International Service and Human Rights
Throughout his career as a member of the California State Assembly, Mayor of San Francisco, HUD Regional Director as well a private citizen; Agnos has traveled to foreign countries to advocate on behalf of human rights as well as to help foster democracy and political reform in nations seeking to improve their modern government.
His experience and insight in these areas led to a requests by the U.S. Secretary of State for Agnos to lecture and participate in seminars for mayors and local officials in Diyarbakir, Turkey in 1998.
Additional requests came from the the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to conduct citizen participation seminars for citizen groups and government officials in Luanda, Angola in 1998; to co-chair an international election commission with a member of the Namibian Parliament to assess, advise and report on the readiness of various stakeholders (i.e. UN officials, political parties, media, election officials, police, NGO’s etc.) who were to be involved in the first democratic elections in Sierra Leone since the end of their 20 year civil war; to present disaster preparedness and response lectures to the first local government citizens advisory committee established by Palestinian officials in Bethlehem in 2002 after military incursions; and to lead government seminars on citizen empowerment and disaster response in Beijing and Fuzhou, China in 2004.
In 1996 he was invited by the first democratically mayor of Seoul, Korea to provide the keynote address on the 500th anniversary of that city. In 1995, he was a part of a small delegation sponsored by the Asia Foundation to conduct a series of seminars on constituent service and election campaigns for first time officials in the Russian Far East Cities of Habarovsk and Vladivostok.
Art was also asked by the San Francisco Catholic Human Rights Committee to participate in a human rights mission to Nicaragua and El Salvador in 1984 where they investigated political oppression against religious leaders and citizen activists and by the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews to meet and negotiate for Jewish refusniks threatened by the Soviet government in Moscow and Leningrad (1986).
In his first year as mayor of San Francisco (1988), he flew to Guatemala to discuss specific immigration and refugee issues with government and private officials. During ensuing years, he also led San Francisco City delegations to meet and confer with partners in Taipei (Taiwan), Shanghai (China), Tokyo and Osaka (Japan), and Salonika, Greece where he opened new markets and his Sister City program was named the nation’s leader in fostering business cooperation. In 1990, he was asked by the White House to host Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for his only visit to an American city outside of Washington, D.C.
In other official visits abroad, Agnos, as Chair of the California Assembly Committee on Immigration and Refugee Policy, led a delegation of California state legislators to study and report on Vietnamese and Hmong refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines (1985).
Agnos commitment to strong democracy and opportunity spans issues from preschool in city neighborhoods to senior housing for vulnerable, low income lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents.
In 2007, he served as a citzen advisory committee assist the Board of Education for the San Francisco Unified School District to choose the best company for a nationwide search for a new School Superintendent.
Later he helped his mentor and close friend, Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy start and develop the Leo T. McCarthy Institute for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco to encourage and prepare college students for careers in public service. He serves on the Board of Directors of the respected Center for Government Studies in Los Angeles, California.
On March 27, 2007, his expertise in management and recovery led two California judges in separate precedent setting decisions to name him as the Court Receiver for the San Francisco Housing Authority to resolve and settle decade old lawsuits relating to sexual harassment by supervisors and poor property management that led to the deaths of a grandmother and five young children in a tragic public housing unit fire.
He serves as resource for other cities struggling with some of the same issues he experienced as mayor…most recently speaking to delegation of local officials, citizens and business leaders from Seattle, Washington seeking to duplicate his decision and actions with the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway
Daniel Webster School