Sex Takes a Bath
S.F.'s Public Health Department issued rules that closed the city's gay bathhouses 13 years ago, citing them as venues for unsafe sex practices that could contribute to the spread of AIDS. But now, a movement to reopen the baths is gaining momentum in the gay community.

Interest in the issue was high enough to prompt the Stop AIDS Project, one of the city's leading HIV-prevention programs, to hold a public forum last Saturday, which drew about 100 people. Earlier this month, Stop AIDS surveyed approximately 400 gay men on the issue.

“This is a very big topic,” says David Boyer, Stop AIDS's media coordinator. “Part of it is that we're no longer in crisis mode … and we're planning for a future that includes HIV, AIDS, and safe and public sex.”

The city's plans to regulate gay sex clubs have fueled the bathhouse debate. Public health officials worry that reopening the baths will lead to a rise in the spread of AIDS. But proponents say gays should be allowed to take responsibility for themselves.

The Stop AIDS survey reflects a similar sentiment. When asked for their response to seeing “two men fucking without a condom in a sex club or bathhouse,” more than two-thirds replied that it was “none of my business.”

— T.S.

Alas, for Orrick
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff, an S.F. law firm with the nation's biggest municipal bond practice, has weighed in with an ominous-sounding — but utterly transparent and self-serving — warning to a judge in a high-stakes local affirmative action case. On Feb. 10, Superior Court Judge William Cahill blocked the city Airports Commission's award of a $136 million contract to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America for an automated train system at San Francisco International Airport (see “Affirmative Action Derailed,” Feb. 5). Countermanding a legal opinion by City Attorney Louise Renne, Cahill found that no city agency could override affirmative action compliance findings by the S.F. Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC had determined Mitsubishi failed to give enough work to minority and women subcontractors.

In its Feb. 20 bid to persuade Cahill to reverse himself, Renne's office filed a sworn declaration by attorney William M. Doyle, a municipal finance partner at Orrick, Herrington. “The court's ruling,” Doyle opined, “would appear to divest the Airports Commission of authority over a portion of its contracting procedures.” Meaning, Doyle added, S.F. might have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money for future projects.

So, affirmative action can cost money. Thanks for that, Mr. Doyle. Of course, Orrick, which relies on municipal attorneys such as Renne to get its bond work, has every reason to help the city attorney make her case.

— C.F.

Pil's in the Money
Rabbi Bentziyon Pil filed long-overdue financial forms last week with the Attorney General's Office and the IRS for his Jewish Educational Center (see “Would You Buy a Used Car From This Rabbi?” Jan. 22). They show it resembles a used-car business more than a charity.

Out of some $8.5 million collected from April 1, 1995, to March 31, 1996, more than $3 million went to the operation's car end, plus another $4 million for administrative costs. That level of non-charity spending is disgracefully high for a nonprofit supposedly helping Russian Jews.

In one striking oddity, the JEC amassed some $500,000 in cash — and stored it in non-interest-bearing accounts. Pil's PR rep says the cash is “an account they use from month to month for operating costs.” That's a lot of liquidity floating around.

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