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Most mayoral hopefuls favor liquor-licensing reform

Mova, gay news, gay politics DC, alcohol, ANC, Adams Morgan, liquor license, licensing

This campaign cycle candidates have been asked a specific question regarding the next step in reforming the city’s alcohol licensing system for bars and restaurants. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Every election the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance elicits candidate positions on issues of interest to the LGBT community. GLAA’s policy brief and questionnaire is the basis for ratings assigned to D.C. vote-seekers. GLAA will soon release scores for candidates competing in the April 1 party primaries.

This campaign cycle candidates have been asked a specific question regarding the next step in reforming the city’s alcohol licensing system for bars and restaurants. Repairing regulations to ensure the process is fixed to be fair for local businesses has long been of compelling concern to the gay community. LGBT residents have witnessed how existing rules allow infamous “Gang of 5” ad hoc license protest groups and small “citizens groups” to directly intervene, attempting to delay or deny licensing.

With LGBT voters comprising 10 percent of the District’s adult population, and likely a higher percentage of voters, candidates covet a high rating.

The question, one of 12, is as follows: “Will you support strengthening Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) reforms by eliminating license protests filed by citizens associations and ad hoc groups, requiring stakeholders to participate in the community process provided by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission?”

While all candidates, including those competing for Council seats, were asked to respond, here’s how the seven-of-eight questionnaire-returning Democratic mayoral candidates measured up:

• Best Answer: Mayor Vincent Gray. He’s a “YES” and demonstrates his keen understanding of the need for reform while clearly enunciating why: “Frivolous licensing protests filed with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) stand in the way of businesses operating free of special operating protocols. Protests by ad hoc groups…should not interfere with the issuance of ABC licenses to businesses.”

• Great Answer: D.C. Council member Jack Evans. He’s a “YES” and provides a rationale: “I have heard from both residents and businesses that the ABC Board takes too long to make decisions. I think this needs to be a more decisive process…Dragging out some of these cases months and months really can be very unfair to everyone and unnecessarily divisive.”

• Good Answer: Restaurateur Andy Shallal. He’s a “YES” and utilizes his direct experience with the licensing scheme: “I am familiar with the problems that face the owners of restaurants that serve alcohol. My restaurants all serve alcohol, and I have had to deal with the ABC’s regulations for each of them.”

• Straightforward Answer: D.C. Council member Vincent Orange. He’s a “YES” – his solitary affirmative response.

• “Gets It” Answer: Reta Jo Lewis. Although beginning, “I will have to study this issue with greater detail,” she notes, “I am the daughter of entrepreneurs – small business owners. I have a tremendous respect for creating great communities through small business, innovation and entrepreneurship. The current regulations…caus[e] significant barriers for small businesses…all of our processes are convoluted and outdated. I know we can do better.”

• Most Disappointing Answer: D.C. Council member Tommy Wells. He declines to answer the question, instead stating, “This is a proposal that needs further study.” He goes on to contort the issue, failing to reprise his passionate arguments in favor of this specific proposition from the dais during Council debate leading to modest initial reforms in Dec. 2012 limiting “Gang of 5” protests.

• Worst Answer: D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser. She fails to answer the question, utilizing a politician’s “dodge,” but indicates she is “not inclined to limit their ability to protest licenses,” albeit incorrectly referencing ANCs. While Bowser has consistently exhibited reluctance, ambivalence and lack of leadership on licensing reform, she notes joining a Council majority approving “some limitations” of protest groups. Trying to play both sides, however, she “continue[s] to think they lend value to the process.”

With long-overdue reforms supported by most mayoral candidates, it is hoped that courage will strengthen Council candidate backbones. Down ballot, some remain fearful of a diminishing few shrill voices while the broader electorate grows intolerant of fealty to their shenanigans.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

12
Feb
2014

GLAA honors local activists

GLAA Distinguished Service Awards, gay news, Washington Blade

GLAA Distinguished Service Awards. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) hosts its annual reception to present “Distinguished Service Awards” at Policy Restaurant and Lounge (1904 14th St., N.W.) on Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Jerry Clark, Earl Fowlkes and Alison Gill are the three activists being honored. There will be hors d’oeuvres, happy hour bar specials and a complimentary champagne toast.

Tickets are $55 and considered a donation. For more details, visit glaa.org.

24
Apr
2014

From Stonewall to marriage equality at lightning speed

Stonewall to marriage, gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Even those of us involved in the fight for women’s rights and civil rights would never have believed the speed at which things are changing for the LGBT community. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The progress from Stonewall to marriage equality in my lifetime is amazing. My accepting who I am mirrored the evolving LGBT movement. Coming of age at 21 in New York City, a gay man deep in the closet, hiding my sexual orientation to become a teacher. At 25, starting a political career and working for the most gay-friendly politician in the nation, the congresswoman who introduced the first ENDA bill in Congress, yet still deep in the closet.

Then moving to Washington, D.C. at 31, a city that just elected a mayor who credited the LGBT community and the Stein Democratic Club with making the difference in his election. Pride events were gaining in strength and visibility and my first in Dupont Circle had me hiding behind a tree to make sure my picture wouldn’t end up in a newspaper. Then life started moving faster for me and the LGBT community. By the time I was 34, we were beginning to hear about AIDS and that coincided with my coming out to friends. Then began the process of my morphing into an LGBT activist joining in the fight against HIV/AIDS and openly participating in marches for LGBT rights, openly attending Pride events on a muddy field in Dupont, and being a regular at Rascals, the bar of the moment.

Over the ensuing years the organized LGBT community would get stronger and stand up for our rights and I would find that being “out” still had its consequences. Being rejected for a job for being gay was one of them. As the community turned to more activism, my role in politics was becoming more identified with being gay. First becoming a columnist for the Washington Blade and then finding my picture on the front page of the Washington Post supporting a mayoral candidate and being identified as among other things a gay activist.

As the fight for marriage equality heated up in D.C., GLAA activist Rick Rosendall and I met at a little outdoor lunch place on 17th Street and set the plans in motion to form the Foundation for All DC Families, which begat the Campaign for All DC Families, which helped coordinate the fight for marriage equality in the District.

For so many who grew up in the Baby Boomer generation, life continues to hold many surprises. But even those of us involved in the fight for women’s rights and civil rights would never have believed the speed at which things are changing for the LGBT community.

The courts are moving at a much faster pace than anyone could have predicted even a year ago, striking down bans on gay marriage enacted by state legislatures. State constitutional amendments banning marriage equality are being declared unconstitutional by a raft of federal judges. From Oklahoma to Kentucky, Utah to Virginia, federal judges are saying that states must recognize these marriages. While the cases are being appealed there is a clear path for one or more of them to reach the Supreme Court in its next term. While they weren’t ready to make a decision when they rejected the Prop 8 case in 2013, they will now probably have to decide the fate of marriage equality nationwide and determine whether it is constitutional to discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in her decision in Virginia added to the so-far unanimous group of federal judges who have thrown out these bans. Judge Allen quoted from Mildred Loving, who was at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court case that struck down laws banning interracial marriage. At the time that case was decided only 14 states had laws allowing interracial marriage and already there are 17 states and the District of Columbia that allow gay marriage. While people are hailing her decision she clearly had to be embarrassed when she had to amend her written opinion because she confused the U. S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence. She isn’t the first and won’t be the last to do that.

Clearly the time has come in our country for full equality. The decisions made by these federal judges have been based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor. Then Attorney General Eric Holder announced “the federal government would recognize legal same-sex marriages in federal matters including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits.” He stated that, “It is the [Justice Department's] policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation.”

In what seems like lightning speed, the LGBT community is moving toward full civil and human rights.

18
Feb
2014

Couples encounter snags in D.C. divorce law

divorce, Phil Mendelson, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said he’s willing to introduce legislation to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding divorces for same-sex couples.

Since its marriage equality law took effect in 2010 the District of Columbia has welcomed same-sex couples from other states to come to the city to get married.

But according to local attorneys and at least one D.C. judge, if any of those couples come back to the city to get a divorce they will likely be eligible only for the divorce itself.

Divorce related provisions readily available to straight married couples such as alimony, legal separation and court approved division of jointly owned property will likely be denied to same-sex married couples unless one of the spouses becomes a D.C. resident for six months.

“What D.C. judges have been doing is granting these divorces but not granting or addressing any other issues, such as alimony, property division relief, etc.,” said local family law attorney Marjorie Just.

“Judges are interpreting the law in a way that limits their authority to just granting a divorce but nothing more,” Just said.

Just was referring to the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act, which the D.C. Council passed and Mayor Vincent Gray signed in 2012. Supporters said the law was aimed at exempting out-of-town same-sex couples that marry in D.C. from a six-month residency requirement in the event they seek to obtain a divorce.

Gay rights advocates, who asked the Council to pass the law, noted that the exemption was needed for same-sex couples that marry in D.C. but live in states like Virginia that don’t recognize their marriages.

Unlike straight couples, whose marriages are recognized everywhere, same-sex married couples can’t get a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. That forces them to return to the jurisdiction in which they were married to obtain a divorce. Many states, including Maryland, have a six-month residency requirement for obtaining a divorce.

According to attorneys familiar with the D.C. Superior Court’s family court division, judges have interpreted the D.C. law in a way that limits its scope to an “absolute divorce,” a legal term used to describe a divorce alone.

American University Law Professor Nancy Polikoff and local attorney Michele Zavos, who specialize in gay family law, each said they believe the D.C. statute does give judges the authority they need to address issues like alimony and property division.

“I think there is a very good argument that the court does have power over the property and support issues, but it would be much cleaner to resolve the ambiguity by making that clear in the statute,” Polikoff told the Blade. “For that reason, I agree that the preferred course of action at this time would be to amend the statute.”

Zavos agreed with that assessment.

“I think we probably do have to go back to the City Council to make it very clear that the intent of this new statute is to cover all aspects of divorce, including legal separation,” Zavos said. “So I think we’re going to have to do that.”

Polikoff and Zavos said child custody related issues are clearly addressed in separate laws in D.C. and other states, and those issues must be addressed in the state in which the child lives at the time of a divorce.

Zavos released to the Blade a copy of a January 2013 order issued by D.C. Superior Court Judge Alfred S. Irving, Jr., denying a request by one of the partners of a same-sex couple living in Virginia to obtain a legal separation. The couple, whose identity was redacted from the order, was married in D.C.

“The District of Columbia very recently amended the residency requirements to permit an ‘action for divorce by persons of the same gender, even if neither party to the marriage is a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia…’ and neither party to the marriage resides in a jurisdiction that will maintain an action for divorce,” Irving wrote in his order.

“The amendment, however, only pertains to actions for divorce, not actions for legal separation,” he stated in his denial order.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who introduced the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act of 2012, said he’s willing to introduce legislation this year to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding same-sex couples.

“We were very clear when we adopted the law in 2012 that, as usual, we were trying to treat same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples,” Mendelson told the Blade on Tuesday.

“So this distinction that somehow a same-sex couple that lives in another state can only get a divorce but can’t get any of the other modifications that heterosexual couples can get – that was not our intent,” he said.

Asked if he thought election year politics might make it difficult for the Council to pass a bill this year to correct the divorce related problems facing out-of-town same-sex couples, Mendelson said it would not.

“I don’t like the speculation about election politics,” he said. “The reality is the Council is in session until the end of the year. And if the attorneys give me the suggestions for how to fine-tune the law we’ll try to proceed this year to do it.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said GLAA would support legislation to “to fill any legal gaps encountered by same-sex couple, as we have done in the past.”

Once introduced, Mendelson’s bill to correct the divorce law problem would go to the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which is chaired by Council member Tommy Wells (D-At-Large).

30
Apr
2014

GLAA revises ratings for Evans, two others

Jack Evans, Washington Blade, gay news

GLAA upgraded its evaluation of Jack Evans. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on Tuesday changed its rating for D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) from a +8 to +9, saying it based the revision on new information that Evans submitted to the group.

At its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on March 11, the group also upgraded its ratings for Democrat Calvin Gurley, who’s running for D.C. Council Chair against incumbent Phil Mendelson, from a 0 to a +1; and for Darrel Thompson, a Democrat running for the Ward 6 D.C. Council seat, from +2 to +3. GLAA gave Mendelson a rating of +10 in its initial round of ratings.

The group’s ratings are based on a scale of -10 to +10, with +10 being the highest possible rating.

“The leading development in this round of mid-campaign adjustments is the revised rating of Democrat Jack Evans (+9), which puts him in a tight cluster with Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray (+10) and fellow Democratic challenger Tommy Wells (+9.5),” GLAA President Rick Rosendall said in a statement. Wells is a Ward 6 Council member who’s giving up his Council seat to run for mayor.

GLAA says Gurley’s original rating of 0 was based on his not turning in a GLAA questionnaire, which asks about candidates’ positions on LGBT-related issues. When Gurley later returned the questionnaire it only resulted in a one point increase because his answers were “uninformed, argumentative, and lack substance,” GLAA says in a statement.

The group’s statement says Thompson’s original questionnaire responses were “weak” and lacked a response to a question asking about his record or accomplishments on LGBT issues. He later submitted information on his record, GLAA says, resulting in a boost in his rating from +2 to +3. The new information discussed Thompson’s past work on LGBT-related issues as a staff member for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), and then Sen. Barack Obama.

GLAA’s rating system assigns a maximum of plus or minus three points to a candidate’s record.

Thompson has said through a spokesperson that his GLAA rating doesn’t reflect what he considers his strong support across the board for LGBT rights. GLAA has said its ratings are based on its assessment of whether a candidate’s questionnaire responses go beyond an expression of support to show an understanding of the issues and insight into how they can be addressed.

12
Mar
2014

GLAA Awards

The Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance held its annual Awards Gala at Policy on Wednesday. (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) GLAA Awards 

02
May
2014

Catania enters race for mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania is the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) filed papers on Wednesday to become a candidate for mayor in the November general election, saying he has the “values and the vision and the tenacity” to tackle the challenges facing the city.

As a 16-year veteran on the Council with a long record of legislative accomplishments, including his role as author of the city’s historic marriage equality law, Catania becomes the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor with a shot at winning.

“This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules,” Catania said at a news conference outside the city’s Reeves Center municipal building, where he registered his candidacy.

“These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected,” he said.

In what many LGBT activists will likely view as a twist of fate, a large segment of the city’s LGBT community has already lined up behind the re-election campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray, who they consider the most LGBT-supportive mayor in the history of the city.

The potential dilemma of LGBT voters having to choose between an out gay candidate with a longstanding record of support on their issues and a pro-LGBT mayor they consider a longtime friend and ally was likely heightened on Wednesday when Catania reiterated his call for Gray to resign.

When asked by reporters at his news conference what he thought about revelations by the U.S. Attorney earlier this week that Gray was aware of an illegal “shadow campaign” orchestrated by businessman Jeffrey Thompson to benefit Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, Catania said he believes the allegations to be true.

“I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago,” he said. “I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.”

Catania, however, said the timing of his declaration of candidacy for this week was set in motion over a week ago, before the revelations of the U.S. Attorney were known, when he set up a campaign bank account that required him to formally enter the race this week.

Catania said he’s ready to run against Gray or any of the other seven Democrats challenging Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four of Catania’s Democratic colleagues on the Council.

In response to questions by reporters, Catania said he’s not at all deterred by the fact that he’s an independent and former Republican running in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate. No non-Democrat has ever won election as mayor in the District of Columbia.

“I want to be as clear as I can be,” he said. “I won more citywide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997.”

Catania added, “I believe I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited to share, and I’m very excited to talk about my vision for the city.”

The most recent poll on the Democratic primary, which was conducted before the latest revelations about Gray’s alleged 2010 shadow campaign, show Gray leading his closest rival, Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), by a margin of 28 percent to 20 percent. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), were trailing with 13 percent, 12 percent and 4 percent respectively.

Businessman Andy Shallal had 6 percent, attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 3 percent, and civic activist Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent.

Political observers, including Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said that if Gray squeaks out a victory in the primary with around 30 percent of the vote or less, many of the Democratic voters that backed his rivals could turn to Catania in the November election.

When asked by the Blade where he thinks the LGBT vote would go in the general election, Catania said he believes he would be a strong contender for that vote based on his record on a wide range of issues.

“I think people are going to vote their interests and their values,” he said. “And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocs. I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”

But he added, “I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais,” he said.

“I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there,” he said. “And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against anyone’s.”

When asked about a recent independent report indicating shortcomings in the D.C. Police Department’s handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes, Catania praised Police Chief Cathy Lanier but said he would not discuss personnel issues before the election.

“I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief,” he said. “Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes…[T]here’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others,” he said.

A transcript of Catania’s news conference follows:

Reporter: So you just filed your papers today to run?

Catania: Actually, this has been in the works for some time. We decided in January that this would be the week we would announce. In fact, just last Wednesday, before any of the latest revelations came out, we opened our bank account and by law we have five business days to file. And so last Wednesday we opened our bank account, always with the intention of filing this week. And of course you know what has happened in the intervening time known to all of us.

Reporter: What do you think about what’s happened with the mayor this week?

Catania: Well, I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago. I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.

Reporter: What is your path to victory at this point? Does the mayor have to win the primary?

Catania: No. I want to be just as clear as I could be. I won more city wide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997. I believe that I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited share and I’m very exciting to talk about my vision for the city.

Reporter: This is a city that remains hugely Democratic.

Catania: That’s right. And I would be delighted to put my record against any of those who have Democrat by their name as it relates to democratic values. I think my record more embodies democratic values than the field of candidates running as Democrats. If you look at what I’ve done for marriage equality, medical marijuana, smoke free D.C., cutting the rate of uninsured children and adults in half in this city, my work with HIV, and most recently my work with respect to education, including a fair funding bill which is finally going to give the resources for poor kids to catch up. And so labels are fine but I think the people are looking for a leader who’s actually delivered. And there’s one thing I can say – I’ve delivered.

The others have talked a good game and good for them for having labels. But I’ve actually delivered.

Reporter: You’re a former Republican and you’re also a white person. How does that play into the racial mix of this city?

Catania: Well I think the citizens of this city want a leader that shares their values. And it doesn’t matter what label you have. Clearly I do. This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules. These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected. So with respect to labels, you know, I think they may matter with some but by and large if you look at where we are in the city and if we’re going to secure our future we need a leader who shares our values, has a vision, and has the tenacity to get the job done.

Reporter: You’re campaigns have actually taken money from Jeffrey Thompson and then I guess you had a really serious falling out with him. Would you give back the money you took from Jeffrey Thompson or did you give the money back?

Catania: You know, Mr. Thompson held a fundraiser for me in 2006. And so the bulk of the funds that were raised through that fundraiser were in 2006. Unfortunately, as you know, we, unlike federal campaigns, we close each of our campaigns out – by law we’re required to – at the conclusion of the election. So the money has simply been closed out. Now the money – whatever was left over – went to a constituent services fund. And so it’s not like I have additional monies lying around to do that. And I think we’re prohibited by law from taking our existing campaign funds to pay back the debts of another campaign.

Reporter: Were you the chairman of the Health Committee when the agreement to give Jeffrey Thompson more money signed out? You fought that, didn’t you?

Catania: I think what’s interesting is that we’re here today because of the work of the Committee on Health when I became chairman. In 2005 when I became chairman of the committee the first thing I wanted to do was kind of survey the landscape of the area of responsibility that I had, which included the city’s three largest contracts for managed care and for Medicaid. And so I actually put the money in in 2005 to conduct an audit of our three managed care organizations, including Jeff Thompson’s. That audit is what ultimately led to Mr. Thompson having to settle with the city with $17 million in 2008. So it’s not about having a falling out one way or another. I was doing my job. I wanted the city’s largest contracts to be subject to an audit. They were. It demonstrated that he was helping himself, candidly, and that resulted in him having to pay some money back. I suspect that’s part of what inspired him to try to find leaders that were more malleable. I wasn’t one of them.

Reporter: The mayor calls him a liar. He says everything he says is a lie, lie, lie.

Catania: Well I think this whole subject, this whole drama we’ve had with Jeff Thompson – this great drama – the time has come for this to end. And you know we need to be talking about how we’re going to make sure our kids are ready to succeed. We need to be talking about an affordable housing plan and a public safety plan of action for Fire and EMS. The less we talk about Vince Gray and Jeff Thompson the better. That’s for others to talk about. I’m talking about my vision for the city, which doesn’t include serving as a human lie detector for Jeff Thompson or Vince Gray.

Reporter: What about this settlement. Did you think that settlement that was reached with Chartered Health was good and above board or did you think –

Catania: Which settlement, the first one or the second?

Reporter: The one that was agreed to [by the city] and paid him.

Catania: This was obviously an attempt to square accounts with the shadow campaign as far as I am concerned. It was laid out as meticulously as it could be. Jeff Thompson in 2008 had to pay $12 million because he stole from the city. And then two weeks after he wins his primary his group begins putting in motion the very settlement that ultimately, that Mayor Gray advanced – that we paid him the money from the false claims actions against the city. Do I believe the mayor knew it and participated and do I believe the city actually paid the shadow campaign money back? Yes, I believe that…

Reporter: You have a reputation for being a little difficult. I won’t even say the words that some – [Tom Sherwood interrupts: The Rahm Emanuel of D.C.?]

Catania: Well listen, we’re not cutting the crusts off cucumber sandwiches here. This is not a garden party. This is about running a $12 billion organization where the lives of 640,000 people depend on someone being honest, having values and a vision and being faithful to those values and those visions. And so I’m not going to apologize for the passion that I take to this job. I think most of us are outraged when they have Fire and EMS officials just standing by while our citizens are in harm’s way. I think most of our citizens are outraged when the see half of our African American males not graduating on time for high school. I think most of our citizens are outraged when they see our homeless in rec centers. So I’m not going to apologize for that outrage. I’m not going to apologize for the passion. It’s helped me get though some of the toughest measures in the last 15 years, 16 years on the Council…

Reporter: Concerning the police department, there was an independent report that just came out saying there are some shortcomings in their handling of hate crimes and that the chief may have caused the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to not be able to do its job as well as it could. If you were elected, have you decided whether you would retain the police chief?

Catania: Look, I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief. Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes. But I want to make clear I’m not talking about personnel decisions until after the election. It is the right of every mayor to select those individuals that he or she wishes to work with. I think that Chief Lanier has been an excellent chief but there’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others.

Reporter: We’re now in the primary. Will you be out campaigning or will you wait to see who wins the primary?

Catania: No, the race starts today, Tom. The race starts today.

…If we’re electing leaders rather than administrators I think it’s time for people to look at the record. And among those who are running for mayor if you look at what have they done in the last 15 months. I think that’s a fair subject for discussion and it’s what I intend to talk about during this race. But look, it isn’t about who the Democratic nominee might be. I have an affirmed agenda that I believe is consistent with the values of our residents. I think we can do better. We have incredible fundamentals. When I look at our economy and I look at the values of our citizens and we have yet to capture the entire trajectory, the entire direction of those values…

Q: The leading candidates in the Democratic primary are all very supportive on LGBT issues. The mayor says he’s very supportive. Whoever wins the primary, how do you think the LGBT vote will go in the general election?

A: Lou, I think people are going to vote their interests and their values. And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocks. I don’t think that’s good for anybody. I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know the members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais. I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there. And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against everyone’s or anyone’s.

Q: Can you say something about the EMS?

A: You know, I’m very open to the idea of separating the EMS and putting it candidly under the Department of Health because I see the EMS as the front line of the Department of Health. These are the front line deliverers of health services. The way it has been organized, specifically it’s been subsumed by the Fire Department and has not been able to stand on its own. And so I’m open to the idea of separating the two…

Q: Would you retain Chief Ellerbe as fire chief?

A: No. I’ll make an exception because that’s so glaring.

Q: How do you assess your chances?

A: Good.

Q: Why do you think they’re good?

A: Well I think this is an election about change. I think the electorate is eager to have a leader instead of an administrator and I think the work that I’ve done touches many constituencies across the city. Who else can claim that they saved our public hospital? Who else can lay claim to a marriage equality bill that finally made all of our families equal before the law? Who else can claim that they produced the lowest rate of uninsured children in the country? Who else championed medical marijuana or the most comprehensive mental health system for young people in the country? So I think it’s time to ask some of those who are running on the inertial of a label why they believe they have a chance of winning having accomplished so little.

12
Mar
2014

Gray receives surprise award at GLAA celebration

GLAA, Vincent Gray, Rick Rosendall, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Washington Blade, gay news

GLAA honored Mayor Vincent Gray with its distinguished service award. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance surprised D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray before a crowd of about 90 LGBT activists and supporters attending its 43rd anniversary reception on April 30 by presenting him with an unscheduled Distinguished Service Award.

As he has in past years, Gray attended the event to present GLAA with a mayoral proclamation recognizing the non-partisan advocacy group for its work on behalf of LGBT equality. While introducing him, GLAA President Rick Rosendall announced that the group decided to give Gray its Distinguished Service Award because of his longstanding record of support for LGBT rights.

“For those of us working in the trenches, it is all too easy to focus on the latest flap and forget that Vince is, by the evidence, the best mayor on LGBT issues our city has ever had,” Rosendall told the gathering.

Gray was joined at the event, held at Policy Restaurant and Lounge at 1904 14th St., N.W., by six members of the D.C. City Council, including mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and David Catania (I-At-Large).

The other Council members attending were Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), David Grosso (I-At-Large), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large).

Also attending were at least three candidates running for seats on the Council along with gay congressional candidate Mark Levine (D), who’s running for the 8th District U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Bowser and Gray greeted each other warmly and praised one another when they spoke following a hotly contested mayoral primary in which Bowser defeated Gray on April 1, becoming the Democratic nominee in the November general election.

With Catania running as an independent, that contest has also become what most political observers are calling a competitive race in a city where the Democratic mayoral nominee has won the general election in every prior election since the city’s home rule government started in 1974.

Catania, who had another engagement to attend, left the GLAA reception before the speeches began. Bowser, breaking from her months of criticism of Gray during the primary campaign, praised Gray’s record on LGBT rights issues.

Bowser told the Blade in the week following her primary victory that, if elected mayor in November, she would continue the LGBT-related initiatives put in place by Gray and “continue to move forward” on LGBT issues.

Bowser reiterated that pledge in her remarks at the GLAA reception.

“We are not finished,” she said referring to LGBT equality.

Catania and his supporters have said Bowser hasn’t taken the initiative to introduce significant legislation during her seven years on the Council. They point to Catania’s record of introducing a wide range of bills, including the city’s marriage equality law, saying his record is much broader than Bowser’s.

The three people scheduled to receive GLAA’s annual Distinguished Service Award and who were presented with the award at the April 30 event were veteran gay rights and civic activist Jerry Clark, who serves as chair of the D.C. Statehood Coalition and political director of D.C. for Democracy; LGBT rights advocate Alison Gill, who serves as Government Affairs Director for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBT and questioning youth; and longtime LGBT rights advocate Earl Fowlkes Jr., president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, an LGBT rights organization that, among other things, organizes and coordinates Black Pride events in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa.

Bonds won the Democratic primary in her re-election bid for the at-large Council seat by a wide margin on April 1 in a multi-candidate race. She will be facing several expected independent candidates as well as gay Republican Marc Morgan and a Libertarian and Statehood-Green Party candidate in the November general election. All of the candidates except Bonds will be competing for her seat as well as the “non-Democratic” at-large seat that Catania is giving up to run for mayor.

Longtime Democratic activist Elisa Silverman, who finished a strong second behind Bonds in a special election for the at-large seat currently held by Bonds, has told supporters she plans to run for the non-Democratic seat as an independent. Silverman attended the GLAA anniversary reception, where she greeted LGBT activists, some of whom supported her in her previous race for the at-large seat.

Others attending the GLAA anniversary reception included Charles Allen, who won the Democratic primary on April 1 for the Ward 6 Council seat being vacated by Tommy Wells (D), who gave up the seat to run for mayor; and Robert White, an independent candidate running for the at-large seat.

Under the city’s election law, one of the two at-large seats up for election this year must go to a non-majority party candidate, which means a Democrat is ineligible for the seat. The highest two vote-getters in the November election are declared the winners of the two-at-large seats in accordance of the election law. Although a non-Democrat could win both seats, the Democratic candidate has won the seat in which a Democrat is eligible to run in every election since home rule began in 1974.

Veteran D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler, who is one of the co-founders of GLAA, continued the tradition of the group’s anniversary receptions by leading a Champagne toast to GLAA’s accomplishments over its 43-year history.

05
May
2014

Fallen activist honored in street-naming

Jeff Coudriet, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeff Coudriet died of lung cancer in February 2011. (Photo by Phil Attey)

A company that built a multimillion-dollar development project at the site of the historic O Street Market in the city’s Shaw neighborhood has honored the late Jeff Coudriet, a longtime gay rights leader and influential City Council staff member, by naming a street after him.

At a March 21 ceremony, officials with Roadside Development Corp. designated a one-block section of 8th Street, N.W, between O and P streets, as Coudriet Way. Although the street is open to the public and vehicular traffic it is part of the private land obtained by the company to build the project, according to Roadside co-founder Richard Lake.

“We worked with Jeff, who helped us bring about this development project,” Lake told the Blade. “Jeff worked tirelessly with us on this and died before the project was completed.”

Lake was referring to Coudriet’s role as committee clerk for the D.C. Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue, which is chaired by Council member and mayoral candidate Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). Evans has said Coudriet acted as a facilitator on behalf of his office to help Roadside navigate the D.C. government bureaucracy to clear the way for a project supported by the community.

Among other things, it brought to a once blighted area a state-of-the-art Giant Food store, 650 residential apartments of which 90 are reserved for seniors at affordable costs, and a 182-room hotel along with 500 parking spaces.

Coudriet died of lung cancer in February 2011 at the age of 48. He was a longtime resident of the Shaw community.

He is credited with playing a lead role in efforts to repeal the city’s sodomy law and to pass the city’s first domestic partners law during his tenure as president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance from 1992 to 1995. He later served as president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

He joined Evans’ staff in 2001 after having served on the staff of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.). He left Evans’ staff in 2004 to take a job at the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration before returning to Evans’ staff in 2007, where he remained until the time of his death.

“It is impossible to put into words the contributions Jeff made to our city and its residents,” Evans said at the time of Coudriet’s death.

25
Mar
2014

Catania best-qualified candidate ever for D.C. mayor

David Catania, qualified, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania filed papers to run for mayor on March 12 at the Reeves Center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Isaiah Webster III wrote in his May 2 Blade column that Democrats should support Muriel Bowser over David Catania simply because Bowser managed to win the Democratic nomination with a small percentage of Democrats. On April 1, 90 percent of the District’s registered voters either did not vote or they voted for other candidates.

Bowser, who ran as the anti-Gray candidate of resentment, vowed not to support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the nomination. Now that she has prevailed, Webster writes that Democrats should vote for Bowser despite her questionable qualifications.

My involvement in the Democratic Party goes back to fall 1960 in Michigan when I helped organize Grosse Pointe Young Democrats in support of John Kennedy’s election.  At 19, I first arrived in Washington during January 1961 for JFK’s inauguration.

In 1979, I was the first openly gay person to serve on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. During the 1980s, I was an officer of the District’s Democratic party. In 1980, I was one of five D.C. gay delegates to the Democratic National Convention in New York at Madison Square Garden. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, moreover, was founded in my living room in January 1976.

Webster accused Lane Hudson in his April 23 column of “taking his case right to the gutter.” But it is Webster who got down in the gutter when the raised the issue of race:  “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson?”

Outside the District, voting for Democrats has great meaning. But here in Washington, the issue of party affiliation has little relevance, other than most decisions are made within the Democratic Party.

On April 30 at Policy Restaurant on 14th Street, N.W., Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance celebrated its 43rd anniversary. Carol Schwartz, a progressive Republican and an excellent former member of the City Council, financially supported the event as a sponsor.

So did Council members Catania, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells.  Every time that Schwartz ran for office, I voted for her.

In Bowser’s years on the Council, what has she accomplished? Although Bowser chairs the committee responsible for housing issues, she has done nothing to address the housing crisis. The InTowner newspaper called her “derelict in carrying out her assigned responsibility.”

On the important issue of education, Bowser has failed to offer a single proposal of substance to improve our schools.

Since 1997, Catania has been elected five times — winning votes in all eight wards.  Over the years, David has achieved an outstanding record of accomplishments. Colbert I. King of The Washington Post wrote: “They don’t come any smarter, more dedicated or gutsier than Catania. And no one works harder.”

I have known every mayor since the late Walter Washington was elected in November 1974. I can write with great confidence that David Catania is the best-qualified person to have ever run for mayor of the District of Columbia.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT advocate and D.C. resident.

07
May
2014