An emotional District 4 Supervisor Ken Yeager delivered the State of the County address earlier this morning as the first openly gay President of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.
Before a crowded hall of high-profile local officials—including District Attorney Dolores Carr, Sheriff Laurie Smith, District 1 candidates Teresa Alvarado and Forrest Williams, and the mayors of San Jose, Santa Clara and Campbell—Yeager recalled being a 26–year–old staffer for former county supervisor Susanne Wilson on Aug. 6, 1979, the day the board heard fiery arguments against a ban on discrimination against gays for housing or employment.
“It is never easy to stand your ground in front of a crowd of angry people who hold positions that are different from your own, but these courageous supervisors did just that as they voted for the ordinance,” he said, he voice breaking at several points. “I—a gay man who wasn’t out to my friends or family—felt tremendous pride toward my government representatives. It showed me that Santa Clara County was a place where I could live and be accepted for who I am.”
While the assembled in the room accepted Yeager with two standing ovations, it remains to be seen whether his ambitious 2010 initiatives will be. He called for passage of a stronger local preference policy to keep more of the money the county spends local; a serious beefing up of anti-smoking ordinances—particularly in the unincorporated areas; adding millions of dollars back to Public Health and Drug and Alcohol Prevention Programs; and more equitable representation on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which he called, at present, “a grave injustice, economically and ethically.”
One of Yeager’s more modest goals is adding additional public parking around 70 West Hedding, where the supervisors hold their meetings, the lack of which, he said, sends the signal: “Public not wanted.”—Jessica Lussenhop