Angela Hunt kicks off her re-election bid as possible ‘battle royale’ for mayor looms

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt will host a re-election kickoff tonight at the Stoneleigh Hotel, and not surprisingly several members of the LGBT community are listed as platinum, gold and silver hosts. Hunt is a solid LGBT ally who represents heavily gay portions of the city including half of Oak Lawn. She has announced that she’s seeking re-election to her District 14 seat but hasn’t said whether she’ll run for mayor if Tom Leppert decides not to seek a second term. Leppert is considering a bid for U.S. Senate in 2012 if Kay Bailey Hutchison doesn’t seek re-election, as Gromer Jefffers at The Dallas Morning News reiterates this morning:

Unless Hutchison gives him a heads up that she’s running, chances are Leppert won’t seek re-election as mayor.

That means another battle royale election in Dallas, much like the one that elevated Leppert in 2007. That year, nearly 20 candidates expressed an early interest in the job. But this time, there is no reliable list of contenders, not even a short one. Just one candidate has announced he’ll run: Jim Moore, a little-known Dallas lawyer.

Park Board member and former city homeless czar Mike Rawlings has been frequently mentioned as a contender. Other names include City Council members Angela Hunt and Ron Natinsky.

Hunt’s re-election kickoff will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Stoneleigh, 2927 Maple Ave. in Dallas. For more info, visit her website.

—  John Wright

Focusing on S. Dallas

Wiley says South Dallas AIDS Walk designed to target message of HIV awareness to a different community

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha
Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha

Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas, according to county health officials, and some of the highest morbidity rates in the county are in two zip codes: 75215 and 7521o.

Both of those zip codes are in the South Dallas area, and yet, that area remains dolefully underserved when it comes to HIV/AIDS education, outreach and awareness efforts and HIV/AIDS services, according to longtime AIDS activist and educator Auntjuan Wiley.

“When it comes to HIV services and awareness and outreach, we focus on Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. South Dallas always gets missed,” Wiley said this week. “And the only medical service provider for people with HIV in South Dallas is the Peabody Health Center.”

That’s why, when he was named executive director of the new Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation, Wiley immediately set out to find ways to fill that gap. And when he heard about the idea for an annual South Dallas AIDS Walk from Anthony Chisom, he decided right away to get involved. The first South Dallas AIDS Walk is scheduled for March 19, 2011.

The lead-up to the walk began last Thursday, Nov. 4, with a kick-off party that included Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson and more. Wiley’s co-chair for the walk is AIDS activist Jai Makokha.

Wiley is quick to stress that the South Dallas AIDS Walk is not meant to compete — either for participants or funds — with AIDS Arms’ LifeWalk, held each year in October in Lee Park. The South Dallas event, he said, is targeting a whole different audience.

And the walk “isn’t just all about the Anthony Chisom Foundation,” Wiley added. “Some of the funds will come to us, yes. But we have other beneficiaries, too.”

Those beneficiaries, he said, include The Afiya Center, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health for women and girls; Welcome House, which provides housing and services primarily for African-Americans with HIV/AIDS; the Ugieki Foundation, which focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and education and provides an online project management system for charitable organizations; AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center; and AIDS Interfaith Network.
Wiley explained that well-known interior and floral designer Anthony Chisom began his foundation, which provides financial assistance to people with HIV to help them pay rent and utilities and buy their medications among other things, after a trip to Africa where he saw the devastation the HIV epidemic had caused there.

“He knew then that when he came home he had to do something. He had to get involved. So he started the Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation,” Wiley said.

Wiley said he and his steering committee are working to confirm Phil Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, as keynote speaker and grand marshal for the South Dallas AIDS Walk. But, he said, walk organizers need lots of sponsors, vendors, walkers and volunteers. And he hopes that many of the businesses and civil and faith community leaders in South Dallas will come on as partners in this effort.

He said the involvement of the business, civil and religious leaders will be vital to the walk’s success.

“South Dallas is, historically, a hard community to reach with the AIDS awareness and education messages,” Wiley said. “There is still a lot of the fear and stigma and shame surrounding HIV and AIDS in South Dallas that isn’t as strong any more in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. So it takes a different approach in South Dallas.

“It is very important that we have an aggressive and strategic community engagement piece to this effort. There needs to be a real conversation with the gatekeepers in this community, the community leaders,” he said. “If we can get them involved, then we have a better chance of getting our message to this community.”

Wiley said the walk will be an annual event, because a one-time thing won’t get the message across.

“You can’t go into this community just once with a message and then leave,” he said. “You have to stay there. You have to be visible. You have to let them know we care. We want them to know that this is ‘a walk in South Dallas, for South Dallas.’ That’s our theme.”

While the obvious goal is to raise awareness and funds, “it’s about a lot more than just charity and awareness. It’s about doing the work. Until there is a cure the work has to be done,” said Wiley, who this month marked his 15th year of living with AIDS and this year marked his 20th year of working in the HIV/AIDS field.
Wiley said, “This is about change. Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas. South Dallas has some of the highest infection rates in Dallas County. That has to change. It is just time for a change.”

For more information, contact Auntjuan Wiley by e-mail at a.wiley@anthonychisomaidsfoundation.org or by phone at 214-455-7316.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

ELECTION 2010: Democrats narrowly hang on in Dallas County; 2 of 3 gay candidates win

District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons re-elected; Tonya Parker becomes first black LGBT person elected in county; Garcia tops Mayfield

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE:
LGBT groups react to big losses in House, Senate
Record 106 gay candidates elected in 2010

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, center, watches election results come in with other Democratic elected officials on Tuesday night at Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park. Also pictured are, clockwise from front left, Tax Assessor John Ames, Chief Deputy District Clerk Virginia Etherly, Fitzsimmons’ mother and father, County Treasurer Joe Wells, Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman and County Clerk John Warren. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Staving off a Republican tsunami that inundated much of the rest of the state and nation, Democrats narrowly held on to power in Dallas County on Tuesday night.

Two of three openly gay candidates on the ballot locally, District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons and judicial candidate Tonya Parker, won their races as part of the closer-than-expected countywide Democratic victory. A third openly gay candidate, Democrat Pete Schulte, was defeated by Republican incumbent Dan Branch in Texas House District 108.

Parker, who defeated Mike Lee for the 116th Judicial District seat, is the first openly LGBT person ever elected judge in Dallas County. She will also become the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in the county’s history.

Meanwhile, Democrats also managed to seize a majority on the Dallas County Commissioners Court for the first time in three decades. Democrat Clay Jenkins defeated Republican Wade Emmert in the race to replace openly gay incumbent Jim Foster, who chairs the court and was defeated by Jenkins in the Democratic primary. And longtime LGBT ally Dr. Elba Garcia, a former city councilwoman, toppled anti-gay incumbent Ken Mayfield for the District 4 seat.

The victories made Dallas County one of the lone bright spots for Democrats in Texas, as Republicans swept statewide races and significantly increased their majority in the Texas House.

At the top of the statewide ballot, LGBT ally and Democrat Bill White was soundly defeated by anti-gay Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

In Dallas County state legislative races, Democratic incumbent State Reps. Carol Kent, Kirk England, Allen Vaught and Robert Miklos were all trailing their Republican challengers. And gay-friendly Democratic challenger Loretta Haldenwang was trailing incumbent Republican State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown.

In Tarrant County, Democratic incumbent and LGBT ally Lon Burnam was on his way to an easy win in his campaign for an eighth term representing District 90 in the Texas Legislature. However, two other Democratic lawmakers considered to be friends of — or at least, friendly toward — the LGBT community were losing their re-election bids. Paula Pierson, first elected to represent District 93 in 2006, was trailing Republican Barbara Nash. And in District 96, incumbent Democrat Chris Turner was trailing Republican Bill Zedler.

Nationally, Republicans took control of the U.S. House and picked up seats in the Senate, likely ruling out passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act for the next two years.

In Dallas, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a staunch LGBT ally, easily held off Republican challenger Stephen Broden. The LGBT community also picked up another openly gay member of Congress, as Providence Mayor David Cicilline won his U.S. House race in Rhode Island.

For complete election coverage, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

Help Troy Aikman make the Katy Trail safer

In the wake of the tragic death of jogger Lauren Huddleston, who suffered fatal head injuries when she was struck by a bicyclist, Friends of the Katy Trail is kicking off a Safety Awareness Drive with the help of former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Aikman will be on the trail from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and hey, maybe this will be a good opportunity to show off your purple. From the Friends:

Friends of the Katy Trail will ask Trail users to sign a pledge stating how they will use the Trail safely. The Safety Awareness Drive kicks off Oct. 20 with Troy Aikman and lasts all weekend!

If you want to help with the Safety Awareness Drive, please contact Ashleigh Falk at Ashleigh@KatyTrailDallas.org. Volunteers will ask people to sign the safety pledge and distribute tips for safe use of the Trail. They also will take new or renewed memberships in the Friends of the Katy Trail. We need volunteers on Oct. 23 and 24. at various points on the Trail.

Friends of the Katy Trail and Dallas city officials met last week and are working on a plan to address safety concerns, which will be released no later than Thanksgiving. City Councilwoman Angela Hunt reports in an e-mail:

Last week, I met with city staff and Friends of the Katy Trail board members to discuss ways to make the trail safer in response to Lauren Huddleston’s tragic death. We will have a plan to address trail safety for all users within 45 days.

Last month’s unveiling of Dallas’ Bike Plan was a great success, with over 200 people attending the meeting at City Hall. Please take a look at the draft maps and give us your input.

The updated bike plan will help us address overcrowding on the Katy Trail by providing alternatives for cyclists. Right now, many cyclists feel that off-street trails are the only safe place to ride. As we develop safe on-street facilities like separated bike paths and well-marked bike lanes, as envisioned by the bike plan, cyclists will have more options and we can take some of the pressure off our trails.

UPDATE: Moments after we posted this, yet another accident was reported on the Katy Trail. The Dallas Police Department says a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle at about noon on Monday:

According to witness, a bicyclist stopped at stop sign at Harvard Street and Cole Avenue and then proceeded to cross Cole Avenue, when she was lightly struck by a vehicle traveling on Cole Street with no stop sign. The bicyclist was transported to Baylor with minor injuries.

—  John Wright

DGLA hosts rally for safe schools in Oak Cliff

About 50 people gathered around a pavilion in Lake Cliff Park in Dallas on Friday evening for a safe schools rally organized by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

The crowd, which included several local TV news crews and about a dozen youth, listened as a series of speakers talked about what can be done to stop bullying, mentor children and quell the national gay teen suicide crisis.

Jesse Garcia, president of Dallas’ gay LULAC council, choked up as he recounted his own struggle to overcome bullying.

“We’re here for you,” Garcia said. “We care about you. You are our children. Don’t give up.”

Larry Duncan, president of Dallas County Schools, which provides transportation and other services for local school districts, told the crowd it was unfortunate Friday’s rally was even necessary.

“It isn’t about why we’re here, it’s about why the other people in our city and county aren’t here,” Duncan said. “The fact that we have to be here is a shame.”

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, vowed to push safe schools legislation that includes LGBT youth in next year’s legislative session.

Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso said she’ll encourage the Dallas Independent School District to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a proposed new anti-bullying policy the district is considering.

“Just know you are not alone,” Jasso said. “There are lots of us on the City Council, myself included, who are here to help you. We cannot afford to lose any more teens to suicide.”

As currently written, DISD’s proposed new anti-bullying policy doesn’t include specific protections for LGBT youth. But Lee Taft, associate executive director at Resource Center Dallas, said DISD’s board of trustees agreed to delay discussion of the new policy this week in response to a request from his organization.

Taft, who lost his partner to suicide in the 1980s, said the community must focus on prevention instead of “post-vention.” He also said the media needs to strike a balance to avoid glamorizing suicide and fueling a copycat phenomenon.

“Let’s make sure that we don’t make martyrs and don’t empower bullies,” Taft said.

Patti Fink, president of DGLA, said the bullying children endure in school wouldn’t be tolerated in any other part of society, including the workplace or even people’s own neighborhoods.

“It’s a travesty that our children are experiencing brutality in our schools every day that prevents them from learning,” Fink said, issuing a call to action. “This is the time, this is the date, this is the energy we need to go forward.”

—  John Wright

Angela Hunt says her separate entry in Sunday’s gay Pride parade was ‘not a political statement’

For Angela Hunt, it’s times like these that owning a convertible comes in handy.

Some may be wondering — as we were — why Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt had a separate entry in Sunday’s gay Pride parade instead of riding on the city of Dallas float with other councilmembers. Hunt’s separate entry prompted at least one local gay Republican to post a photo of the city float on his Facebook page and suggest that Hunt, whose district includes half of Oak Lawn, had missed the parade. That’s not true, of course. Hunt’s entry — consisting of her car, her husband and herself — came near the end of the procession.

Our first thought, to be honest, was whether this was an indication that Hunt plans to run for mayor next year. We thought maybe she was trying to show up current Mayor Tom Leppert, who was absent from Pride for the second time in four years. But it turns out Hunt’s separate parade entry wasn’t at all politically motivated, or even intentional.

Hunt explained to Instant Tea Tuesday morning that she missed the shuttle that takes councilmembers from Lee Park to the parade lineup. She was told initially that the shuttle would be returning for her, but it never did, and the parade start time of 2 o’clock had come and gone. Hunt said she and her husband began to panic. They quickly jumped in their car and hit the car wash (she says her husband insited that they couldn’t take the car in the gay parade without washing it). They then made a quick visit to CVS to pick up some poster board, magic markers and streamers. Hunt called parade organizer Michael Doughman and explained that she would be cutting him a check for the $250 entry fee.

“It was great fun but slightly stressful,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t miss the parade. My husband and I have been in it for five years, and we were determined not to miss the parade. It’s not a political statement, and I hated not getting to ride with my colleagues.”

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Vonciel Jones Hill again snubs the gays, and we’re officially ‘castigating’ her for it

Vonciel Jones Hill

We’ve confirmed with a staff member in Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office who handles the invitations that Vonciel Jones Hill is the only councilmember, other than Mayor Tom Leppert, who doesn’t plan to attend gay Pride this year.

As we reported earlier, Leppert has a “longstanding personal commitment” on the day of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, but he’s appeared at Pride twice before. Hill, on the other hand, has never appeared in the parade since joining the council in 2007 and has in fact stated that she never will.

No one answered the phone in Hill’s office Monday afternoon, but we’re assuming her reason for not attending the parade hasn’t changed from last year. Here’s what she told us a year ago:

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Hill said. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless. It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe.”

Not only does Hill not believe in gay Pride, but she also even refuses to sign the letter from the City Council that appears in the Dallas Tavern Guild’s annual Pride guide, which will be distributed inside this coming Friday’s Dallas Voice. The letter simply congratulates and thanks the Tavern Guild for putting on another successful Pride celebration. The staff member in Hunt’s office said Hill is the only council member who refused to sign the letter.

With a city election in May 2011, we’re hoping this will be Hill’s last chance to totally disrespect her LGBT constituents in District 5.

—  John Wright