Newsom picks new rights commission chief

Mayor Gavin Newsom has nominated a manager from his own office — who has a background in development and construction — to lead San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission.

CityBuild Director Chris Iglesias said he plans to review commission rules that help small businesses compete for City Hall contracts when he starts his new job in November, if commissioners vote to back Newsom’s nomination, which was announced Friday.

Iglesias would take over as the commission’s executive director from Virginia Harmon, who until last week had refused to resign.

“We’re going to look at all the ordinances and policies,” Iglesias said Sunday, “and really look at their impacts upon the local business community, both positive and negative, over the past few years.

“We’ll work with the business community and various ethnic chambers of commerce to see if we’re doing the best that we can do.”

The outcome of a lawsuit before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will affect how the commission can create opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, said the 45-year-old Bay Area native, who expects to take over for Harmon in November.

Iglesias said he managed contracts at the city’s redevelopment agency while the agency worked “very aggressively” to try to secure work for minority and women-owned businesses, and that he worked on minority-run business programs at the City of Oakland in the early 1990s.

He left the city’s redevelopment agency in 2005, after working there for more than a decade, to run a program in the Mayor’s Office that hires and trains construction workers.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard on Sunday said that Iglesias’ experience at City Hall, and his business background, would help him work with all of the parties who come before the Human Rights Commission, including businesses and nonprofits.

Ballard said he expected outgoing department head Harmonto be employed by the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency. Harmon could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Newsom on Sept. 10 asked his department heads, commissioners and other senior staff to sign resignation letters that would become effective in January, if he chose to accept them, so that he could make “bold changes” if re-elected in November.

Until their departures were announced last week, Harmon and Housing Authority Director Gregg Fortner had been the only two out of 52 department heads to refuse Newsom’s request.

The Human Rights Commission helps protect San Franciscans from discrimination, including discrimination by employers and by the housing industry.

The commission is also charged with advocating for human and civil rights.

The commission’s Local Business Enterprise Advisory Committee until 2004 was called the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Advisory Committee.

jupton@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

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