Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Stop counting cranes – it’s embarrassing all of us

cranes, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

Instead of counting cranes candidates, how about telling us how you’re going to improve the business and development environment in our city. (Photo by Kathryn Rotondo; courtesy Creative Commons)

Counting the private sector construction cranes hovering over the city in recent years has become a sort of political blood sport in D.C. Arguing over ascribing political responsibility for them is one of the sillier debates in an otherwise lackluster mayoral campaign.

Embarrassing, too, because the answer is simple. D.C. politicians don’t deserve much credit for them.

It makes as much sense as believing they’re also due homage for recent and continuing population increases. As if people move here for the high taxes. Or households with children decide to relocate to the District for the quality and performance of the city’s hyper-costly public school system. Uh-huh.

The real question they should be asking themselves and challenging one another over is how they might best get out of the way so that the number of cranes might actually proliferate.

The irony is that a shift in focus to eliminating the city’s infamously arcane obstacles to development, density, and business and economic growth would have real benefits. Improvement in those arenas would provide more needed housing that would allow continued population growth, mitigate upward pressure on housing prices to improve the city’s affordability, create more jobs particularly for low-skill and entry-level workers most in need, and expand the city’s tax base to generate the public monies officials are so wont to lust over and freely spend.

Outdated zoning laws, obtuse development restrictions and obsessive approval regulations the city has largely retreated from fixing – instead proposing only modest and inadequate revisions inching forward at painfully slow pacing – are no help, either. Why aren’t voters hearing any bold proposals for reform in these areas?

The time-consuming and costly hurdles that developers must surmount, and the outsized powers of interference wielded by tiny groups of objectors and special interest citizens associations, exact extraordinary delays incurring exorbitant costs that also encumber finance sourcing. Parking build-out requirements alone add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of both residential and commercial units. This further inflates sale prices and rents in an already housing-expensive city and inhibits growth in the number of locally originating small businesses.

To sit down with local developers and owners of small and moderate sized community businesses to discuss the impacts of counterproductive city regulations and counterintuitive processes is instructive. It does, however, require packing a lunch and bringing a seat cushion – the tales they’ll tell are not only frustrating to absorb, they take a while to recount in full.

Try not to get them started on detailing the cumbersome and complex regulatory administration by an improved yet still languid and unsympathetic city government bureaucracy that too often appears to delight in exacting pain for pleasure. Otherwise, bring a lantern, too. This little chat will run long and late.

In a city brimming with national politicians who suffer from more-than-adequate delusions that government is the source and provider of all things good, it is to be expected that local candidates are drinking from the same well of hallucinogenic liquid. That, however, doesn’t make obsessive crane counting appear any less foolish.

Mayor Vincent Gray deserves much of the let’s-play-this-game blame on this. As is all-too-natural for incumbent politicians, independent market development progress occurring on one’s watch is commonly embraced for political benefit. The mayor often exalts in a current tally of the exact number of cranes jutting skyward across the city at any given moment. He tasks an executive staffer to keep contemporaneous count.

Less forgivable are Gray’s re-election challengers righteously claiming either greater personal responsibility or assigning credit to prior administrations. Some among the four D.C. Council members challenging Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary have more of a tendency to do so, but they all engage in this gamesmanship to one degree or another.

Instead of counting cranes candidates, how about telling us how you’re going to improve the business and development environment in our city.

That’s what we’re counting on.

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

29
Jan
2014

Victory Fund endorses Catania for mayor

David Catania, Catania for mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania won the Victory Fund’s endorsement even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an influential national group that raises money for LGBT candidates for public office, created a stir among local activists this week when it announced it has endorsed D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor.

With many LGBT activists supporting Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election bid and others in the LGBT community supporting one of the four other City Council members running for mayor, some are asking why the Victory Fund would endorse Catania before he has formally announced he’s running for mayor.

Catania has formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral race and has said he most likely would run if Gray wins the Democratic primary on April 1.

Victory Fund Press Secretary Steven Thai said that while the group doesn’t endorse unannounced potential candidates very often, it has taken this step before. He noted that the Victory Fund endorsed former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) for the U.S. Senate in 2012 before she officially announced she was running for the Senate.

Baldwin went on to declare her candidacy for the Senate and won that race, making history by becoming the first out lesbian or gay person to become a U.S. senator.

“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” the Victory Fund’s chief operating officer, Torey Carter, said in a statement released by the group on Tuesday.

“He helped guide Washington through a period of unprecedented growth and revitalization,” Carter said. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such a diverse and dynamic people.”

The Victory Fund also announced on Tuesday its endorsement of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in his race for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Ebbin is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 in which two other openly gay candidates are running in an 11-candidate race.

“Adam Ebbin has distinguished himself as an outspoken voice of progressive values,” Carter said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “After ten years in the state legislature, he has remained committed to his goal of increasing equality and opportunity for those who are often left behind.”

Virginia State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out publicly last week in a column in the Washington Post, emerged as an unexpected ‘out’ candidate in the 8th District congressional race. Also running is gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine, who worked as a legal counsel for gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Levine says he’s been out as gay since the 1980s.

As of this week, the Victory Fund has endorsed 71 out LGBT candidates in national, state and local races and expects to endorse more than 200 out candidates across the country in the 2014 election cycle, the group says on its website.

Among those endorsed so far are at least nine gay or lesbian candidates running in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Catania and Ebbin.

But missing from its endorsement list so far are lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Country), who’s running for governor, and gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is running for re-election to a fifth term.

Spokesperson Thai reiterated the Victory Fund’s longstanding policy of not disclosing why the group has not endorsed a candidate. However, he said many more candidates are in the endorsement pipeline and the group could very well endorse candidates not on the list in the next few weeks and coming months.

He said the group’s criteria for endorsing any candidate, as posted on the website, include a demonstration that the candidate is viable and can show a path to victory; a record of support on LGBT rights; and the completion of a detailed application seeking an endorsement. Thai said an endorsement for a prior election doesn’t carry over to the next election and all incumbents must re-apply each time they run.

Graham couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he applied for an endorsement in his Council race.

The Mizeur for governor campaign didn’t say specifically whether the campaign formally applied for a Victory Fund endorsement.

“We are in close communication with the Victory Fund and we would welcome their support,” campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz told the Blade.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed development, Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), one of eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, announced last month that he is not running for re-election to that position. Instead, Murphy said he decided to run for president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, a position equivalent to a county executive.

“Whether you’re a state legislator or a county commissioner president, it’s all about the quality of life for all people,” Murphy said in a Feb. 3 statement. “I’ve always been accessible and responsive as a delegate, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to serve all our residents with the same enthusiasm and dedication.”

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur is giving up her seat in the House of Delegates. Records with the state board of elections show that she did not file for re-election to her delegate post prior to the filing deadline of Feb. 25. The election board lists Mizeur as an “active” candidate for governor in the June 24 Maryland primary.

The departure of Mizeur and Murphy from the House of Delegates would lower the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly from eight – the highest in the nation for a state legislature – to six if all six remaining lawmakers are re-elected this year.

The others running for re-election are State Sen. Richard Madelano (D-Montgomery County) and Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

All except Kaiser have been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Other out gay or lesbian candidates in Maryland that have received the Victory Fund’s endorsement this year are Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council; Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills; and Kevin Walling, Maryland House of Delegates, Montgomery County.

Walling is running in a different district than that of Mizeur and Kaiser’s districts in Montgomery County.

26
Feb
2014

D.C. woman gets 6 ½ years for shooting gay man at IHOP

IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

An altercation led to a shooting at the IHOP restaurant in Columbia Heights on March 11, 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday sentenced a 29-year-old woman to six-and-a-half years in prison for the March 2012 non-fatal shooting of a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The sentencing by Judge Michael Ryan came three months after a jury found Lashawn Yvonne Carson, a D.C. resident, guilty of aggravated assault while armed and six additional firearms-related charges.

During the four-day trial prosecutors played for the jury a video obtained from the restaurant’s security cameras that they said showed Carson, then 28, pull out a handgun and shoot Dante Thomas in the chest.

Thomas has since recovered from a gunshot wound to his liver that the lead prosecutor said could have been fatal if he had not received immediate medical treatment at a nearby hospital.

Police and prosecutors said an altercation leading to the shooting began when two groups of friends were eating at separate tables near one another at the IHOP restaurant about 5:30 a.m. on March 11, 2012.

According to a police affidavit and testimony by witnesses, one of Carson’s friends while sitting at her table used the word “faggot” to describe one or more of the men sitting at Thomas’s table. A short time later a physical altercation erupted between the two groups when Thomas attempted to walk to the cash register to pay his bill.

“Carson and a male friend inadvertently stood directly in his way,” a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office says. “The victim attempted to squeeze by and accidently bumped into Carson. Words were exchanged and the defendant’s male friend used a homophobic slur,” the statement says.

Government witnesses at the trial said a fight then broke out between the opposing groups of friends and an off-duty D.C. police detective who was seated nearby stepped in to break it up.

“At that point, according to the government’s evidence, Carson walked over, adjusted her hair, pulled out a firearm and shot the victim once in the chest,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement says.

A police charging document says Carson and her male friend fled the restaurant.

Prior to her arrest about two weeks later, hundreds of LGBT activists and their supporters assembled outside the IHOP restaurant to begin a march through the streets from Columbia Heights to Dupont Circle to protest the IHOP shooting and other incidents of violence targeting LGBT people in the city.

Although police initially listed the shooting incident as an anti-gay hate crime, the U.S. Attorney’s office dropped that designation. Sources familiar with the case said the U.S. Attorney’s office believed there was insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction for a hate- or bias-related shooting.

During closing arguments, Carson’s lawyer argued that Carson testified at the trial that she is bisexual and expressed disapproval at the table where she and her friends were sitting when one of the friends used the anti-gay slur to describe the men sitting at the victim’s table.

Silent March for Victims of GLBT Violence, Columbia Heights, hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds joined a hastily assembled March, 2012 demonstration organized after several instances of anti-gay violence in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Carson denied she shot Thomas and testified she was drunk when police questioned her about the incident. She said detectives questioning her talked her into falsely admitting she shot Thomas. A video of her admission was played for the jury in which she told detectives she shot Thomas because he hit her and she became angry.

According to court records, Ryan sentenced Carson to additional time for several of the other charges on which she was convicted, including possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and carrying a pistol without a license. But he ordered that most of the additional time be served concurrently, resulting in a sentence to a total of 6-and-a-half years in prison.

The judge ordered that she be placed on three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term.

17
Jan
2014

Whitman-Walker names new communications director

Shawn Jain, communications, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Shawn Jain (Photo courtesy of Shawn Jain)

Whitman-Walker Health this week announced it has hired Shawn Jain as its new director of communications. He will lead internal and external communications and marketing efforts for the organization.

“Having worked in the communications department for the International AIDS Conference held in Washington a few years ago, I saw first-hand the impact of HIV on the local community and became familiar with the groundbreaking work being done at Whitman-Walker,” Jain said in a release. “Simply stated, Whitman-Walker is an institution in Washington. I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that has already made its mark in history as a healthcare leader and pioneer. I look forward to enhancing Whitman-Walker Health’s communications operation.”

After his work at AIDS 2012, Jain served as a media strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union. He lives in Washington.

“We are pleased to have Shawn on our team,” said Don Blanchon, executive director of WWH, in a statement. “He brings experience that will allow Whitman-Walker to increase the public’s awareness of the breadth and depth of our health center operations and ensure that WWH is reaching the community effectively and strategically.”

27
Mar
2014

Bisexual college football player comes out

Conner Mertens, football, Willamette University, gay news, Washington Blade, bisexual

McCulloch Stadium field at Willamette University. (Photo public domain)

SALEM, Ore.—A Willamette University athlete on Jan. 27 became the first known college football player to publicly come out.

“It is important to me to tell you all that I, Conner Mertens, am bisexual,” wrote Conner Mertens on his Twitter page. “If that makes you uncomfortable, I refuse to apologize for being who I am.”

Mertens, who grew up in Kennewick, Wash., further discussed his decision to come out as bisexual with Outsports.com.

“I hate the stereotypes that go along with liking the same sex,” Mertens told the LGBT sports website. “You don’t have to follow the stereotype to be this way. I made the decision that if I could help anyone else avoid feeling the way I felt, I would.”

Willamette University in a statement said it “fully supports” Mertens and “respects his contribution to a more humane and just world.”

30
Jan
2014

Queery: DC Allen

DC Allen, Crew Club, gay news, Washington Blade

DC Allen (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Things will be a little different at the Crew Club (1321 14th St., N.W.) on Sunday. From 2-6 p.m., owner DC Allen is hosting a birthday party. Gay porn star Matthew Rush will be on hand. It’s open to the public.

Allen, a 58-year-old Boston native, has been in D.C. since 1990 after spending the ‘80s in New York.

He and husband Ken Flick live on 17th Street near Dupont Circle with their dog, Toad. Allen enjoys reading, community activism, working out, cooking and traveling in his free time.

Find the Crew Club on Facebook or visit thecrewclub.co for details.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

Since 1979. My stepfather who was not gay friendly.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Frank Kameny for his long-term activism.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

The Crew Club, of course!

 

Describe your dream wedding.

Surrounded by family and friends, in the District Courthouse with fake flowers on a plastic trellis. We did it in October 2012!

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

The little children in the U.S. Congress playing their childish games.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Windsor case would apply to all states, not just the federal government.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The first time I saw “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway. The irreverence and truth was spectacular!

 

On what do you insist?

That we as a community never put up with bullies.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I posted my birthday party at the Crew Club that I’m throwing on Sunday. I also posted thank yous to everyone who wished me happy birthday.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Whoremaster to Weenie Waggers”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I would stay the same delightful homosexual that I am today.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

A spiritual existence and a power greater than myself.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Never forget that we are not heterosexuals.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Complete equality.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

We are not all 20-year-old muscle bunnies.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Kinky Boots”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

There are no overrated social customs.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I was lucky enough to receive the Business Leader of the Year Award in 2012 from the Capitol Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. That was and is the award I most coveted because it recognized all of the positive things I’ve tried to do in the D.C. gay community.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Floss more, eat less.

 

Why Washington?

I had family in the area. Also, Washington has the highest percentage of master’s degrees per workforce in the world. I like a bright, driven population around me.

05
Mar
2014

Handing over the reins

Mike Isabella, dining, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Isabella has created buzz with his monthly Industry Takeover Nights at Graffiatto. (Photo by Greg Powers)

Mike Isabella is a household name in Washington. Not only is he a “Top Chef” alum, but he also has three major restaurants including Graffiatto (707 Sixth St. N.W.), host of Industry Takeover Night.

This monthly blowout just celebrated its one-year anniversary in style on Jan. 6 with a huge party by inviting back a few favorites from previous events like fellow “Top Chef” alum Jennifer Carroll and local luminary Victor Albisu of Del Campo.

Industry Nights used to be a term that simply described a group of restaurant employees, cooks, bartenders or waiters gathering at a local watering hole to have drinks and exchange war stories. Now in D.C. and thanks to Isabella, Industry Nights means much more. The concept is simple: Chef Isabella hands over the first floor kitchen at Graffiato to one of many renowned chefs and the bar to an equally renowned bartender the first Monday of every month. Isabella then steps back and enjoys the party. The chef can make whatever he or she wants and the bartenders will be serving their own original cocktails. For $10 (half of which goes to charity), guests can get a taste of all the food they can get their hands on, as well as enjoy $5 cocktails. The outcome of this simple concept is a mind-blowing event every month.

“I like to party and I like to hang out with friends,” Isabella says.

Guests have the opportunity to gather around the open kitchen at Graffiato and watch renowned chefs prepare some of their favorite dishes up close, and sometimes even chat with them as they do it. The restaurant is packed with masses of people celebrating the joys of food. It’s not only the food lovers who show up for this event, but also other famous chefs from the area, so you never know who you will be rubbing elbows with.

Last January, Bryan Voltaggio and his head mixologist at Range, Owen Thomson, were the first ones to take over, serving dishes like lamb tongue pasta, black cod with hazelnuts and even samplings of candy from Range’s candy counter for dessert. Thomson brought over a bottled tequila punch called Serpentine Overflow, which contained cranberry, hibiscus and black pepper. Since that first takeover the chefs have been kicking Isabella out of his own kitchen and packing the restaurant every month. Some of the participants last year included Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery; Anwar Morgan, head mixologist at Sbraga; Erik Bruner-Yang, chef and owner of Toki Underground; Timothy Spinner of La Calaca Feliz; and Shannon Overmiller, head chef at Majestic.

On Jan. 6, Isabella decided to expand the takeover night to include the second floor of the restaurant and keep the doors open until 2 a.m. He filled this extra space and time with some of the most popular chefs and bartenders from previous events to please the crowd.

Scott Drewno of The Source prepared a char sui bao and a spicy chicken dumpling. Adam Sobel, former head toque at Bourbon steak, now of RN74 of San Francisco, made his return to D.C. and prepared Burrata-stuffed meatballs for diners. Chef Jennifer Carroll of Concrete Blonde pleased the crowd with a Shellfish Escabeche that had crab, mussels, scallops and shrimp and Angelo Sosa of Poppy Den made an Asian Borscht with Korean-style pork belly.

Victor Albisu of Del Campo made some small plates for the crowd including Smoked Beef Tongue, Blood Sausage, Chorizo and Tripa Tacos. Andre Mack, owner and winemaker of Mouton Noir Wines, mixed drinks. Isabella clearly knows how to celebrate an anniversary in style.

Lindsay Autry, another “Top Chef” alum and chef/owner of Table Frederick De Pue, will take the reins Feb. 2.

21
Jan
2014

SPECIAL REPORT In their own words: elders facing poverty, ageism

Mary Paradise, Sage, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

‘They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently,’ said D.C. resident Mary Paradise of her prolonged job search. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part look at how poverty affects elder members of the LGBT community and part of a yearlong Blade focus on poverty. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com. Click here to read previous installments.

 

Today — and every day for the next 16 years — 10,000 baby boomers, members of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, will turn 65, according to the Pew Research Center. About 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in the United States are gay. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to nearly 3 million, according to a report by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress.

One in six Americans over 65 lives in poverty, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“For LGBT older adults, a lifetime of employment discrimination, among other factors, contribute to disproportionately high poverty rates,” the SAGE website states.

LGBT elders living in or near poverty aren’t just statistics. The Blade interviewed several LGBT elders, aged 50 and older, from St. Louis to Chicago to New York City to Washington, D.C. Here are their stories:

A little peanut butter, maybe some pizza or Ramen noodles is a typical meal for Robyn Sullivan, a 57-year-old transgender woman living in New York City, who struggles to pull together $25 a week for food. In the past, she’s lived in homeless shelters. Now, she lives in a cockroach infested third floor walk-up with four gender non-conforming struggling artists.

“This is the hardest place in the country to live if you don’t make tons of money,” said Sullivan, who suffers from clinical depression and arthritis. “They wanted me to work one day a week for eight hours at a construction site with my limitations to qualify for $190 of food stamps. Working there would be too dangerous.”

Her plight is common among transgender people, Sullivan said. “Dealing with transphobia is nothing I can win at.”

In the 1990s, Sullivan was a skilled software project manager. “I used to make six figures,” she said. “When I was living as a white male professional, I was getting privilege far beyond what any human being deserves. Then I needed to transition and there was the downturn in Silicon Valley.”

After a couple of years, her savings were gone.

“As you go along into poverty, there are things that make people avoid you,” said Sullivan, who now works part-time as a receptionist for SAGE. “I wasn’t hired for a job around the corner from here. They said I wasn’t trustworthy because I lived in a homeless shelter,” she said.

Sullivan encounters not only transphobia but ageism. “When you’re past 50, no company with a retirement plan will hire you,” Sullivan said.

Even with all that she endures, Sullivan says she doesn’t harbor regrets. “When I came out as a trans woman, I felt like I was the woman I was,” she said. “I chose to stop living a lie.  Knowing what I know now, I doubt I would have done anything differently.”

It’s not always been as good for him as it is now, 70-year-old Roger Beyers of Chicago told the Blade. But “nobody ever said, life’s going to be a bed of roses,” he said.

Beyers, who retired at 66 after working for 40 years for Jewel, a Chicago area grocer, is HIV positive.

“My income is less than $12,000 per year,” he said. “My housing is subsidized by Chicago House. Before I was admitted to Chicago House, I was on the verge of homelessness. I’m on Medicare and Medicaid.”

Medicaid pays for his HIV medication, Beyers said. “If I had to pay for it, it would cost $18,000. I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “If it were to collapse, I’d be in a fragile position.”

Though he struggles with issues of economic insecurity, he feels that he’s overcoming some of them, Beyers said. He recently started a part-time internship with the Center on Halsted in Chicago.

“My financial situation has dramatically changed,” Beyers said. “There’s a world of difference between living on Social Security and having money left over at the end of the month.”

For one day a week at the Center, he assists with an HIV counseling hotline. “I love it,” Beyers said. “I can say to an HIV-positive person: ‘I’ve been there, done that and survived it all.’”

He finds strength and joy from his boyfriend Eduardo. “A shout-out for my boyfriend! I may end up marrying this man,” he said.

Mary Paradise, 62, a Capital Pride board member and Washington, D.C. resident, has been looking for work for more than a year. She worked as a nurse for 42 years. Paradise, while working as a health marketing consultant, was laid off due to downsizing. Throughout her job search, she’s often encountered ageism, Paradise said.

“They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently’ or ‘you’re over qualified,’” she said. “I say to them, ‘you must want someone who’s younger.’”

It gets discouraging, Paradise said. She’s used up her savings and in three months her unemployment benefits will run out, unless Congress extends the benefits. “It gets scary,” Paradise said, “it’s a humbling experience. I’ve worked all my life. For Congress to think I’m lazy is insulting.”

But Paradise is optimistic. She volunteers at her church. “My faith is such that I believe I will be taken care of if I just keep moving forward,” she said. “I have friends who are wonderfully supportive. I have some job leads. Something will come my way that’s a perfect fit.”

Barbara Woodruff, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis says she gets by on her $633 Social Security check each month.

Like many baby boomers, Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis thought that she had plenty of money put away for retirement. But like far too many people, especially lesbians, she found herself with no savings when she reached retirement age, Woodruff said. She gets by on her monthly $633 Social Security check. Fortunately, Woodruff says, she has Medicare and Medicaid.

“Thank God, that paid for my medication when my thyroid went haywire,” she said. “I’m fortunate. I pay $202 in rent for a nice one-bedroom apartment. It’s HUD-subsidized through the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services housing program.”

Woodruff’s partner of 20 years died in a boating accident in 1988. “When she passed, I lost the house. It was in her name. We didn’t think about those things then,” she said.

Over the years, Woodruff has done everything from working in a nursing recruitment office to running, with a business partner, an event designing business to clerking at a convenience store. “You do what you have to do to put food on the table,” she said.

For several years, Woodruff stopped working to take care of her now deceased mother.  “Her Social Security was very little. But I’d do it again,” she said.

Because of her low income, Woodruff doesn’t go out to eat much. “The LGBT community is very supportive here. There’s a great lesbian hangout. I like to see my friends there. I can’t afford to go there now,” she said. “I eat less meat and a lot more fresh fruit and veggies for my health — meat’s expensive.”

Without the social safety net of health insurance and her housing subsidy, she doesn’t know if she’d be alive, Woodruff said.

“I wouldn’t do myself in,” she said. “My friends would make sure I’d have a place to live. I’d be grateful to have a room in their house. But it wouldn’t be my home.”

27
Mar
2014

14th Street shows need for parking

parking meter, 14th Street, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The following was submitted as a letter to the editor in response to Mark Lee’s column of Jan. 31, “Stop counting cranes, it’s embarrassing all of us.”

After nearly 10 years of reading this newspaper, I have come to respect the viewpoints of many of the columnists. Mark Lee, for instance, provides an interesting perspective each week as a community business advocate. I have come to recognize his regulation-is-bad-private-business-is-the-savior editorials well in advance. Many times I agree with him, but I think he has some misconceptions on the parking issue.

In the last year I have been fortunate enough to relocate to Logan Circle, and subsequently moved into one of the large 14th Street buildings that now dominate the area. Lee argues that legally requiring a certain amount of parking spaces hinders development and leads to higher rents. He seems to miss the impact on the residents, however. In my building, the street level is for businesses. As such, the first parking level under the building is used for their employees. If these folks did not have access to the parking structure, where would they park? Many are not D.C. residents, and thus couldn’t park on the street for more than two hours because they don’t have the resident permit.

Secondly, well over 50 cars are parked on the resident parking level of my building.  If this option were not included, that would mean 50-100 more cars on the street. Those familiar with the area know that off of 14th Street you have blocks of rowhouses, some with parking in back alleys and some without. Since several of these structures are divided into multiple apartments, there is barely enough parking currently to support all these people. If my building, in this example, did not have optional lower-level residential parking, this would create parking gridlock throughout the neighborhood.

Lee also suggests that taking away the parking requirement would reduce rental/condo rates. I doubt that considering the demand for city living. I also point out that in many buildings parking is not free. My building offers one space for several hundred dollars a month. That is not part of rent, but a separate fee for those that don’t want to search the street for parking.

I don’t argue his frequent point that the city is an overwhelming maze of confusion for permits, zoning and bureaucratic nonsense. However, a lot of progress could be made for the positive just by following some of Lee’s other suggestions. Putting more cars on the street will only negatively impact our way of life. Until D.C. becomes more pedestrian and bike friendly (such as more shopping options that don’t require a trip to Maryland or Virginia), cars will remain a part of life. Let’s keep them underground and out of the way.

—Chris Greaver, Logan Circle

05
Feb
2014

DNC honors Tom Chorlton

Tom Chorlton, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Tom Chorlton died Jan. 5 in South Carolina from complications associated with leukemia. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution at its Washington meeting on Feb. 28 honoring the late Tom Chorlton, a longtime gay Democratic Party activist and former D.C. resident.

Chorlton served as founding executive director of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs from 1981-1982 before becoming D.C.’s first openly gay candidate for the City Council.

He later became a political science professor at the College of Charleston in North Carolina and author of a nationally recognized book profiling the little known 14 presidents of the American Continental Congress prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Chorlton died Jan. 5 in South Carolina from complications associated with leukemia.

The DNC resolution states, “Therefore be it resolved that the Democratic National Committee honor Tom Chorlton for his dedication to the Democratic Party, his commitment to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, his passion for political organizing within the LGBT community, his love of American history, and his years of mentoring to future activists.”

06
Mar
2014