Eight candidates vying for the LGBT community’s vote in the May 11 City Council election spoke about their support and advocacy during the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s forum Sunday.
LGBT allies and incumbents Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs, who are facing off in a redrawn District 1, attended, as did DISD Trustee Adam Medrano and openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld in District 2, Claudia Meyer in District 3, and Bobby Abtahi, Philip Kingston and Jim Rogers in District 14.
Several candidates addressed the need of the city to provide more funding and education on HIV prevention, especially among young minorities. Weisfeld and Abtahi said the city should spend more funds on educational programs.
“When you prevent one person from contracting HIV, it pays for the whole program,” Abtahi said.
Rogers suggested the city should hire someone to research grants and possible funding for HIV. Jasso said the city should get more creative with its funding, work with schools and even plan a rally to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS similar to Mayor Mike Rawlings’ domestic violence event in March.
All candidates raised their hands when asked if they would support the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, domestic partner benefits, and police and fire LGBT liaisons.
Both Abtahi and Weisfeld voiced support for turning Jasso’s LGBT Task Force into a commission to better address complaints and handle other issues from different minority groups.
Kingston addressed the ordinance in his closing statement, saying the Fair Housing Office has done a poor job of handling the complaints.
“We have a great anti-discrimination ordinance. If you read it, it looks like it really ought to work,” he said. “But enforcement was turned over to city staff that is neither transparent nor accountable.”
All candidates also raised their hands when asked if they’d work on getting Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality. But only Weisfeld and Griggs addressed the question.
Weisfeld said Rawlings called him into his office to discuss the matter and Weisfeld told him he would work with him to sign the pledge on behalf of the community “because we deserve it.”
Griggs reminded the audience that he has a resolution supporting marriage equality and workplace nondiscrimination that will go before the council and “everyone will be able to vote.”
Jasso touted the LGBT Task Force she created when she took office in 2009, explaining that the group has helped advance the community’s issues over the years and is also working on transgender issues now.
Griggs said he’d also been a strong advocate for the community and 40 percent of his appointees to boards and commissions were members of the LGBT community.
Medrano said he was the best person to represent District 2 because he’s the only candidate with a “record of service” in the district, having grown up in the district and serving on the DISD Board of Trustees since 2006.
“I know every single neighborhood, every single crime watch, been a part of it for 20 years,” Medrano said. “And so I believe I’m the candidate that you can trust, that’s going to be honest and that’s going to work with you.”
Weisfeld said he’d be a champion and advocate for the community, having served on several commissions and boards over the years, including being a co-founder of the Oak Lawn Crime Watch group. He also hinted at Medrano’s refusal to discuss his sexual orientation.
“I am proud about who I am and I represent the community proudly as a member of this community,” Weisfeld said. “I don’t lie, I don’t hide. I answer the question and I say I am proudly a gay American.”
Meyer, a longtime community volunteer in the Mountain Creek area, spoke about incumbent Vonciel Jones Hill’ refusal to ride in the gay Pride parade.
“Our alternative is an anti-gay woman that actively is against gays, so we need to have our opportunity here to put someone in as myself that will support the gay community,” Meyer said.
Abtahi said he would work to represent all of District 14 and his support for the LGBT community comes from having family members and friends who are LGBT. He also hinted at Kingston’s contribution to the conservative Maverick PAC in 2006.
“I will never support anything that’s anti-gay or anti-equality,” he said. “I’ve never given money like some candidates that support anti-gay initiatives.”
Kingston said he’d follow in outgoing Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s footsteps by being an independent and strong voice for the LGBT community.
Rogers spoke about his record of hard work and honesty, saying he’d be a full-time council member and an advocate that’s needed to address the concerns of District 14 residents.
Early voting begins April 29. Election Day is May 11.
DGLA’s PAC is expected to release its endorsements later this week.