Tuesday, December 02, 2008
This picture of Tom Ammiano at his swearing-in as a member of the California State Assembly was spread across the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle today.
I bet he hated it. This is not how he likes to be seen, I suspect -- but his delight is unfeigned.
If anyone ever put in the time to get ready to be a state legislator, Tom is it. He's been a county supervisor since 1994 -- fourteen hard years of trying to make something of City government. We got city-mandated universal health care out of that long slog, among other policy accomplishments. Before that Tom was on the elected School Board from 1990-2. Before that he was a third grade teacher -- and a gay comedian, a vocational byway that has served him well in public life.
I think of Tom as the last California politician who dates from that first brave and creative generation of LGBT activists who dared to imagine we could simply be normal. Like many of these people, who have by now mostly left the pubic arena, he cut his teeth on fighting the Briggs Initiative in 1977 -- that ballot measure would have fired all gay and gay-positive teachers. We won that one.
Tom is simply a good guy with a commitment to justice, not only for his own gay community, but for all the unglamorous ordinary people of this sometimes pretentious city -- renters, low wage workers, bus riders, teachers and nurses.
I took this picture of him a few years ago at a rally to save St. Luke's Hospital, a threatened community-serving fixture of his neighborhood. I think he likes looking like this a little better.
Full disclosure: I was heavily involved in Tom's 1999 mayoral campaign.