsom. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions”

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New Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell & Governor Newsom tour Folsom Lake reservoir (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

BOSTON – In a new poll released Friday conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College of more than 1,000 registered voters, half rated Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the homelessness crisis in California as ‘poor.’

The poll of more than 1,000 registered voters has a margin of error of +/-2.9%  (Graphic via KTLA)

Newsom’s low marks comes after an announcement earlier this week at a Project Homekey site located in Sebastopol, West of Santa Rosa, where he signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in California history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion over two years towards tackling the homelessness crisis head-on – helping tens of thousands of people off the streets while also demanding greater accountability and more urgency from local governments.

The new homelessness funding includes $5.8 billion to add 42,000 new housing units through Homekey – a national model for homeless housing. $3 billion of this investment is dedicated to housing for people with the most acute behavioral and physical health needs. This investment is the biggest expansion in decades in terms of clinically enhanced behavioral health housing in California.

According to the poll, homelessness ties with housing costs at 19% as the number one issue the state is facing today. COVID-19 ranks close behind at 16% (Graphic via KTLA)

“I don’t think homelessness can be solved – I know homelessness can be solved,” said Newsom. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions that we know work – with a focus on creating housing to support people with severe mental health challenges, and with more money than ever to move people out of encampments and into safer situations.”

California is home to more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless people with an estimated 161,000 people are experiencing homelessness, according to federal government data, and it has reached crisis proportions in many cities, especially in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in his annual State of the City address on April 19, 2021 that he will seek to spend nearly $1 billion on initiatives for addressing homelessness, as well as allocate $235 million for the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, intended to help up to 100,000 households and other critical needs.

There are deep disagreements in how to solve a problem that goes beyond economics, advocates claim they can’t house people quickly enough with a shortage of housing units and high rents. The issue is also further exacerbated by the complications of mental illness and addiction issues that require treatment and can make people resistant to accepting shelter.

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