Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interesting Choices

President Elect Obama has made some interesting choices for his energy and natural resources team, although the selections are not "official" yet. The new president will be making an announcement next week on the people chosen. At the top of the list is Stephen Chu, a Nobel-laureate in physics and currently head of the Lawrence Livermore Lab in California, as Energy Secretary. Imagine! A scientist for that position.

Mr. Obama is also poised to name three women to the team, one of whom, Nancy Sutely, holds a significant post in Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's administration. She's an interesting pick for several reasons, not the least of which are her qualifications. I did a brief survey of three newspaper accounts of her selection. First, the NY Times:

The officials said Mr. Obama would name Steven Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as his energy secretary, and Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. ...

Ms. Sutley, who will direct the Council on Environmental Quality, is now the top environmental adviser to the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa. She has years of experience in managing water supplies and water quality in California and has also worked on energy-saving construction rules for the City of Los Angeles.

She was a special assistant to Ms. Browner at the E.P.A.


OK, nice recitation in an article geared more to Mr. Chu's selection and the selections of the other, more familiar, women.

Here's where it gets a little more interesting: from yesterday's Sacramento Bee:

The president-elect has selected Steven Chu for energy secretary, Lisa Jackson for EPA administrator, Carol Browner as his energy "czar," and Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Democratic officials with knowledge of the decisions said Wednesday. ...

- Sutley, the deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles and the mayor's representative on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is the first prominent gay to earn a senior role in Obama's new administration. She was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, including being a special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington. She also previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board and was an energy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis.
[Emphasis added]

Interesting bit of information, eh? An openly gay woman (I prefer the term "lesbian," but this will do).

But, wait, there's more. Here's the Washington Post on the story:

... Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, will chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality. ...

Sutley, who has a long record on environmental and natural resources policy, will head a group that has a very limited regulatory role and a small staff. But from its offices on Lafayette Square near the White House, Sutley could be a player in shaping the new administration's policies on climate change and the environment.

Sutley, a top aide to Browner at the EPA dealing with air-pollution issues, supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. She previously served in California as an energy adviser to then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) and as a member of the State Water Resources Control Board, where she was responsible for protecting water quality and resources throughout the nation's most populous state.

Sutley, whose mother is from Argentina, identifies herself as a Latina. She was a member of the California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender steering committee of Clinton's campaign and is the first openly gay nominee for a top job in the Obama administration.
[Emphasis added]

That last paragraph is also the last paragraph in the WaPo story, so, in a sense, the information was buried, but it is there.

Readers of the online edition of the Sacramento Bee went a little crazy on the inclusion of Ms. Sutley's sexual orientation in the story, complaining that it was irrelevant and inflammatory. Although I haven't yet checked, I imagine some commenters at the Washington Post will also kvetch at the news (if they read the entire story). And, to be honest, up until last month, I probably would have agreed with them.

Last month, however, voters in California put a big slap on the gay community by passing Proposition 8 which would deny gay couples the right to marry and enjoy the various privileges that status bestows. In the face of that hateful result, President Elect Obama still chose Ms. Sutley for a position that she is clearly qualified for. I think that fact is newsworthy and should be included.

I am reminded of the chants the Act Up characters used some 20 years ago:

We're Queer,
We're here,
Get over it.

It seems appropriate right now.

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