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When LGBTs run against incumbent LGBTs

Dana Beyer, Richard Madaleno, Annapolis, Maryland, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade, incumbent

Dana Beyer and Richard Madaleno. (Washington Blade photo of Beyer by Michael Key; Blade photo of Madaleno by Jeff Surprenant)

The LGBT community is debating the question of whether a member of the community should challenge an incumbent who is also a member of the community and has been very supportive and successful in fighting for our issues. That is the crux of some hard feelings generated by Dr. Dana Beyer, a transgender activist, who has thrown her hat into the ring challenging incumbent Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno. Beyer’s move was quickly criticized by two of her former colleagues at Equality Maryland.

Beyer is a graduate of Cornell University and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. She is an ophthalmic surgeon and physician and grew a small business. She was a senior policy and legislative adviser to Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and a program consultant with the Children’s National Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. She is also the mother of two and a well-known community activist.

The work of both these candidates and so many others who fought for the civil and human rights of all people means that a member of the LGBT community running against someone else from the community will become much more the norm. In this case, most would agree that the interests of the LGBT community will continue to be well served by either candidate.

I am not endorsing Beyer or Madaleno. I consider myself a friend of both, respect both, am proud of what both have accomplished for our community, and don’t live in their district. But I took the opportunity to sit down with Beyer to ask her what would lead her to challenge Madaleno. Asked whether there is anything he hasn’t done for our community that would cause her to run, she agreed there isn’t much. I asked if there wasn’t another race she could have entered since she has for many years been interested in elective office and she explained that she has more of an interest in the issues being debated in Annapolis, such as a progressive tax-code, economic justice, transportation and education. She also said that Madaleno hasn’t been supportive enough of home rule, and his positions on matters of economic justice are a major problem for the district and the county. Beyer brought up a series of issues that among others will be the focus of her campaign and that she hopes voters will make their choice on. (These are her thoughts and in no way am I agreeing or disagreeing with them.)

A big issue for Beyer is whether local counties have the right to make decisions on caps for per student funding of education. She says she would have voted against the 2012 budget reconciliation act because it included an MOE (Maintenance of Effort) clause giving the state the right to force a locality to spend money they believe they don’t have. Beyer believes this doesn’t allow them the freedom to determine their own budget priorities. She also opposed the transfer of the teacher pension responsibility from the state to the county, which Madaleno supported. She is for building the Purple Line and fighting for all mass transit improvements and says that Madaleno supports the lawsuit filed by those trying to stop the Purple Line. She supported the Montgomery County Council’s vote to not grant tax abatement to Lockheed Martin for its training academy and says Madaleno then went against home rule when he supported the state’s effort to grant the tax abatement.

Based on these issues and her background it would seem that an activist of Beyer’s stature has a right to run and bring her concerns to the electorate letting them decide who should represent them. Again, I take no position on whether she should run this particular race or not but it is clear that if the electorate is happy with Madaleno, then she will lose and that is what every candidate running against an incumbent must be prepared for.

Running against an incumbent is always more difficult than running for an open seat but in politics, especially in areas with no term limits, no incumbent should take the voters for granted or feel entitled to their seat.

05
Feb
2014

Lackluster D.C. primary due to candidates, system

Independent voter, elections, primary, candidates, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

D.C.’s old-fashioned system of limiting primary election participation to those signed up with a respective political party excludes nearly one-fifth of registered voters.

The District’s mayoral contest has captured nominal sustained interest and enlisted little notable passion. That signifies a lot more about the candidates and the city’s primary election restrictions than it does public civic-mindedness.

Even the date of this year’s April 1 partisan party nominating process provides an all-too-easy punch line.

Despite the newly condensed primary election schedule and intensified politicking, the campaign has unfolded at a seemingly languid pace before a largely disengaged electorate. Even the long-anticipated possibility that allegations of impropriety or acts of illegality either known to Mayor Vincent Gray or possibly involving sanction during his successful 2010 defeat of the prior one-term incumbent took the tenor of a predictable development.

No primary election contender in the usually determinative Democratic race, including the incumbent mayor and four D.C. Council challengers, has generated much momentum. Not only are the candidates clumped close to one another in measured support, the winner will almost certainly prevail capturing only a minority of votes.

Even Council member David Catania’s confirmation that he will run as an independent candidate in the November general election caused only a momentary stir. It merely complicated prognostications predicting ballot outcomes now and later.

Both candidate appeals to shrinking factions of voters in a primary election system limited to party-registered voters and bickering over credit for private sector contributions outside their domain have proven to be the ultimate public turn-offs. As early voting began this week, it is expected that low turnout will be the big winner.

First, D.C.’s old-fashioned system of limiting primary election participation to those signed up with a respective political party excludes nearly one-fifth of registered voters. The District is one of a rapidly dwindling number of jurisdictions excluding non-aligned voters from the opportunity to fully engage in choosing candidates.

Nationwide, 23 among 30 of the largest cities and 80 percent of all municipalities permit all voters to participate in primary elections, under a variety of voting schemes. The likelihood that adoption of an equal-access voting process would lead to diminished party allegiance, however, precludes the possibility that officeholders from the city’s dominant Democratic Party will approve legislation introduced by Council member David Grosso to modernize the local system.

With nearly half of all U.S. voters now self-identifying as independents, along with a majority of those under 35 years of age, alienation from partisan primaries will continue to grow. In California and New Jersey, for example, 21 percent of new voter registrations and 47 percent of all voters, respectively, are non-aligned. Heightened interest and increased participation requires equal access.

Although Catania’s general election campaign is likely to increase voter participation in what is expected to be a competitive race regardless of who is designated Democratic standard-bearer, this anomaly will only serve to mask the outlier nature of District election protocols.

Of equal importance, D.C. voters have suffered astonishingly amateurish and unimpressively contentious chatter by candidates. Preoccupied with arguing over who deserves credit for the city’s strong growth, economic development, cultural vitality and overall vibrancy, candidates accustomed to counting construction cranes have devolved to taking credit for them.

Voters are smart enough to know that city officials can’t claim much in that regard – except whether they create the government regulatory, operational mandate and business taxation environments allowing the private sector to flourish. For voters unwilling to renew Gray’s contract, Council member Jack Evans is the only primary candidate with both experience in and commitment to fostering business conditions producing continued progress.

Regardless of who is selected by whatever portion of voters determines the outcome, the local business community will arise early the next day to tend to the task of moving the city forward and keeping its economy humming.

The sooner local politicians understand their reliance on enterprise and entrepreneurs to fuel the city, and the imperative to open the political process to all, the better candidates they will become and the more interested we will be.

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

20
Mar
2014

Stuck in an intransigent holidaze

intransigent, Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Kate Clinton (Photo by David Rodgers)

This year I was in Provincetown, Mass., for New Year’s Eve and was able to stay on an extra week. There is nothing like being at the end of the Earth to get a little perspective on things. I would share those thoughts with you but I have succumbed to an intransigent holidaze that is worse whenever Christmas falls on Wednesday. Even my weekly pillbox can’t figure out what day it is.

And why bother? The days don’t last that long here. Despite my Solstice impatience, the sun sets at 4 p.m. Ptown should really petition the Greenwich Mean people for admission into a more easterly, Atlantic time zone. After January first, the last seasonal, business holdouts succumb to retail hibernation or southern migration. Even the delightfully, potty-mouthed barista-in-chief at Joe’s Coffee, caps the capo machines and heads for warmer weather. The Christmas lights on Pilgrim monument dim after Jan. 6.

The town’s business goes on. The nights are long. But without summer visitors or high season mania, year-rounders attend to delayed projects.  Painting pictures or baseboards. Writing novels or memoirs. The Fine Arts Work Center fairly hums with creativity in the east end of town. Residents meet up at the few rear-round restaurants, or host in-home potlucks. There are open mike nights and readings. Also a lot of drinking and a lot of new sobriety. Like Santa-come-down-the-chimney, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots visit every true believer’s home via satellite dish on Sunday. Binge TV watching soars, especially in a three-day nor’easter, if the power stays on.

For the less-than-fully employed, like me, without quotidian markers, morning New York Times at the West End deli, a late afternoon coffee at Joe’s, an evening show at the Crown and Anchor — the days take on an unsettling, off-the-grid freedom. A local poet/lobsterman once told me about his winter experiment. One January he did whatever his dog did. If Clark slept, he slept. If Clark ate, he ate. If Clark went outside, he went outside. I try not to imagine the hygienic realities, but I do admire the ability to challenge daily practices that a bit of free time affords.

So as a much-anticipated nor’easter bears down on the tiny island nation of Ptown – check out the webcam from Spiritus or MacMillan Wharf! – and with a bit of free time on my hands, I will think about changes I can make in my daily life to change the realities — poverty, hunger, homelessness, religious homophobia, transphobia, violence — for LGBT people in 2014.

When the storm ends, I’ll bundle up and walk down to the West End beach and picture the double rainbow arching over town the day of the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. And then remember the swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitos that attacked as we stood watching.

Kate Clinton is a humorist who has entertained LGBT audiences for 30 years. 

07
Jan
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

Re-elect Jim Graham for Ward One Council

Jim Graham, D.C. Council, District of Columbia, Ward One, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

By ALAN ROTH

LGBTQ voters in Ward One have a profound choice to make in the April 1 primary. That’s because when a new D.C. Council is sworn in next January, it will lack an openly gay Council member for the first time in nearly 18 years — unless Jim Graham is re-elected.

With Jim being challenged by someone who has no real record or experience beyond the narrow boundaries of her former ANC single member district, and with David Catania giving up his at-large seat to run for mayor, now is the time for LGBTQ voters in the Ward to focus seriously on an old political adage: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Simply put, that adage reminds us there is no substitute for being represented by one of our own — someone who, like Jim Graham, has lived what we have lived, experienced what we have experienced, and will never allow those personal life lessons to be cast aside for reasons of political expediency.

It also means that if we aren’t “at the table” as part of the decision making process, other politicians with other constituencies to serve are liable to be carving up our interests like a Thanksgiving turkey when the hard decisions (like funding for programs essential to our community) have to be made.

Earlier this year, the Advocate named D.C. the gayest city in America. It’s therefore difficult to imagine a D.C. Council without a single LGBT Council member — someone with whom we would be able to have open, honest discussions about our issues and concerns when they arise.

Before his election to the Council, Jim led the Whitman-Walker Clinic for more than 15 years, providing HIV/AIDS-related, STD, and other health services when few others would. On the Council, he has obviously been a leader on LGBTQ issues. His knowledge, understanding and support of our community’s concerns is not only unquestioned, it is unparalleled.

As a former Adams Morgan ANC member and chair, I can attest personally to Jim’s devotion to his Ward and his commitment to providing the best constituent service in the Wilson Building. By contrast, most of what we’ve heard from Jim’s opponent turns primarily on innuendo and negativity.

So let me confront the “ethics issue” head on, because I know it’s on some people’s minds, and let’s begin here: After more than two years of public discussion and Post editorializing, no prosecutor has ever charged Jim with any crime; the one civil lawsuit filed against him was dismissed; and not even his opponent has alleged that a penny of public or private money has found its way into his pockets.

If you’ve actually read the reports of the Ethics Board and the Cadwalader law firm hired by WMATA, you could well conclude, as I have, that Jim in fact had the best interests of his Ward One constituents at heart when he questioned a certain bidder’s interest in developing the Florida Avenue Metro property involved in the most serious allegations against him.

Cadwalader’s report said many of Jim’s objections to the bidder and one of its principals “appear to have been based on legitimate concerns with public safety and welfare. For example, Graham was concerned with [that principal’s] reputation as a landlord as well as his ownership of a club in Ward 1 that had lost its license to operate due to a fatal stabbing of a club patron.  Moreover, Council member Graham appeared genuinely concerned throughout the joint development process with the development experience and expertise of [this bidder] – legitimate concerns that manifested themselves in the outcome of the process.”

Perhaps there were better ways to go about all this. Still, I don’t have any doubt that Jim’s intent was to protect his Ward. Did he do it to benefit himself personally? The Cadwalader report certainly found no evidence of that.

It’s time for us to move on. Let’s focus on what’s best for Ward One and D.C.’s LGBTQ community over the next four years. Keeping our strongest representative on the D.C. Council by re-electing Jim Graham certainly beats being listed “on the menu” by relying on the platitudes and innuendo of an ambitious wannabe.

Alan Roth is a former chair of the Adams Morgan ANC, a current member of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority board of directors, a member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and a member of Friends of Vernon Street.

28
Mar
2014

The difficulties of beating an incumbent

Vincent Gray, Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange, mayor, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

Over the next less than 70 days, the struggle will be for the challengers in D.C. to make the case for how they can make a difference. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The D.C. primary is less than 70 days away. There are numerous candidates running for office and nearly all incumbents have more than one challenger. Looking at a recent Washington Post poll it is clear that no challenger in the mayor’s race has yet created enough excitement around their candidacy to stand out from the crowd.

But creating that excitement is a very hard thing to do even for good candidates in races with numerous challengers. From the political perspective the problem of running against an incumbent is very difficult. From president to local school board, incumbents have an advantage and the only way to beat them is if you can first get voters to focus on things they have done wrong and then move them to buy into what you as the challenger can do right.

We recently witnessed a mayoral primary and election in New York where there was no incumbent on the ballot but the winning candidate, rather than focus on his opponents. ran against the mayor in office. Bill de Blasio was able to tap into an electorate tired of Michael Bloomberg after 12 years in office. He was able to run pitting the haves against the have-nots. That is often a way national races are run. One of the major issues in New York was universal pre-kindergarten. Instead of focusing on the issue he focused on “taxing the rich” to pay for it. It was very effective as a campaign issue even if he may not be able to do it now that he is in office.

De Blasio was able to tie incumbent Council President Christine Quinn, a lesbian, to Bloomberg and then benefitted when many in the LGBT community attacked her. That election showed that voters in New York have moved beyond guaranteeing votes to a candidate based on their being the same race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. De Blasio also did something hard to do and which could have backfired when he highlighted his family in the election. De Blasio is white. His wife is African American — beautiful, intelligent and she was once an activist lesbian. His son seems to have a great personality and great natural hairstyle to go with it; he captured the interest of the press and the imagination of the community. Clearly not all candidates have such an interesting family.

Now there are some candidates running across the nation who look at Bill de Blasio’s campaign as a blueprint for their own. Some see it as the rise of progressivism and the public finally fighting back against the economic inequality that we are seeing in the nation. But I would caution candidates to think twice about using New York as an example of how to run a campaign. Some think that it was former Mayor Adrian Fenty trying to model himself after Michael Bloomberg that caused many of his problems. There are few cities with eight million people and the diversity of New York. More are like the District, which is comparable to a collection of just a few neighborhoods in New York.

D.C. today has only 400,000 registered voters. Everyone in politics tends to know everyone else and their business. When a new mayor is installed in New York, he or she has a choice of millions of people to place in government positions. That isn’t the case in D.C. and it is the reason many people remain in their positions from one administration to another.

Challengers who generally have the same positions on the issues as the incumbent have a difficult time making themselves stand out. Challengers who are themselves incumbents in another office have the additional problem of having already staked out positions many the same as the person they are now challenging. In a small city like D.C. the issues always tend to be the same. They include education, public safety, fiscal stability, economic development and balancing the needs of the haves and have-nots, which includes dealing with gentrification.

Over the next less than 70 days, the struggle will be for the challengers for all offices in D.C. to make the case for how they can make a difference. First they will try to convince voters that the city isn’t moving in the right direction and present a believable plan to change things. If that doesn’t work they must make the case for why the incumbent can’t continue to lead.

Not easy in a one-on-one challenge but made even more difficult when there are multiple candidates having to run not only against the incumbent but against each other.

21
Jan
2014

Republicans continue to self-destruct

Ann Coulter, CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There is a certain Schadenfraude when I hear Republicans say things that are sure to quicken the downward spiral of the national Republican Party.

Republicans in places like Arizona who pass legislation designed to allow people to discriminate just keep adding to the view that the Republican Party today is a place that only welcomes those who want to discriminate against the LGBT community, women and other minorities. The few moderates left seem to be losing any control they once had of the platform or direction of the party.

That makes it difficult to convince people in places like Massachusetts to even consider electing a Republican. Take the case of congressional candidate Richard Tisei who is being touted as a moderate gay Republican who can change the party from within. The facts challenge that assumption. When he ran on a ticket for lieutenant governor with Charlie Baker who claimed to be a moderate, he couldn’t even get him to support basic equality for the transgender community. The Blue Mass group said, “If he can’t convince his own running mate in Massachusetts to be less extreme, how in the world will he convince Republicans from conservative states to be less extreme on gay rights or any other issue?”

Another problem with electing someone like Tisei to Congress is that his first vote would be for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Speaker — the same speaker who has blocked ENDA since the Senate passed it last year.

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. This year promises to bring more of the same; the intellectual giant Sarah Palin will be there.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be two of the big draws. I understand they were excited to invite and get an acceptance from Christie before he got entangled in Bridgegate. It will be interesting to see how far right Christie will go to attract the GOP faithful. They forced Mitt Romney far enough right in the last election to ensure a loss to President Obama. Huckabee, on the other hand, already has just the kind of far-right cred they love.

Then CPAC attendees will surely hear from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). This is the same Ryan who ran as Romney’s running mate and managed to gain a reputation as someone who had a few problems telling the truth. He recently spoke about the budget he is preparing for the Republican House, which will question all the programs meant to help those in need, the safety net programs like Medicare, food stamps, Head Start etc. Democrats wait with baited breath to see if his solution is simply to cut these programs or to legitimately improve them.

CPAC attendees will also get to hear from that Joseph McCarthy-like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.). They will also get another chance to hear from right-wing Johns Hopkins retired surgeon turned Fox News commentator Dr. Ben Carson. This is the same Carson forced to withdraw as the Johns Hopkins commencement speaker after he compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. He attacked the Affordable Care Act as socialism by quoting Lenin: “Lenin thought so. He declared: ‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State.’” Carson apparently took that quote from a brochure attacking Harry Truman for his attempt to get everyone medical insurance and some have disputed that Lenin ever said it.

Democrats aren’t perfect and there are Blue Dog Democrats whose voting records clearly don’t match the Democratic Party platform. The difference is those Democrats don’t control the party and they vote for a leadership team that is progressive and favors ensuring the human and civil rights of all people.

04
Mar
2014

Obama must keep promise to LGBT workers

Barack Obama, LGBT workers, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare

President Barack Obama (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama signed two more executive orders continuing to make good on his promise to move issues forward that aren’t being dealt with by Congress. Many applaud his efforts because waiting for this Congress to act is like “Waiting for Godot.”

Women were the beneficiaries of the two executive orders he signed last week. The time is way past due for us to deal with the disparities in pay between men and women in the workplace. The New York Times reported, “He signed two executive measures intended to help close longstanding pay disparities between men and women as Democrats seek to capitalize on their gender-gap advantage at the ballot box in a midterm election year.”

The Times continued, “Mr. Obama, standing in front of a platform of women in a picture-ready ceremony in the East Room of the White House, said his actions would make it easier for women to learn whether they had been cheated by employers. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would take more significant steps.”

In signing these executive orders the president has put the Republican Party on the defensive and raised the question of why anyone would be opposed to equal pay for equal work. This continuing economic inequality is just another indication that the fight for equal rights for women is not yet won. Whether it is equal pay or the right to control their healthcare, the current leadership of the Republican Party thinks the way to move forward is to go back to the 18th century.

So I join with others who believe the president is taking the right position by signing these orders while at the same time imploring Congress to move on legislation in these areas. What I question is why he seems so averse to moving the ball forward when it comes to LGBT employment rights. While he is fighting for equal pay for women, there are lesbians who can’t even get employment because of discrimination. For them it’s not about equal pay it’s about any pay.

There are lesbian heads of household who are being denied employment by federal contractors because the president refuses to make good on a campaign promise from his 2008 campaign. At that time he ran on a slogan of “Hope and Change” and the LGBT community by large majorities supported him because of that. They put their trust in him to bring about positive change for the community.

In many ways both large and small he has done that. The president’s evolving to support marriage equality has been life altering for many in the community. It has allowed many people to have their families be fully recognized. He has hired members of the LGBT community on his staff and throughout government. He spoke out about equality for the LGBT community around the world at the United Nations and has made a huge statement to the world about our belief in equality by naming a number of openly LGBT persons to be ambassadors.

So what is stopping him from issuing the order to bar anti-LGBT workplace bias among federal contractors? This lack of action on his part is so perplexing given the other efforts he has made to move the ball forward toward full civil and human rights for the LGBT community.

Recently the White House press office stated that the president believes that signing this order would be redundant. The Washington Blade reported that Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign referring to the executive orders the president signed said, “Issuing these executive orders helps build momentum for Congress to act on paycheck fairness legislation. The exact same logic applies to the executive order that would afford protections to the LGBT workers of federal contractors. By the stroke of his pen, the president can immediately protect over 16 million workers and pressure Congress to pass ENDA. There is simply no reason for President Obama to wait one second longer.”

Anyone who believes in equality must join with the 47 senators and 148 representatives who have sent a letter calling on the president to sign the order. President Obama: the time to keep your promise is NOW.

17
Apr
2014

Howling at the moon: Dupont group decries noise

noise, gay news, Washington Blade

Claiming ignorance after moving into an entertainment district should not be grounds for later complaints regarding living in a commercial zone.

The tiny cadre of chronic complainers railing against the indignities of city living in D.C.’s Dupont Circle mixed-use neighborhood seldom fail to amaze and amuse.

So it was once again this week when Washington City Paper advised that yet another small ad hoc anti-business group had launched in the commercial district. Headlined “Citizen Vigilante Group Forms to Combat Noise in Dupont,” the publication reported that residents of the Palladium Condominium, directly adjacent to the six-lane Connecticut Avenue, N.W., commercial thoroughfare, were upset about noise from nightlife venues in the downtown area.

Named the D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition, the assemblage appears to be the latest incarnation of one formed by Palladium resident Abigail Nichols, now a Dupont Circle neighborhood advisory commission member from district 2B-05. Her group, the Alcohol Sanity Coalition D.C., was formed in an unsuccessful effort opposing liquor-licensing reforms enacted a little over a year ago.

Nichols had argued that nightlife establishments have a monetary incentive to play music with “a rhythmic beat” at elevated levels. She publicly claimed that “alcohol tastes sweeter in the presence of loud music” and that “young males consume beer 20 percent faster” when listening to it.

The new “anti-noise” gaggle is demanding enforcement of a city ordinance limiting exterior sound within one meter outside venues to less than 60 decibels, the equivalent of two persons laughing during normal conversation. In a 23-page document detailing their annoyance, building residents acknowledge that this measurement is equivalent to “a quiet conversation.”

Sound measurements conducted in another part of the city by a restaurant battling objections to an outdoor patio abutting a major traffic artery registered a passing Metrobus at decibel levels in the mid-to-high-80s, with patron conversations adding no additional noise to the surrounding area. Sound meter readings by the Dupont coterie indicate that in seven of eight instances the noise level immediately outside area nightlife establishments overlapped with the ambient levels of auto traffic prior to venue opening.

This so-called “citizen group” objects to standard city inspector protocol to first verify that an excessive noise level exists within the complaining person’s home. They argue that, according to the law, the sound measurement must be made within one meter – or 3.28 feet – of the business. City regulators, however, have discovered that businesses targeted by coordinated cliques generate anonymous phone complaints without merit or from blocks away. In a high-profile instance several years ago on U Street, officials utilized Caller ID to visit the home of a woman who had phoned in nearly 100 complaints, finding no unusual noise could be heard inside her apartment.

These Dupont dwellers are actually late to the public discussion regarding noise abatement strategies and should be careful what they wish for in any official response. A D.C. Council committee recently engaged a task force meeting for two years to make recommendations regarding revising noise regulations. Key among the determinations was requiring housing construction soundproofing materials and window qualities to prevent noise seepage into units.

That should be of concern to Steve Coniglio, developer of 70 planned units of housing on a commercially zoned street only a half-block from several nightclubs, who has joined the complaining Palladium residents around the corner. Is it not his responsibility to ensure construction includes sufficient soundproofing to mitigate noise originating within a commercial area? Or should he be allowed to build housing units not adequately designed for urban noise?

Claiming ignorance after moving into an entertainment district, however, should not be grounds for later complaints regarding living in a commercial zone.

Before this disgruntled group howls too loudly, they might pause to consider the potential downside to their whining. If the city determines that current noise restrictions are unrealistically low or unenforceable, the likely solution may be to either raise the allowable level or officially require that sound measurements be conducted inside the complainants’ domicile.

How loudly would a hearty cackle register on a sound monitor?

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

05
Feb
2014

Catania is superior candidate for mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As a lifelong Democrat, I was interested to read Lateefah Williams’ March 12 piece in which she argues that LGBT voters should look no further than the political party of a candidate when choosing our next mayor. First, I know Williams and find her to be a passionate advocate for the causes close to her heart. However, the notion that we should blindly fall in line and support the candidate with a “D” at their end of their name does a disservice to our community and is not in the best interest of our city.

Williams would have us look only at a label rather than the quality of a candidate’s character and record. David Catania has fought for the LGBT community and stood up for “Democratic values” more than any other elected official in the District. His efforts to improve public schools, expand healthcare coverage to all District residents regardless of their immigration status, create a medical marijuana program and foster economic opportunity for the entire city speak for themselves and clearly reflect our shared values.

There is no other candidate in the race who can hold a candle to David Catania when it comes to issues affecting both the future of our city generally and our community specifically.  David not only authored the bill that brought the District marriage equality, but he was the chief executive of the tireless and relentless campaign to guide it to passage. It was David who brought the various voices of our community together behind an effective and unified strategy and it was David who fought against and stared down the prospect of a ballot initiative that could have been its undoing.

Because of David’s leadership as chair of the Council’s Committee on Health, the District increased the number of publicly funded HIV tests from 8,320 in 2005 to nearly 138,000 in 2012, the final year of his tenure as chair. Further, he was instrumental in taking the District from a place of ignorance about its epidemic to being a national leader in effectively tracking and understanding the spread of the disease. The District’s annual HIV/AIDS epidemiology report that David funded and championed is now a model for jurisdictions across the country. As a result of this work, the number of newly diagnosed cases fell from 700 in 2008 to 363 in 2012 and the number of HIV-related deaths went from 238 in 2008 to 69 in 2012. What’s more, because of his efforts to uncover and address the mismanagement of the city’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the number of District residents receiving life-saving medication for free has tripled since 2008 and there is no waiting list.

When the only acute care hospital east of the Anacostia River faced imminent collapse, David took action. He held hearings, rooted out the problems, championed the cause of saving the hospital, and led the effort to secure grants and loans to ensure the hospital’s survival. What was once a facility at risk of being unable to ensure basic patient safety was reborn as “United Medical Center” with new equipment, facilities and patient services. The hospital has seen patient volumes increase and its bottom line drastically improve. If not for David’s intervention, this critical component of the District’s healthcare infrastructure and social safety net would have been lost forever.

In 2013, David introduced legislation to undo the District’s prohibition on surrogacy agreements. Under District law, couples and single people wanting to have children face a fine of up to $10,000 or a year in jail if they enter into a surrogacy agreement. The District is the only jurisdiction in the country with such a prohibition. The legislation authored by David permits surrogacy agreements and establishes a legal framework to protect those agreements.

David authored and guided to passage legislation to undo laws that burdened our transgender brothers and sisters. Until last year, the District required expensive medical procedures before individuals could obtain a birth certificate that reflects their true gender identity. Seeing these laws as outdated and discriminatory, David did something about it. He introduced the “JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013,” which aligned the District’s requirements with modern medical standards and implemented privacy protections for those seeking a new birth certificate.

Yes, there was a time when David Catania was a Republican. But our community stands for being true to ourselves, true to our beliefs and true to the values of acceptance and fairness.  David Catania’s decision to leave the Republican Party more than a decade ago when it was clear that it did not align with his core values and go on to serve as an independent member of the Council is the logical extension of that same ethic.

David Catania may not have a “D” after his name, but I would put his record up against anyone who does. While some have spent their time worrying about labels, David Catania has been busy putting the District of Columbia first.

John Klenert has been a D.C. resident since the Lyndon Johnson administration. He is a longtime member of the Stein Club and serves on the Victory Fund Campaign Board.

20
Mar
2014