Someone from Mayor Leppert's staff contacts DART board member about LGBT protections

Posted on 18 Jun 2010 at 6:01pm

I’m not quite sure what to make of the latest update on the DART situation from The Dallas Morning News.

The point of the story appears to be that a staffer for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert contacted DART board member William Tsao Friday morning and encouraged Tsao to support an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, which Tsao thought he had already done. My guess would be that the person who called Tsao was Chris Heinbaugh, the mayor’s openly gay chief of staff, whom I’ve talked to a couple of times about this issue. (Saturday’s print version of the article confirms that it was Heinbaugh who called Tsao.)

The strange thing is that Tsao was apparently not even aware of the whole controversy involving the amendment that would gut the LGBT protections until Friday morning. Don’t DART board members and staff exchange e-mails? We’ve been reporting on this situation since Wednesday afternoon, when I contacted DART spokesman Morgan Lyons about it. Wouldn’t you expect Lyons to say something about it to someone else at DART, like maybe a board member? And does Tsao not read The Morning News or Dallas Voice or the Dallas Observer?

What’s also rather strange is that The DMN is making a big deal out of the fact that someone from Leppert’s staff contacted Tsao. So what? Tsao is one of 15 board members representing 17 cities on the DART board. Is The DMN trying to give Leppert credit for fixing this problem? Who knows, maybe they’re trying to keep him in Dallas by smearing him as trans-friendly and sabotaging his Republican political future.

It’s hardly unusual for city council members and mayors to apply pressure on board appointees on key issues. But I don’t know that Leppert would do so without consulting other council members, who must approve DART appointees by a majority. I’m pretty sure that LGBT allies on the council like Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt and Ann Margolin and Ron Natinsky are equally aware of this problem and have responded to it on some level. But I guess it’s news when someone from Leppert’s staff — not even the mayor himself  — contacts Tsao.

The bottom line here is that DART board members who support an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy — including Claude Williams, whom I talked to last night — plan to try to change the wording of the policy on Tuesday.

And I suppose it’s not a bad thing that Heinbaugh or someone else in Leppert’s office contacted a DART board member who says he already supported trans protections.

The DMN mentions at the end of the story that Loretta Ellerbe, a DART board member from Plano, also says that she supports an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

Counting Williams, that’s three votes. Now we need five more.

In addition to Williams and Tsao, there are six other DART board members who represent Dallas. Has someone from Leppert’s office called them too?

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