AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

Equals? James Bond (or at least, Daniel Craig) dons drag for International Women’s Day

Tomorrow — Tuesday, March 8 — marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And while some things have gotten better for women in the last century, some things haven’t changed. At least, they haven’t changed enough.

In honor of the 100th International Women’s Day, singer/activist Annie Lennox has brought together a coalition of  charities, that champion women’s rights to “step up the call to demand a more equal world.” The Equals? Partnership, according to its website, is “a partnership of charities and organizations that believe men and women are equals and that we should have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal representation in politics, education, health, employment, family life and media and culture.”

Here are some of the statistics from Equals? Partnership’s website: 1 in 3 women will experience violence at some point in their lives; women hold only 19 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats; only about 24 percent of the people in mainstream broadcast and print news are female; women perform 66 percent of the world’s work and produce 50 percent of the world’s food, but earn 10 percent of world’s income and own 1 percent of the world’s property.

Equals? Partnership has a number of events planned around the United Kingdom. But you don’t have to travel to the U.K. to see the coalition’s work. The coalition also has created this 2-minute video, using one of the world’s most macho fictional characters, James Bond, played by one of the most manly actors, Daniel Craig, to try and drive home the point that women still are not treated equally here in the 21st century.

According to the IWD website, there are 234 events planned in the United States to recognize International Women’s Day 2011. The first was held Jan. 12, and the last will be held in May. The only event I saw listed here in Dallas — in fact, the only event I saw listed in Texas — is Echo Reads: A Staged Reading and Salon Series which includes a staged reading of the new play by Isabella Russell-Ides called The Early Education of Conrad Eppler, happening March 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, presented by Echo Theatre.

But of course, I already knew that the 9th annual Words of Women celebration will be held next Sunday, March 13, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Women’s Museum in Fair Park. You can get all the details here.

But even if you don’t go to an official IWD event, take a minute to realize that no matter how civilized and advanced we consider ourselves to be, there still exists a vast chasm of inequities between the genders. It’s up to us — regardless what gender we are — to bridge that gap.

—  admin

Kids Costumes Auctioned for Children’s Charities

KIDS ARE ALLRIGHT CLOTHING AUCTION X390 | ADVOCATE.COMAutographed costumes from the Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are All Right will be auctioned online with proceeds going to children’s charities.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  David Taffet

Gay NASCAR blogger says sport’s fans are more accepting of gays than gays are of NASCAR fans

Michael Myers, founder of Queers4Gears.com

As we found out when a certain lunch appointment canceled because “two of his employees are going to the races,” NASCAR returns to the Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. While we’re pretty sure these particular employees are straight, the lunch cancellation got Instant Tea to thinking, are there any gay NASCAR fans out there?

Well of course there are — and not just the closeted ones — but we never would’ve imagined that there’s an entire gay NASCAR-devoted website, especially one that doesn’t feature photos of drivers with their shirts off.

Queers4Gears.com, founded by Michael Myers in 2009, has been featured on ESPN.com and was named one of the top 50 NASCAR blogs in the country by SportsManagementDegrees.net. ESPN reported on Queers4Gears after Myers asked a driver a question during a press conference (watch the driver’s reaction in the clip below).

Queers4Gears.com boasts more than a thousand followers on Twitter, and the site currently features a preview of this weekend’s action at TMS. Elsewhere on the site, there are LGBT discounts for an upcoming race in Phoenix, merchandise for sale, and a list of charities including a Nevada AIDS organization. Here’s a snippet from the About section of Queers4Gears:

Q4G founder, Michael Myers, said that he started Q4G as an online home for Gay NASCAR fans. “But more importantly, I want to bring new fans to the sport.” Myers went on to say that NASCAR fans have been more accepting of him being gay than gay people have been accepting of his being a NASCAR fan.

“There are as many misconceptions and stereotypes about NASCAR fans as there are about gay people. I hope in some small way Queers4Gears can help to change that. This has been an incredible first year and I hope to build on the site’s success for years to come.”

—  John Wright

Gold’s Gym franchises respond to Bob Rowling’s donations to group backing anti-gay candidates

Earlier we told you about the LGBT community’s apparent outrage over Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling’s contributions totaling $2 million to the Karl Rove co-founded American Crossroads, which is working to help elect several anti-gay candidates this election cycle. Well, the reaction has been swift from four Gold’s Gym franchises in the San Francisco area, which announced today that they’re severing ties with the brand over the contributions. Via The Huffington Post, here’s a statement from Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold’s Gym Bay Area:

We were as surprised by [CEO] Mr. [Robert] Rowling’s action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:

1: Our contractual obligation with Gold’s Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold’s Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold’s Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.

2: For every dollar we pay Gold’s Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold’s Gym can be severed.

3: Our management and staff will continue to support LGBT causes in every way possible and we will use our business as a platform to fight for change and equality for everyone. We have always taken great pride in being a leader in the LGBT community and we will continue to.

Also, Gold’s Gym International released a statement to The Huff Po saying Rowling’s contributions were totally independent from the company. Rowling serves as CEO of the ownership group for Gold’s Gym, TRT Holdings, which also, as we noted before, owns Omni Hotels. Below is an excerpt from the Gold’s Gym International statement, which you can read in its entirety here:

Gold’s Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports anti-gay causes. Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting PRIDE events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve.

Clearly these folks recognize that their customer base is heavily LGBT, and they’re worried about the response to Rowling’s donations. Stay tuned. On Tuesday, we’ll see if we can talk to some representatives from Gold’s Gym locations in North Texas. Who ever said boycotts, or at least the threat of them, doesn’t work? Are you listening, Mr. Rowling?

—  John Wright

Riding for fitness, riding to make a difference

TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice

TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice
TARA DANNEHL Team Dallas Voice

Look out 150 miles, here I come!

My name is Tara Dannehl, and I am very proud to be apart of the 10-year anniversary Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS!

Life for me revolves around health and fitness. So when I was asked to participate in this year’s ride, there was no reason in my mind to say no.

My friend and SPIN professional, Arlen Miller, is the man that got me on a road bike. I know Arlen from The Texas Club located indowntown Dallas, where I am a personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

I have been working as a trainer and instructor for seven years. I get fulfillment in aiding and watching the changes people make in their lives for the better.

Many of my clients have come to me for assistance in reaching personal goals of completing a half or full marathon, a triathlon and other distance events of running or biking. I’ve also had some friends starting running for the first time in their lives to raise money for charities dear to them.

And finally, it is my time. I decided that if all these individuals of different ages and abilities can achieve such incredible goals that I needed to make one for myself.

I’ve always enjoyed bike riding and the outdoors. I have spent my time on a hybrid mountain bike, so at the beginning, I didn’t really think there would be much difference in a road bike — wrong! I’ll share that experience with all of you hardcore road bikers in just a second.

Next, I am going to brag about the wonderful bike loaner program.

I was so eager for the ride and this new experience, but I didn’t have a road bike. So Arlen put me in touch with David Minehart and the Loan Star Locker.

And I was set! I now have a wonderful, royal blue Marin to put my miles on.

I took it to the shop and after a little touch up and some new clip shoes, I was almost ready to begin putting miles on the odometer.

While the bike was in the shop, I took my clips and began regularly attending a spin class at the gym. I also would hop on the spin bike in my spare time. I wanted to get comfortable with the clips and felt this would be good practice.

Once I picked up my bike, I must admit that it spent a few days in the garage as I dealt with some small anxiety about this new experience, clips and all, that was looming in the back of my mind.

Then one beautiful Saturday morning, my husband and I finally geared up and headed out. Wow! It was such a completely different experience than what I was used to from a mountain bike!

That first ride was great. What made it even better was that I hit the one stop light between our house and the lake while it was green, both ways, and didn’t have to unclip.

Yes, I told you I was anxious!

But not to worry fellow LSR bikers, as I have been practicing with my clips. I will be a pleasant and respectful rider with you on this amazing 150 mile ride.

Yes, 150 miles — I can’t wait!

The icing on the cake for me is that this experience is an opportunity to raise money for organizations fighting AIDS and supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Lone Star Organization reaches out to so many and continuous support is needed to make significant progress in research and education. It is an incentive to be backed by family, friends and acquaintances to raise money for an organization such as this one.

I am ready to hit the road and be apart of the 10-year anniversary ride this September. It is going to be an experience of a lifetime, and it will be so wonderful to share it with so many other supportive riders and crew.

Thank you to the organization and those that have gotten me this far. I especially appreciate my husband for going on practice rides with me and my parents for believing in me.

See you on the road! Go LSR 2010!

Tara Dannehl is a member of Team Dallas Voice. Donate to her by going online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas