FW mayoral candidates denounce discrimination

Posted on 26 May 2011 at 9:24pm
Jim Lane and Betsy Price

 

Price, Lane face off in runoff to replace Moncrief, will attend LGBT forum Wednesday

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — After nearly two years of unprecedented progress on LGBT issues within the Fort Worth city government, Cowtown’s LGBT residents are now facing the prospect of not having Mike Moncrief in the mayor’s seat at City Hall.

Although Moncrief probably can’t be described as the LGBT community’s biggest cheerleader, in the 22 months since the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, he has at least been a steadfast voice for equal treatment and has supported a number of changes proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

Those changes included amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to add protections based on gender identity and gender expression, despite often strident opposition from some of Fort Worth’s most conservative residents.

But with Moncrief choosing not to run for re-election this year, LGBT residents now find themselves faced with a choice between former tax-assessor/collector Betsy Price and attorney and former City Council member Jim Lane.

City elections are nonpartisan, but it is no secret that Price is Republican and Lane is a Democrat.

Price came in way ahead in the May 14 general election, pulling down 43 percent of the vote. Lane claimed his spot in the runoff with 26 percent.

Price comes into the race with endorsements from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fort Worth Business Press and, generally, speaking has the backing of the city’s business community. Lane, on the other hand, is backed by the city’s firefighter and police officers associations, as well as the Retired Firefighters Association, the African American Firefighters association, former fire chief Larry McMillen, former police chief Ralph Mendoza and District Attorney Joe Shannon.

This week, Lane announced that he has also been endorsed by two of the other three candidates from the general election: Cathy Hirt, who was third in the general election with 21 percent and Nicholas Zebrun, who won less than 1 percent of the vote.

The fifth general election candidate, former state Rep. Dan Barrett, has not backed either candidate in the runoff. He garnered 8 percent of the general election vote.

Turnout in Fort Worth’s general election barely topped 10 percent of the city’s 326,623 registered voters. And both Price and Lane said that getting their supporters back to the polls on June 18 for the runoff will be the key to victory.

“We obviously had, far and away, the most voters on Election Day,” Price said. “What we have to do now is reach and touch our voters again and get them back to the polls for the runoff. We’re going to send out mailers, call people, knock doors, do meet-and-greet events. I’m going to get out there and shake hands and get to know people.”

Price said she would also be sticking to her same message that put her in the lead in May.

“Our message is about bringing good business sense to City Hall, about cutting taxes and building a stronger economy. We have to have an open, friendly, diverse and receptive city to do that well,” Price said.

Lane said this week he knows he has some ground to make up, based on the numbers from the general election. But he said he believes Hirt’s endorsement this week gives him a head start.

“I think that is a really wonderful endorsement to have. She is extremely bright and well thought of, and she got 21 percent of the vote on May 14,” Lane said. “Nicholas Zebrun has endorsed me, and that helps too. And I am going to try and meet with Dan Barrett to ask for his endorsement too.

“We’ve seen a lot of motivation from our voters, and Cathy Hirt has a very avid support group,” Lane added. “I think they will all be enthusiastic about coming back out to vote.”

Some political watchers in Fort Worth have suggested that the runoff  between Dennis Shingleton and Jon Perry for the District 7 City Council seat could help swing turnout in Price’s favor, since that district is located in the city’s more conservative northwest area. But Lane noted this week that he is from that area of the city, and that he has significant support there, too.

Lane also questioned Price’s pledge to “bring good business sense to City Hall,” saying that his 12 years on the Council give him insights into how city government operates that Price doesn’t have.

“The way our government is set up, you have to build coalitions to get things done. You have to talk to each council member about the issues in their district, work with them to determine what will be the best policy for the city manager to implement. These are all going to be seasoned council members — except in District 7 — and the mayor is going to be the one who’s the new kid on the block,” Lane said. “I’m the one who has the experience to do those things.”

With turnout being such a key issue in who wins, Fort Worth’s LGBT community has the opportunity to have significant impact on the outcome. Both Price and Lane know that, and both have voiced their support on issues of equality.

Both have also committed to participate in a forum on Wednesday, June 1, sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

Since Tarrant County officials have never dealt directly with LGBT issues, Price’s stance there is something of an unknown. However, her replies published in a “voters guide” issued by right-wing minister Richard Clough’s Texans for Faith and Family, gave many in the community pause.

According to Clough’s voters guide, Price agreed that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, and “strongly agreed” that the city should not spend money to advertise in LGBT publications.

Price did not respond in the voters guide to a question on whether the city’s ordinance protecting transgenders from discrimination is necessary.

But Price said Clough’s voters guide misrepresented her reply on the issue of spending money in LGBT publications: “That whole thing with the Faith and Family brochure — they didn’t print the explanations with the answers,” Price said. “What I said was that the city doesn’t need to be advertising anywhere right now. It’s just too expensive. But if we are advertising in one [minority] publication, we should be advertising with ya’ll [the LGBT press], too. If we are advertising for job candidates, then we need to be advertising everywhere that there will be good candidates.”

When asked about the transgender anti-discrimination ordinance, Price — who was calling from her cell while traveling between locations — apparently misunderstood the question and instead spoke to the issue of trans health benefits.

“The question was about paying for [gender reassignment] surgery, I believe, and that’s a cost issue. At this point I would have to spend more time studying it before I could say one way or another,” Price said. “I don’t think the city’s insurance pays for fertility surgery either.”

The bottom line, Price said, is that “We should never discriminate, not against anyone. We’re all God’s kids. I know that’s rhetoric, but that’s the way it is. That’s what I believe. Treat everyone fairly.”

On the question of health benefits for trans employees, Lane said that he, too, needed to study the issue further before taking a stand, noting that he has asked Fairness Fort Worth Tom Anable help him understand “what sexual reassignment is.”

Both Lane and Price, when asked about other special health needs short of reassignment surgery that transgender face, said they were not aware of such issues and would have to study the questions further before answering.

Lane, however, compared the issue to his wife’s recent bout with breast cancer.

“If it’s an issue for someone, it should be covered,” Lane said. “We [the city of Fort Worth] are self insured, and we should be covering our employees’ health needs.”

Lane also noted that he has a proven public record on LGBT issues that voters can rely on. He was on the City Council in 2001 when sexual orientation was added to Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a move he supported.

“We did all that before,” Lane said, “and those 19 proposals the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force came up with, if I had been on the council then [in 2009] I would have supported every one of them. These [LGBTs] are citizens just like anybody else, as far as I am concerned. It’s a pretty practical issue. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how you look at it, we shouldn’t discriminate against anybody. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally.”

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