BREAKING: Cantrell resolution to remove Price dies

Price

Commissioner John Wiley Price, center, jokes with County Judge Clay Jenkins, left, and Commissioner Elba Garcia, right, before the session began.

Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell introduced a resolution at Dallas County Commissioner’s Court this morning (Tuesday, Aug. 26) to remove embattled Commissioner John Wiley Price. But the resolution died for lack of a second.

Price has been indicted on federal charges. Cantrell’s resolution points to 18 deputies who were removed from office and others who were “allowed” to resign when they were charged with criminal activity. He also noted that the rules for employees does not apply to elected officials.

The proposed resolution called for the district attorney to file a removal action for suspension with pay while the case against Price proceeded, and for a district judge to appoint a temporary replacement the case against Price is resolved.

Cantrell is the only Republican on the commissioner’s court. None of four Democrats on the court seconded the motion. As County Judge Clay Jenkins announced, “The resolution died for lack of a second,” the standing-room-only court erupted into applause.

 

—  David Taffet

Tossback Tuesday: G*U*T*S stopped Sanus from withholding treatment

Think your insurance company is killing you now? In 1989, Irving-based HMO Sanus almost killed dozens of its customers in Dallas and thousands more across the country by refusing payment for one of the first drugs that prevented an opportunistic infection.

In January 1989, Sanus announced it would stop paying for pentamidine aerosol treatments, which prevented pneumocystis pneumonia that was taking the lives of many people with AIDS. The company called the drug experimental because the Food and Drug Administration had not given final approval of the medication. The drug was one of the first effective drugs used in the fight against AIDS.

Dallas Gay Alliance President William Waybourn told the Dallas Morning News at the time, the decision was “a form of patient dumping.” Those who were no longer covered by Sanus were going to Parkland or the AIDS Resource Center for treatment.

Resource Center began giving pentamidine treatments to people without insurance in 1987. That program developed into the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic.

Waybourn said adding 35 patients that had contacted the Resource Center after being dumped by Sanus would bankrupt the agency. Pentamidine treatments each cost $165 and were usually administered twice a month. Resource Center was already treating 80 people with no coverage.

G*U*T*S — Gay Urban Truth Squad, a precursor to ACT-UP — staged a die-in at Sanus’ office in Irving. About two dozen G*U*T*S members walked into Sanus’ office with tombstones and laid down in the lobby and hallway.

Geoff Staples was one of the protesters. He said several people handcuffed themselves to the desks. Although Sanus only had one floor of the 10-story building, they evacuated the entire building during the protest. Who knows what this healthcare company did after the protesters left, knowing people with AIDS had been in their office.

After the protest, the company announced on Feb. 16 that it would resume payments for treatment. While the Morning News printed four articles on the Sanus controversy over pentamidine, they never mentioned the protest.

Please help us identify the names of those in the pictures. Most of them died before medication that made HIV manageable was available.

—  David Taffet

Memory Monday: Mayor Annette Strauss visits the AIDS Resource Center

In February 1988, Mayor Annette Strauss visited the AIDS Resource Center on Cedar Springs Road, which was located about where TapeLenders is now. Strauss served from 1987–91.

This was during the height of the AIDS crisis and the visit marked the beginning of any cooperation between the city and the LGBT community in providing services to people living with AIDS. Until this time, few grants were available and little government money was going to help people with AIDS. After the visit, other government officials visited and began working with the LGBT community to provide services.

This wasn’t the first time a Dallas mayor visited the LGBT community. Jack Evans, who was mayor 1981–83, was the featured speaker at a Dallas Gay Alliance monthly meeting. The next day, the Dallas Morning News got wind of the event. Evans said he spoke to the group, but he didn’t know who they were.

That story was related to Mayor Ron Kirk, 1995–2002. Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s monthly was one of his first stops after his election. He opened by thanking everyone at DGLA, the Dallas Gun Lovers Association, for their support in his election.

These are the only pictures I found in our archives of the old AIDS Resource Center/DGA office on Cedar Springs. The building was destroyed in 1989 by an arson fire set by a DGA volunteer to cover up the theft of computer equipment. At the time, the AIDS Resource Center was a non-profit project of DGA, which spun off several years later. Today, it’s known Resource Center.

—  David Taffet

LULAC’s LGBT school supply drive

Dallas City Council members Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston, Dallas County Schools board member Omar Narvaez and DISD School board President Miguel Solis were at Havana last night to accept donations of school supplies from LULAC, Congregation Beth El Binah, Resource Center, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, DIVA, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and Texas Latino Gay Pride.

The donations went to Maple Lawn Elementary School and Rusk Middle School in Oak Lawn, two of the poorest schools in DISD.

In addition, LULAC made a $400 donation to Promise House in Oak Cliff. Promise House is a shelter for homeless youth and works with Youth First and Resource Center to care for homeless LGBT youth.

 

—  David Taffet

Flashback Friday: More parade pics

More parade pictures from the late 1980s and early 90s. Cedar Springs was still in black and white.

—  David Taffet

Once a Turtle, always a Turtle

After the quick departure of Turtle Creek Chorale’s former artistic director, Associate Director Sean Baugh jumped right in and picked up the baton

Chorale

giving direction | Turtle Creek Chorale’s Acting Director Sean Baugh leads the group in vocal exercises at its first rehearsal for the new season. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
No other organization is as good at wrapping its arms around an audience, Sean Baugh said, proudly describing the Turtle Creek Chorale. This week, Baugh held the baton to lead the chorale as he welcomed back members to begin TCC’s 35th season.

Baugh is associate artistic director of the chorale and, since the departure of Artistic Director Trey Jacobs earlier this year, its acting director. While much of the structure of the new season was already laid out when he stepped up as acting director, Baugh’s imprint will certainly be obvious.

“Sean built the new season around a basic foundation,” TCC President Kevin Hodges said.

At the season’s opening rehearsal, Hodges expressed his excitement at having Baugh at the helm. He described Baugh’s approach as simple — joy, music that can engulf the audience and touching people’s hearts.

As the members of the chorale gathered in the rehearsal room of the Sammons Center on Oak Lawn Avenue on Aug. 19 for its first rehearsal under the new acting director, Baugh admitted to being a little nervous. But within minutes of warming up, the members of the chorale harmonized, producing that full, rich sound — as strong and wondrous as they’ve been in years.

Baugh heard the sound and felt the support — and seemed at home in his new role.

In college, Baugh majored in trumpet and piano. With his undergraduate degree in music education, he intended to be a high school or college band or orchestra leader. He came to

Dallas to study instrumental conducting at Southern Methodist University. But when he left SMU, he didn’t want to teach anymore and so began a career in communications and marketing.

Baugh began singing with TCC in 2006, longtime conductor Tim Seelig’s last year with the group. He said he joined primarily to sing TCC’s signature piece, “When We No Longer Touch.”

Chorale-2“I became addicted to the spirit and music making of this organization,” he said.

That’s when Baugh realized that his true love was choral music, especially male choral music.

As he was driving home to Tulsa, listening to the chorale’s recording of “When We No Longer Touch,” Baugh said to himself that one day he wanted to be standing in front of the

Turtle Creek Chorale. He said he thought he was done with that part of his life, but he had found something he truly loved.

In his second year with the chorale, Baugh joined the board and eventually served as its president for three years.

In addition to leading the chorale, Baugh is associate director of music and worship at Cathedral of Hope and conducts the choir and orchestra at the church’s Sunday morning services. Baugh said the two positions are very similar with some big differences.

For Cathedral, he and Music Director David Moldenhauer are coming up with something new every week, coordinating with the pastors and speakers who will be participating in the service. For the chorale, he’s looking at music a year in advance and putting together an entire program designed to evoke emotion from the audience.

“We aim for a chill, a teardrop and a laugh,” he said.

Baugh’s first season as acting director for TCC won’t be a season of celebrity talent — although Tim Seelig will be back to direct the chorale for a 35th anniversary performance in February, something the Chorale’s former artistic director said he is thrilled about.

Seelig also said he thinks Baugh is the right person to lead the chorale through this period of transition.

“He’s been part of the organization at multiple levels for the past seven years and knows the men well,” Seelig said, speaking the afternoon before the chorale’s first rehearsal for the season. “They love him and I expect tonight to be a total love fest looking to the future. I’m excited to see what’s ahead.”

Baugh knows to succeed, it’s about more than the music.

“We need to get our core audience back and remind them why they’re coming,” he said. “This season is about the guys.”

Baugh said that while the framework of the season was already in place, he had the opportunity to put his own stamp on it. For the first concert, however, he did more than just a minor tweak. He put a newly commissioned work — The Tyler Suite, about bullying victim Tyler Clementi — on hold. That will probably be performed next season.

Instead, for the October concert, called Brave, chorale members will tell their own stories of coming out, dealing with AIDS, suicide attempts and family acceptance.

At the season’s first rehearsal, Baugh handed out music for the first half of the season. He said at least one part of his conducting style will be more Seelig than Jacobs.

While Jacobs was more likely to stick with a piece once he had chosen it, “Tim threw things away all the time,” Baugh said. “I have no qualms saying, ‘Rip that out. We’re not doing it.’”

Baugh also wants former chorale members to come back and give the group another shot. He said he’s not even asking former members to audition again. Instead, he has invited them to come to a Tuesday night rehearsal and just sing.

“Once a Turtle, always a Turtle,” he said. “They always have a place here.”

Baugh has another goal, too. He reflected on past concerts with the Hamilton Park Baptist Church men’s chorus, the U.S. Army chorus and a recent concert featuring Christian music singer Sandi Patty.

“We changed some hearts,” he said. “We still have the power to do that.”

New singers may audition from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. Call the office to schedule a time. Others may stop by a Tuesday night rehearsal, or call to schedule an audition time.

Baugh said he’s looking for “good singers who love good music.” But he also called the chorale “a place for healing.” He said he finds that singers who come to the chorale to heal are the singers who flourish the most.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 22, 2014.

—  David Taffet

City ERF board chair stalling on pension policy change

Brewer says staff can’t give LGBT employees equal pension benefits without approval of council, voters

Medrano.Adam_

City Councilman Adam Medrano

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

One of the city of Dallas LGBT Task Force’s primary goals since the city passed an LGBT equality ordinance earlier this year has been equalizing pension benefits. That ordinance requires every department to review its policies to ensure equal treatment.

Policies offering family leave to cover gay and lesbian employees were quickly put into place. But efforts to equalize pension benefits have proven contentious.

In a memo to the Employees Retirement Fund Councilman Philip Kingston, who is an attorney, wrote, “Simply directing your staff to begin paying equal benefits will not require the change of one word in the entire chapter,” Kingston wrote. “The only contrary argument is that somehow state-law definitions of the term ‘spouse’ control the city’s plan.”

At issue is whether same-sex spouses who outlive the employee would receive the pension for the rest of their lives as opposite-sex spouses do. Kingston wrote that the only possible negative reaction to paying gay and lesbian employee pensions equally to straight employee pensions is that the attorney general could seek a court order requiring the city to stop.

The councilman said that’s unlikely. But, he said, not paying equal benefits could result in costly lawsuits.

“I believe you can, at this point, merely redirect your staff to begin paying equal benefits,” Kingston wrote. But Carla Brewer, ERF board chair, wrote back to Kingston that the board does not believe it has the power to adopt a rule that violates state law.

The ERF board is elected by city employees participating in the pension fund.

The law Brewer is referring to is the state’s anti-marriage amendment that has been declared unconstitutional in a court ruling now on appeal and likely to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brewer also wrote to Kingston that even if it did not violate state law, she believes extending benefits would have to be approved by not just the ERF board, but also by city council and ultimately Dallas voters.

What prompted the requested changes are city employees impacted by these policies. The council has already indicated its support for the change by passing the equality ordinance and both Kingston and City Councilman Adam Medrano have made the council’s intentions clear to the board.

Changes to policies so far have been instigated by LGBT employees who have run up against unequal policies. Interim Assistant City Manager Theresa O’Donnell was unable to take family leave when her child was born, because her wife’s name was on the birth certificate, and a second parent adoption can’t be completed in Texas at birth.

In the pension case, City Attorney John Rogers recently retired and began the battle for pension equality.

Medrano chairs the city’s LGBT Task Force. He said Brewer asked the Internal Revenue Service for an opinion before moving forward.

“We’re working on it, trying to come up with a way for all employees to be included,” Medrano said.

He was optimistic the IRS would send the pension board a positive ruling. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS has treated all legally married couples equally — no matter where they live. Married Texas couples began filing joint federal tax returns this year despite state law.

Medrano said he expected a ruling from the IRS that treats same-sex married couples the same as opposite-sex married couples. In that case, no changes to the ERF rules would have to be made. Pensions would simply be offered to all couples with a marriage license equally without regard to sexual orientation.

The LGBT Task Force agreed that waiting for the ruling from the IRS was a good decision.

At its August meeting, the group also heard from Frank Rodriguez who works with the City Council’s legislative committee.

Rodriguez said he expects a new version of employment nondiscrimination to be introduced but recommended that the legislative committee of the city council approve broad wording that supports equality for the LGBT community and opposition to bills that discriminate and demean.

Medrano also said the city is looking at the idea of creating a human rights commission. He said as the city council studies the idea, the task force could look at best practices from commissions already created around Texas and those in other major cities around the country. Currently, those complaints are heard by the Dallas housing office.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 22, 2014.

 

—  David Taffet

Throwback Thursday: 1980s Dallas Pride

Dallas Voice is packing to move to our new office. We came across a box of Pride parade pictures from the late 1980s. Color photography had not been invented yet, at least not for newspapers. I chose these particular pictures to show how Cedar Springs has changed over the years rather than because of who is in the pictures. But if anyone can identify any of the parade participants, please do.

—  David Taffet

Supreme Court stay only applies to gays and lesbians

VirginiaIn a bizarre ruling that only applies to gays and lesbians, the U.S. Supreme Court put a stay on marriage equality in Virginia a day before an appeals court ruling was to go into effect.

The stay only applies to same-sex marriages. Opposite-sex couples will still be allowed to marry in the state, although there’s no word if those marriages will be seen as valid by most people. Since there is a religious exemption in all marriage laws, denominations such as Reform Judaism and United Church of Christ that believe marriage discrimination laws violate their beliefs may not recognize those marriages. Those denominations certainly will not have to accept the validity of opposite-sex marriage licenses issued during this period of discrimination.

The Virginia attorney general refused to defend discrimination in his state at the trial court or appeals court levels and has asked the Supreme Court for a quick resolution. But he also asked for the discriminatory stay that applies only to gay and lesbian couples. He is not up for re-election, so it is not clear why he is taking both sides of the fence on the issue.

When a stay is placed on issuing marriage licenses, the stay should be placed on issuing all marriage licenses. If the gays can wait, so can the straights.

—  David Taffet

Turtle Creek Chorale’s first rehearsal for new season

The Turtle Creek Chorale began rehearsing on Tuesday night for its new season under the direction of Sean Baugh. Here are some pictures from the first rehearsal. Look for a story about Baugh and his direction of the chorale in this Friday’s paper.

—  David Taffet