Appointees can change minds, “‘one person at a time,’ says gay council member
Seven members of the Dallas City Council have made a total of 22 nominations and personal appointments of gay and lesbian residents to the current memberships of city boards and commissions.
Some positions on the city’s board and commissions are personal appointments by council members while others require full council approval of nominations.
The city secretary’s office maintains membership records of council member appointments on 49 boards and commissions.
Requests for information about appointments of openly gay and lesbian residents were e-mailed to Mayor Laura Miller and the 14 City Council representatives. Only the mayor and six council representatives responded to the requests.
Gay council member Ed Oakley, whose District 3 includes Oak Cliff, made the most appointments and nominations. He identified 11 individuals he had appointed as being gay or lesbian.
Oakley made nominations and appointments to the Board of Adjustment, Community Development Commission, Citizens Police Review Board, Environmental Health Commission, Landmark Commission, Park and Recreation Board, Board of Adjustment Alternates, Cultural Affairs Commission, Ethics Advisory Commission and Reinvestment Zone 3 Board for the Oak Cliff Gateway. He made two nominations of gay and lesbian residents to the Reinvestment Zone 3 Board.
Oakley said it is important for the GLBT community to have representatives on boards and commissions because others serving along side them learn about the community’s issues.
“We have the ability to change people’s minds one person at a time,” Oakley said. “If you serve on a board and you come away changing one or two people’s minds who become policy makers, then you’ve accomplished a lot.”
Oakley said elected officials often begin their public service by serving on boards and commissions. He served on the Plan and Zoning Commission with District 10 council member Bill Blaydes prior to his election to the council.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez served on the Civil Service Board before she was elected.
Other members of the council who are not gay said they are committed to making appointments and nominations of gay and lesbian residents so the boards and commissions reflect the diversity of the city.
Council member Dr. Elba Garcia, whose District 1 also includes Oak Cliff, identified two gay and lesbian residents she appointed to the Cultural Affairs Commission and the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Board.
Oakley and Garcia share the appointment to the Cultural Affairs Commission so their appointments reflect the same individual.
Council member Angela Hunt, whose District 14 includes Oak Lawn, identified four appointments of gay and lesbian residents. She appointed gay and lesbian residents to the City Plan and Zoning Commission, Citizens Police Review Board, Landmark Commission and the Youth Commission.
Council member Pauline Medrano, whose District 2 also includes Oak Lawn, identified two appointments of gay and lesbian residents to Community Development Commission and the City Plan and Zoning Commission.
As mayor, Miller has appointed one person from the GLBT community to Citizens Police Review Board. As a council member representing District 3, she nominated two members of the GLBT community to the Reinvestment Zone 3 Board for the Oak Cliff Gateway, who were renominated by Oakley and are still serving.
Council member Mitchell Rasansky, whose District 14 is in North Dallas, nominated a gay man to the Board of Adjustment.
Council member Leo Chaney Jr., whose District 7 is in South Dallas, appointed a lesbian to the Environmental Health Commission.
Neither Rasansky nor Chaney responded to the request for information. The identities of their appointments of gay and lesbian residents were discovered by examining commission and board member records on the city’s Web site.
The offices of council members Gary Griffith, who represents District 9 in North Dallas, and Linda Koop, who represents District 11 in North Dallas, reported that they currently have no gay and lesbian residents appointed to city boards and commissions.
Some of the council members said they were still in the process of making appointments and nominations.
Roger Wedell, who Oakley has nominated for the Ethics Advisory Commission, said he is excited about the opportunity to serve the public and the GLBT community.
“It doesn’t directly affect our community, but the ethics commission is kind of a watch dog for city government to make sure government is transparent, and we really present to the citizens, the state and beyond that Dallas government is run on the up and up,” Wedell said. “That speaks for the whole community of which we are a part.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 3, 2006