Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

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Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

A beer by any other name…

On the long list of ridiculous Texas laws the alcoholic beverage code would have to take up about half the space (although that whole “no marriage equality” thing is pretty far up there), but it seems like at least a part of our antiquated system of booze laws is getting an update. Under current state law “beer” can contain no more than 4% alcohol by volume, anything greater and it must be labeled as “ale” or “malt liquor.” If a recent ruling by US District Court Judge Sam Sparks holds that’s about to change.

A group of brewers sued the state arguing that the current restrictions violated their free speech. The judge agreed, and in a hilarious ruling poked fun at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for thinking they can redefine words by legislative fiat, and gave a shout-out to Austin’s annual bat festival.  From Austin360.com:

“TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.”

 

—  admin

City regulations can stymie new, expanding businesses in Oak Lawn

Lack of parking, ‘surprise’ new requirements for liquor licensing delayed opening of Thai restaurant, forced other shops to close before they could ever open

Danny-S

Danny Sikora

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The number of seats in a restaurant is usually limited by the fire marshal. But in Oak Lawn, that limit is set by parking regulations, according to Thairrific owner Danny Sikora.

Although he acquired the space formerly occupied by Hungdingers about five months ago, Sikora did not receive his final certificate of occupancy until this week. Most of the delays, he said, were city-related.

But Sikora’s schedule isn’t the only casualty. City regulations requiring restaurants and bars to provide more parking spaces than retail stores has resulted in at least two other problems for businesses on Cedar Springs Road.

When Zen Clipz closed, Buli owner Scott Whittall tried to rent the space and turn it into a nighttime cabaret-style venue. Parking issues forced him to scuttle those plans.

And building had already begun on a coffee shop on Throckmorton Street between Macho Nacho and Thairrific when lack of parking put the kibosh on those plans as well.

Sikora said he was approved for a restaurant with 78 seats, even though the space could comfortably seat more.

“The city is not taking into account how pedestrian-heavy this neighborhood is,” he said.

Parking, however, was not the only delay in opening his new business.

“The city has a surprise new requirement before they’ll complete their portion of the TABC packet,” he said.

Sikora said he had to submit to the city a new architectural rendering of his space and a map of all property within 300 feet of his business. But Sikora said that since this regulation is new, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission didn’t know about it — and neither did Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt.

And in the office charged with enforcing this new regulation, no one agreed on what was required.

One city worker told him that it meant 300 feet from the edge of the property. Another said it was 300 feet from his space and a third told him to measure 300 feet from his front door.

The renderings have to be completed within 10 days of submission. After a week’s delay in the city office and being turned down once because of a disagreement of what the regulation meant, one city employee approved the plans and sent the city’s portion of the packet off to TABC, without a day to spare in the 10-day rule.

In addition, the new regulation cost Sikora $1,200, plus a $100 fee to the city to certify that the plans were correct. Another day’s delay would have cost him another $1,200 for a new set of plans.

And by delaying his application until Sept. 3, the city cost him more money, because TABC licenses increased in price on
Sikora said that he thought it was foolish, especially since alcohol has been approved for this location numerous times over the last 15 years.

Once the certificate of occupancy was issued, Sikora said, he could then order the things he wanted for the restaurant that he didn’t need for the inspections.

“We weren’t doing what next-door did,” he said, referring to the coffee shop. He said they sunk $30,000 into the space before learning that the city was not going to approve an operating permit.

For the restaurant’s sign, Sikora said he had hoped his partner’s sister, an artist, could paint it directly on the building. But that didn’t work because the non-retractable awning was in the way.

Sikora said he considered taking down the awning to paint the sign, but then he learned that a city ordinance required a hefty fee for putting an awning back up.

So instead, the artist ended up having to paint the sign on a sheet of plastic. Then hanging the sign required a permitting process that included submitting drawings, a list of items used to construct the sign and an explanation of how the sign would be hung. A professional sign company with a cherry-picker to reach over the awning had to be hired to hang it.

Other delays included a roof leak that Sikora said was not obvious through the exceptionally dry summer and other problems with some of the equipment that was purchased from the previous owner that have been fixed.

Sikora invested in the restaurant earlier this year. Family-run Thairrific has been in business for about 11 years in an old shopping center on Forest Lane at Webb Chapel Road. Sikora said he’d been a regular customer for most of that time. Then the restaurant’s owner/chef said he wanted to cook and wasn’t interested in the business aspect of the restaurant anymore, and he asked Sikora if he wanted to become a business partner.

The two then discovered that much of their business at the North Dallas location was actually coming from Oak Lawn, so they decided to move to the new location, closer to their customers.

Sikora also has a small investment in Aston’s Bakery, another family-run business, located on Lover’s Lane near the Tollway.

Next to the cash register in the new Thairrific location, he installed a bakery counter and plans to offer a limited number of items from the Aston’s.

Sikora said that what sets his restaurant apart from other Thai places is that there are no steam tables.

“Everything’s made-to-order,” he said. “Soup? It’s not coming out of a soup tureen.”

The soup stock is made, but everything in the soup will be added when ordered.

“It’s healthy cooking,” he said. “Few fried items.”

And after five months, Thairrific may be open soon. When? Well, things are on order. But Sikora’s still just not sure on the date.

…………………….

Two Corks ribbon cutting set
North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce members John Ley and Elwyn Hull will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new winery, Two Corks and a Bottle, on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 5:30 p.m.
to 7 p.m. The store is located on the north side of The Quadrangle on Routh at Lacliede streets.
There will be door prizes and happy hour pricing.

American Airlines expanding Curbside Check-In
FORT WORTH — Officials with American Airlines recently announced that the airline is expanding its Curbside Check-In service to give customers traveling internationally the opportunity to check their bags with the skycap — making their trip through the airport as smooth as possible.
For more information about the expanded Curbside Check-in service, go online to
aa.com/curbside.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Doing things the Fort Worth way

THE DIFFERENCE 18 MONTHS CAN MAKE | Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable says that with the initial issues of the Rainbow Lounge raid addressed, FFW can move forward toward its goal of being an LGBT clearinghouse that works to match those with needs with those who have the resources to meet those needs. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Formed to meet the immediate needs of Tarrant County’s LGBT community in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, Fairness Fort Worth is evolving into a cornerstone in building a stronger community

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Even though Fort Worth in 2001 became one of the first Texas cities to include sexual orientation in its citywide nondiscrimination ordinance, the city known as “Cowtown” and the place “where the West begins” was never known for having an especially active LGBT community.

There were gay bars here, sure, and plenty of LGBT citizens in Cowtown. But there was no recognizable “gayborhood,” no active LGBT organizations. Fort Worth’s LGBT churches got lost in the shadow of Cathedral of Hope, “the largest LGBT congregation in the world” located just east in Dallas. And the city’s annual gay Pride parade, while older than Dallas’, had in recent years dwindled away to nearly nothing.

But then came June 29, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York and the night that Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided a newly-opened gay bar called the Rainbow Lounge.

In the tumultuous days and weeks after the raid made headlines across the country, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief insisted the city would handle the uproar in “the Fort Worth way.”

Some angry activists, many of them younger and more radical folks who didn’t actually live in Fort Worth, responded with jeers. To them, “the Fort Worth way” was just code for ignoring the problem and looking for some way to sweep it all under the rug.

But a group of stalwart Fort Worth LGBTs took a different tack. They decided to take Moncrief and other city leaders at their word and opted for a more low-key, although no less insistent, approach.

Moncrief said “the Fort Worth way” was to talk things out and work together to find ways to solve problems, and these Fort Worth LGBT leaders stepped up and said, “OK. Let’s talk. But you’d better be ready to do more than just talk. We want solutions.”

And that was the birth of a new day in Fort Worth.

Fairness Fort Worth is formed

ANNOUNCING A NEW DAY | On July 8, 2009, Fort Worth attorney Jon Nelson announced at a press conference the formation of Fairness Fort Worth, a new organization that would initially focus on helping coordinate between law enforcement agencies to gather the testimony of witnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Less than two weeks after the raid, a group of LGBT business, civic and religious leaders held a press conference to announce the formation of a new organization called Fairness Fort Worth. Attorney Jon Nelson explained that the group’s initial priority was to help locate witnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid, providing those individuals with legal advice while also coordinating with TABC and Fort Worth police to get their testimony recorded as part of the several investigations into what actually happened that night.

But even then, FFW founders knew they wanted to do more.

“Even though our city strives to be open, equal and caring, we have much more work to do,” Nelson said at the time.

Over the next several months, FFW continued to coordinate the LGBT community’s response to the raid. The organization marshaled hundreds of citizens to turn out in support of a new ordinance protecting transgenders from discrimination, offering measured, reasonable responses to the bigoted rants of those who opposed the change.

FFW members volunteered for the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force that created a list of policy changes and new initiatives to make Cowtown a more LGBT-friendly place to live and work. And they met frequently with Police Chief Jeff Halstead and other city officials, making sure that those officials followed through on promises they made.

On Sept. 15 that year, FFW incorporated. The organization’s first board meeting followed in January 2010. Lee Zolinger was elected as the first FFW president, but he soon realized that his job was keeping him from being as active in FFW as he wanted.

That’s when Thomas Anable stepped up and offered to run for the office, and in June that year, he was elected as FFW’s new leader.

Anable, a CPA, was new to the world of LGBT activism. He readily admits now that he had always relied on his status in the business world and his ability to “pass,” and had never felt the need to be active in the LGBT community.

But Anable was the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, and he was in the bar the night of the raid. What he saw then made him realize that no one is immune to anti-LGBT bigotry. And he was determined that FFW and its opportunity to be a force for change would not fade away.

A new focus

Under Anable’s leadership, FFW members decided to focus on two specific areas where they felt they could help enact that change: bullying in schools and LGBT issues within Fort Worth’s hospitals.

Anable said that the hospitals in the area had never participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual report on policies regarding LGBT issues “because they knew they wouldn’t meet the criteria to get good scores. So we decided to take a new approach. We decided we would encourage them to take the HRC survey, but instead of submitting it, they could use that as a guideline on how to improve.”

Anable said shortly afterward, the federal Health and Human Services department came out with new guidelines on how hospitals should deal with LGBT people and access to health care services. And with approval from the FFW board, Anable talked with Resource Center Dallas’ executive director and associate director of community programs, Cece Cox and Lee Taft, about working together to approach the hospitals.

According to FFW treasurer David Mack Henderson, that partnership is in full swing now as the two organizations develop a strategy in approaching the hospitals on those issues.

On the issue of bullying in the schools, FFW has worked behind the scenes to provide the Fort Worth Independent School District with the information and resources it needed to enact comprehensive anti-bullying policies.

The district has already adopted such a policy for faculty and administrators, and Nelson said this week he is “fully confident you will see a comprehensive anti-bullying policy [pertaining to students] in place by the beginning of the next school year, as well as a mindset that will exist on cooperation and treating people fairly with respect, and not just in the LGBT community.”

Plus, Anable noted, FFW was instrumental in helping secure the assistance of the Human Rights Campaign, which created a new staff position for someone to work with school districts to implement anti-bullying policies and programs. The first person hired, Rhonda Thomasson, is already working with schools in Dallas and Fort Worth, Anable said.

The Tarrant County College system also recently adopted anti-bullying policies specifically including protections based on sexual orientation. And Anable has spoken to the system’s board members on including protections based on gender and gender identity, as well.

Collaboration

A YEAR LATER | Fairness Fort Worth board members Carol West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, talk with Police Chief Jeff Halstead at a 2010 Gay Pride Month event at Rainbow Lounge marking a year since the raid and celebrating improvements in the relationship between the city’s police force and the LGBT community. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Anable said that as FFW president, another of his priorities was to make sure FFW worked with other LGBT organizations in North Texas and at the state and national levels. With that in mind, he said, he asked all FFW board members to get involved with those organizations as volunteers and board members.

The reason, Anable said, is that FFW can be most beneficial by acting as a kind of “clearinghouse” for LGBT issues in Tarrant County, helping to identify needs and then matching those needs to the resources that already exist.

“We want to be a coordinator,” Anable said. “We won’t really do programs ourselves. We will identify the needs that are out there, and then match them with the providers who have the resources already to meet those needs.”

So far, the strategy seems to be working. In just 20 months, Anable said, FFW has played a role in making changes that in other cities have taken years to accomplish.

Carol West agreed.

“This organization has had a tremendously positive impact,” West said. “In those early days after the raid, things could have gone either way. I think it was absolutely necessary to have Fairness Fort Worth there doing what we did, and doing it in a very positive way.

“Now, more and more people are getting involved and becoming aware,” she said, adding that diversity training for all city employees is a “direct result of the work of Fairness Fort Worth. … We’ve got a lot of good things happening here.”

West, who is herself on Chief Halstead’s citizens advisory board, said those good things include a focus on improving services for LGBT youth in Tarrant County, developing an LGBT archive for the county that will be housed at Celebration Community Church, and establishing an LGBT hotline that will also be housed at the church.

“Fairness Fort Worth has become a really tremendous organization that really is the face of LGBT politics in Fort Worth, the face of justice in Fort Worth. I think we have really made a difference for the better,” West said.

Nelson said that impact dates back to the first city council meeting after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“I think it really had quite a sobering effect on the city council and the mayor and the city manager to sit there at that table and look out into the crowd and see hundreds of people there wearing our yellow Fairness Fort Worth buttons,” Nelson said.

“Even then, in its infancy, Fairness Fort Worth was able to do something few had been able to do before: marshal enough people to come to City Hall and really have an impact. When those elected officials saw more than 450 people wearing those yellow buttons that said Fairness Fort Worth, something was different, and they knew it. That perception could easily have dissipated, but because of Fairness Fort Worth, we didn’t let that happen,” Nelson said.

With FFW, Nelson said, LGBT people in Tarrant County now know “they have somewhere to turn if they have questions or concerns.

“They know we aren’t just focused on one issue. We are broad based and we can be that clearinghouse they need.
“And those in the straight community know we exist and that we have the ability to take their concerns out into our community. That has never existed before,” he said.

The existence of FFW, Nelson said, gives the LGBT community and the individuals within that community a tangible presence to the community at large, “both the perception and the reality of an organization and a community that can make a difference. That has never existed before in Fort Worth,” Nelson said.

The Fort Worth way

Some in Fort Worth reacted angrily to activists who converged on Fort Worth after the Rainbow Lounge raid, taking to the streets with chants and placards and bullhorns, and standing up in council meetings to make demands until the mayor had them removed.

But both Nelson and Anable were quick to point out those protesters played a necessary role in the progress that’s been made in Fort Worth.

“I don’t think any right we have today was garnered without protests like that,” Nelson said. “But protests alone get nothing done. At some point you have to sit down with both sides and discuss things. Both sides have to be able to understand each other and trust each other. You can’t do that with placards and bullhorns. And that’s what Fairness Fort Worth has brought to the table.”

That, Anable said, “is what we mean when we say ‘the Fort Worth way.’ It means, let’s sit down and talk about it. Let’s be reasonable and act like adults and have a real conversation that can come up with real solutions. That’s what happened here.”

Anable, who said that before the Rainbow Lounge raid never felt the need to be involved in LGBT political issues or to even make a point about being openly gay, decided at the beginning of this year that he has a new calling in his life.

So he sold his CPA practice to his business partner and now plans to devote himself fulltime to LGBT activism.

He said, “It’s been a really strange 20 months. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be where I am today, I never would have believed you. My whole life has changed.

“In one night, my life changed. This city changed. And it’s still changing. And Fairness Fort Worth is going to help make it happen.”

————————————————————————–

Fairness Fort Worth Timeline

• June 28, 2009: Rainbow Lounge Raid (TABC report says 1:28am).
• June 28, 2009: Protest Rally on Tarrant County Courthouse steps.
• June 28, 2009: Press release from FWPD (mentioning 3 sexual advances).
• July 1, 2009: Candlelight vigil for Chad Gibson.
• July 2, 2009: Chief Halstead announces suspension of joint operations with TABC.
• July 2, 2009: First gathering at Celebration Community Church to form Fairness Fort Worth.
• July 8, 2009: Press conference announcing FFW.
• July 8, 2009: FFW begins coordinating Rainbow Lounge witness interviews.
• July 14, 2009: Officer Sara Straten appointed as interim liaison to the LGBT community.
• July 14, 2009: City Council meeting, more than 450 LGBT citizens and allies attend.
• July 21, 2009: City Council votes on resolution calling for independent federal investigation.
• July 21, 2009: Council votes to establish the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.
• July 23, 2009: First meeting of City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.
• July 28, 2009: The FW Human Relations Commission votes for resolution trans protections.
• Aug. 6, 2009: Press release of Phase 1 of TABC report.
• Aug. 6, 2009: FWST reports that U.S. Attorney won’t investigate Rainbow Lounge raid.
• Aug. 17, 2009: FFW leaders meet privately with Halstead to hammer out differences.
• Aug. 18. 2009: Halstead tells city council that investigation will require more time.
• Aug 28, 2009: TABC announces it has fired three agents involved in Rainbow Lounge raid.
• Oct 11, 2009: Chief Halstead attends the Tarrant County Gay Pride Picnic.
• Nov 3, 2009: Crime Control Prevention District measure passes with support of FFW.
• Nov 5, 2009: FWPD holds press conference releasing report on investigation into raid.
• Nov 5, 2009: TABC releases excessive force findings.
• Nov 10, 2009: Diversity Task Force recommendations presented at City Council meeting.
• April/May, 2010: Volunteers train to teach GLBT Diversity Training Class to city employees.
• May, 2010: GLBT Diversity Classes commence with Mayor Moncrief in the first class.
• June 28, 2010: BBQ Anniversary with police and city officials invited to Rainbow Lounge.
• April 27, 2011: Final Diversity Task Force Meeting. More than 1,200 city employees trained to date.
• May 3, 2011 : Assistant city manager and FFW members address council on progress to date.

—  John Wright

Dallas Tavern Guild to charge admission to Festival in Lee Park during gay Pride

CHANGES COMING | Spectators line Cedar Springs to watch the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Traditionally, the crowds have trekked down to Lee Park after the parade each year for the free Festival in Lee Park. This year, though, the park will be fenced in and there will be a $5 admission fee. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)
Michael Doughman

Doughman says increased expenses, dangerous drinking levels in park led to changes

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed this week that organizers will be charging a $5 admission fee to the annual Festival in Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September.

Admission to the parade will still be free. The Tavern Guild, an organization of nightclubs catering to the LGBT community, took over planning, organizing and presenting the parade in the early 1980s.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, due to new requirements by the city for outdoor events. Those attending the festival also will no longer be able to bring in coolers and glass containers of all kinds are banned.

The changes were prompted, Doughman said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the festival was getting seriously out of hand.

But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

Doughman said that the cost of meeting city requirements has tripled since 2001. Part of that, he said, is due to increased security requirements in place since the passage of the Homeland Security Act.

“It used to be that we had to have 35 to 45 officers on duty for the parade. Last year, there were 102 officers,” he said. “We have to rent more barricades for blocking of the streets, and those barricades cost more to rent now than before. We have no control over those costs. On top of that, the materials and equipment we need to put on the parade costs more now, too — the port-o-lets, the radios, the golf carts. We’ve done nothing to reflect that cost back to [parade and festival attendees] until now.

“We think $5 is a minimal charge for people to attend, and charging that small admission fee means we may possibly be able to give more back to our beneficiaries, and maybe we can have two or three beneficiaries, like we used to do, instead of just one,” he said.

Doughman said the other main reason for fencing in the park and charging admission is to give parade organizers better control over the crowd.

“The last two or three years, it’s gotten really bad” in terms of celebration attendees drinking to excess and ending up being a danger to themselves and others, Doughman said.
“The Dallas police officers have been very kind about the way they have handled it, but we have been warned by the police and by TABC, and we had to be proactive in doing something to address the issue. It is a huge liability for [the Tavern Guild],” he said.

Doughman said that even though hard liquor has always been prohibited in the park, attendees have become more brazen about ignoring that ban.

“That’s a licensing issue. We only have a license for beer at the celebration, no hard liquor. If TABC were to do a sweep through there and find hard liquor, then we would be liable. They would take away our license and the city would never give us another permit for the parade or the celebration. That would be the end of Dallas Pride,” he said.

Doughman said incidences of excessive intoxication and underage drinking have increased noticeably over the past two or three years, and that police warned organizers the problem had to be addressed.

“There have been people walking around with open bottles of vodka. Last year, there were two young girls with a big jug of whiskey,” he said. “It’s gotten out of hand, and we have to be proactive in addressing the problem. Last year, we had two girls come up who had gotten separated from their friends. They were so intoxicated they couldn’t even speak coherently. We couldn’t even understand them when they told us their names and who they were looking for.

“What if someone comes to the festival, gets that drunk and then leaves the park and walks out into the road in front of a car and is hurt or killed. We are liable for that. Or what if they get drunk at the festival and then get behind the wheel of a car and hurt or kill someone else?” he added.

Doughman noted that organizers “have no issue” with people bringing bottled water into the park, but no outside liquor or beer will be allowed. “TABC will have their eye on us this year, and we have to manage the alcohol better,” he said.

Doughman said the last thing organizers want to do is take all the fun out of the annual Pride celebration, and said that those who pay the $5 fee to attend the celebration in the park will get to see “bigger-name entertainment” than in past years, as well as have access to improved food service.

“We don’t want to take the fun out of things, but we have to do what we have to do to make sure this is a safe event and to make sure that we follow the rules and make enough money to pay our costs and still have money for our beneficiary,” Doughman said. “We want everyone to have a good time, and we want them to do that in a safe environment.”

—  John Wright

Festival no longer free: $5 admission announced for event in Lee Park following gay Pride parade

The 2010 Festival in Lee Park. This year, the park will be fenced and parade organizers will charge a $5 admission to help offset rising costs, Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed today. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)

I just got off the phone with Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman, who confirmed for me rumors that there will, indeed, be an admission fee to the Pride Festival in Lee Park this year after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September. Admission to the parade will still be free.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, and there will be a $5 charge to enter the park for the event that traditionally winds up Dallas’ LGBT Pride celebration. This and other changes were prompted, he said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the event was getting seriously out of hand. But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

—  admin

Fort Worth settles with Rainbow Lounge patrons

CASE CLOSED | It has been a year and a half since Chad Gibson was injured in the Rainbow Lounge raid. This week, the Fort Worth City Council approved a $400,000 settlement payment.

Chad Gibson to receive $400,000; TABC agreement not yet signed

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, March 22, voted unanimously and without discussion to accept a consent agenda that included an award of $400,000 to Chad Gibson, the man who received head injuries in the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid.

George Armstrong, another man injured that night, settled for a lower amount. Because his award was less than $50,000, the council did not have to vote on that settlement.

The two injured men entered into mediation with the city of Fort Worth and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Any agreement from settlement negotiations with TABC has not been signed. The state’s approval process takes longer than the city’s.

Don Tittle, the attorney who represented Gibson and Armstrong in mediation with the city, said, “We thought it was a fair resolution.”

Adam Seidel is a defense attorney who has been working with Gibson and Armstrong since criminal charges were filed the night of the raid. Those charges have since been dropped.

Seidel said that both Gibson and Armstrong would have preferred the events at Rainbow Lounge hadn’t happened at all.

“An experience like that impacts you for some period of time,” Seidel said. “You don’t just put that into a small box and put it away.”

Gibson continues to receive medical treatment related to his head injury. Armstrong had a rotator cuff injury and will likely face surgery.

“This will make finishing that easier for him,” Seidel said.

Jason P. Lamers, the manager of Fort Worth’s Office of Media and Public Affairs, sent the official city response. He said the council acted on advice of the legal counsel, and the intention was to limit the city’s financial exposure.

“This settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the city, but rather a recognition of the nature of civil rights litigation,” said Lamers. “It was city staff’s recommendation — and the City Council agreed — that, considering the circumstances, not only is this settlement the right thing to do, but it is also in the best interest of the city and taxpayers.”

Tittle wasn’t sure why the city included a statement of no admission of liability.

“We released all claims as part of the deal,” he said.

He thought they might have been concerned that since the two-year statute of limitations had not passed, someone else might come forward with a suit.

“But it waters down the good will,” he said.

And although Fort Worth, and presumably TABC, claim no liability for the incident, Tittle said, “$400,000 speaks for itself.”

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, a group formed in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, only commented on the progress that has been made since the event.

He said that this was the first time the city of Fort Worth had ever entered into mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed. He also said it was the first time Fort Worth had ever compensated a member of the LGBT community for unfair treatment by the city.

David Mack Henderson, also with Fairness Fort Worth, was at the city council meeting. He said that a number of reporters with TV cameras were at City Hall and requested interviews but he refused. He said Fort Worth’s LGBT community is moving on and that there was nothing to talk about.

“We’re just part of the city — the way it should be,” Henderson said.

Lamers said that you couldn’t talk about the Rainbow Lounge story without talking about the strides the LGBT community has made in Fort Worth.

“Fort Worth has made remarkable progress to become an even more inclusive city than it ever was,” he said. “That’s a credit to our City Council, our police department led by Chief Jeff Halstead and the GLBT leaders in the city’s workforce and in our communities. We’re very proud of theprogress that has been made.”

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, Halstead made significant changes to the police department by clarifying the department’s policies on conducting bar checks, adding an LGBT liaison and, recently, enacting an anti-bias policing policy to strengthen existing rules against discrimination by officers.

The council voted in October 2009 to add transgender protections to its nondiscrimination policies. The council also appointed a city manager’s diversity task force and has approved 14 of 15 recommendations the task force made, including offering domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Anable said that the city has worked closely with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association to stage this year’s parade. Pride will be held downtown for the 30th anniversary making it more visible than it’s ever been, he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

TABC, Fort Worth consider settlement with patrons injured in Rainbow Lounge raid

Tom Anable

Fort Worth city administrators are recommending that the City Council approve a settlement with Chad Gibson, one of the patrons who was injured in the Rainbow Lounge raid. The pending settlement is a result of mediation among the city, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Gibson’s attorneys.

The amount of the settlement from the city is $400,000. The amount from TABC has not been released.

The raid by Fort Worth police officers and TABC agents occurred on June 28, 2008, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Gibson suffered a head injury. George Armstrong was also injured and is included in the settlement. Pending felony charges against Gibson and Armstrong were dropped toward the end of last year before the mediation began.

Three Fort Worth police officers received short suspensions, and two TABC agents were fired, as a result of the incident.

Tom Anable, a founder of Fairness Fort Worth, a group formed in the wake of the raid, said he’s pleased that the city had come to an agreement.

“I think that the willingness of the city to enter into mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed is an indication of their willingness to move forward with our community,” Anable said.

Anable said this is the first time the city has entered into mediation without the threat of a federal lawsuit and the first time a city and TABC entered into joint negotiations.

“That speaks volumes of the city and of TABC,” Anable said. “No one wants to go backward, and that’s the story.”

While Anable said he has no inside information about the negotiations, he added, “As with any mediation, it’s successful if neither side is really happy but both are satisfied.”

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC, said, “TABC has engaged in settlement discussions with [Gibson] attorney Don Tittle. At this time the parties have agreed not to comment on those discussions until any resolution is finalized.”

Adam Seidel, an attorney for Gibson and Armstrong, was not available for comment this morning.

The item is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting.

Gibson, who was hospitalized after the raid, is still receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained.

—  David Taffet

TABC renews contract with RCD

Carolyn Beck

Beck says center will provide diversity training for about 50 new TABC employees

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — A spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed this week that the agency plans to continue LGBT diversity training for its employees, which she called “one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Thursday, March 17 that the agency has signed a new contract for LGBT diversity training with Resource Center Dallas.

A few months after the raid of the Fort Worth gay bar in 2009, TABC paid Resource Center $14,212 to train all of the agency’s roughly 700 employees — in a series of 24 two-hour sessions in 11 locations across the state.

This time, Resource Center will train the roughly 50 TABC employees who’ve been hired since the initial round of training was completed last year. The second round of training, at a cost of $2,700, will take place during sessions in Dallas, Houston and Austin between March and July.

“We thought it was important at the time for our employees to receive diversity training like this, and it’s still important for the same reasons that it was before,” Beck said. “It really only makes sense if you continue the training. … The training is one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC, whose agents raided the bar along with officers from the Fort Worth Police Department in June 2009, later fired three employees for policy violations related to the incident.

TABC Commissioner Alan Steen has publicly apologized for the raid on at least two occasions.

TABC reportedly is the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all of its employees.

Beck, who also serves as TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community, said she doesn’t believe diversity training would have prevented the Rainbow Lounge raid.

However, she said the training has been beneficial to the agency.

“The one thing about it, across the board, it creates a lot of discussion, which I think is in itself a positive thing,” Beck said. “The training pushes some people’s boundaries, which I believe is the intent.”

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the new training contract is the culmination of efforts that began last spring, when TABC solicited input on its strategic plan.

“I think this shows that TABC is committed to treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with respect and dignity by having all of its employees learn about who we are,” said McDonnell, who helps conduct the LGBT diversity training.

“We did surveys and proved that there was a demonstrated increase in knowledge about the LGBT community among the employees who took part in the training,” McDonnell added. “It shows that what we did is making a difference throughout the state, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Let the Blue Serve You’

Dallas Police Department traffic officers, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will all be on hand at the Starbucks at 6123 Greenville Ave., from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday, March 11 to participate in an even called “Cops & Coffee: Let the Blue Serve You.”

The event is sponsored by the Dallas Police Department and Starbucks Coffee, in preparation for Spring Break, and will give those who attend the chance to the officers, troopers and agents about “traffic laws, alcohol laws and driving on tollways,” according to the flyer e-mailed to us by the DPD’s Public Information Office.

—  admin