The commission was formed as the result of a GLBT town meeting held a year ago February. One of the city councillors, Denise Simmons, an out lesbian, put in an order to create the commission where the city manager would appoint such people. It was passed unanimously and then nothing happened for a few months. Shortly before Cambridge Pride last June, Denise and I went to meet with the City Manager and proposed that he advertise for applicants and that we would feature that at the Cambridge Pride Brunch (I'm an organizer of that as an activity of the Cambridge Lavender Alliance). He agreed, I drafted an announcement and a poster; he approved it and we went forth with a July submission deadline. I and 16 other people submitted resumés. Nothing happened for a while and then Denise put in another order asking what was happening. A month or so later he appointed the commission - all applicants were chosen and informed by letter.
Then some of us tried to get the commission launched. Another city council order... During all this time a Task Force consisting of some of us appointees and some of the GLBT city employees met a few times to try to help define what we do. I had lobbied for having the CM be involved in the first meeting. The cambridge government structure has a weak city council and a strong city manager so it is important to have him involved in the picture. Last month we had an inaugural celebration. Denise and he gave speeches (he was very supportive), we all introduced ourselves to each other and members of the public, and ate cake and soda. All the members seem to be really good, thoughtful and constructive people; many work in health care or with kids. We scheduled the first meeting.
At this meeting we spent some time getting to know each other, decided on various matters of structure such as how frequently to meet, when to elect permanent chairs, how to go about creating an Ordinance that would give us more formal structure in the City government, and discussed other such things that will help us work effectively and make sure that we represent the entire community. Such meetings are open to the public and we did have one member of the public come.
We had a matter of substance to take up. Project 10 East, the Cambridge High School GSA that was formed many years ago has atrophied - it lost most of its budget, its staff person, and its room several years ago. Some of the kids have been expressing great concern (at the Town meeting last year we broke up into working groups and this was a topic in many of them). Several of the Gay teachers left the school this year because of what they thought were unfavorable situations. We created a subcommittee (task force) that is going to look further into the situation and see what could be done. I think this will be a good test of our new organization but it is not going to be easy. There is definitely a problem with the principal so we will have to find some champions in the system. Cambridge High School, like most urban HS has many problems and challenges and from what I hear, she is doing a good job at addressing some of these.
We also have the report from the GLBT town meeting and a GLBT health forum that was held earlier this year. At the next meeting, in addition to dealing with the Project 10 East situation, we will try to prioritize some of the topics raised and choose a couple to start working on. I'm in favor of dealing with the two ends of the age spectrum first - youth and elderly.