Councilman Burns spends birthday in hospital

JD Angle, left, and Joel Burns

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns is fine, but his partner, JD Angle, slipped on the ice. He shattered his ankle and underwent more than three hours of surgery yesterday, Feb. 4.

That was also Burns’ birthday. His last report on Facebook was that Angle is still in the hospital and recovering.

“Surgeon said it was a bit more complicated than they planned but everything is put back together. Lots of physical therapy ahead,” Burns wrote.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Zach Wahls; study shows health risks of anti-gay bullying; Kato remembered

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. If you haven’t seen it already, take three minutes out of your snow day and watch 19-year-old Zach Wahls, the son of same-sex parents, address the Iowa House of Representatives during a public hearing on a proposal to ban gay marriage. The clip has almost 1 million views on YouTube, and some are comparing it to Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech. Also, watch Wahls and his family’s interview with MSNBC below.

2. Anti-gay bullying is bad for your health. Not only does it lead to increased suicide rates, but the hormonal imbalance it creates can also increase memory loss, cardiovascular problems and bone density depletion, according to a new study.

3. Murdered Ugandan gay activist David Kato was remembered Thursday in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, a group from Cambridge University has launched a fundrasing campaign in Kato’s name. Half of the proceeds will go to Kato’s organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda, while the other half will go to support LGBT refugees from Africa. For more info, go here.

—  John Wright

2 candidates launch mayoral campaigns

Jim Moore, left, and Ron Natinsky

Natinsky, Moore outline campaign issues, both claim LGBT support

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice

With incumbent Dalla Mayor Tom Leppert confirming this week that he will not run for re-election in May, the field of candidates to replace him has begun to fill up.

District 14 City Councilmember Angela Hunt last week said she was considering a run for mayor, but while she has not publicly made up her mind yet, two other candidates have.

District 12 Councilman Ron Natinsky made his mayoral candidacy definite with an announcement on Monday, Jan. 17, and Jim Moore, an attorney whose practice is based in Oak Lawn, has also declared himself a candidate.

Both Natinsky and Moore said this week that they will be reaching out to the LGBT community for votes. And both said they already have support from the community.

“I want to get support from all the communities. I will be campaigning equally in all parts of the city because I am going to treat everyone equally,” Moore said.

But he acknowledged that he has a special fondness for the Oak Lawn area because he lived in the neighborhood for many years and his office has been located here since he opened his practice in 1984.

“These are the restaurants I eat at. These are the people I socialize with. These are my friends. The LGBT community knows me and trusts me,” Moore said, adding that openly gay former Dallas City Councilmen John Loza is “a dear friend” and one of his campaign advisors.

Moore, who recently joined the LGBT political group Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said that new Stonewall president Omar Narvaez is also a close friend. Narvaez, in a previous interview, said he would not speak publicly about supporting or endorsing any candidate until after Stonewall Democrats has held candidate screenings and issued endorsements.
Natinsky also can point to gay former councilmembers in his roster of supporters.

“Ed Oakley [who was on the council and ran his own high-profile race for mayor against Leppert in 2007] called from Thailand yesterday [Wednesday] to say that he is endorsing me,” Natinsky said. “Craig Holcombe [another gay former councilmember] is also supporting my campaign. And there are several others in the community who have signed on to support me and give me their endorsements.”

Natinsky, who has been on the City Council since 2005, said Thursday that he has “been involved at City Hall” for 25 years, and that he has consistently supported issues in the LGBT community.

“I have had a significant number of people in the LGBT community support me in my previous races for the council. I have been endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I have participated in events and have ridden in the parade,” he said. “I am committed to doing those sorts of things.

“It’s hard to second-guess what specific issues that affect the LGBT community might come up in front of the council,” he continued. “But my attitude is the same on every issue, to roll up my sleeves and work it through.”
Moore said that if he will be “the candidate of the common guy,” and that if he is elected, he will continue to reach out to his constituents for input.

“When I am mayor, I am going to spend my Saturdays going to the grocery store in Oak Cliff or Lake Highlands. I am going to go to the Kroger on Cedar Springs. I will go to J.R.’s. I am going to talk to the people and her what they have to say. I’m not going to spend my time at the country club, playing golf and sitting around,” Moore said.

The issues

Moore said that public safety is “a huge issue,” and offered a plan to get the private sector involved in making the city safer.

“I talk to people all the time who live in fear, and that’s not much of a life,” Moore said. “Our focus needs to be on making citizens more comfortable living here rather than building a half-billion-dollar hotel that most people who live here will never even see.”

Saying that much of the funding for the city’s revamped Arts District came from the private sector, Moore added, “I love the generosity of Dallasites that do those things. I love what the private sector has done for this city. And I have this vision of converting a lot of the public safety efforts to the private sector.”

Moore said that about 80 percent of all crime in the city is property crime committed in parking lots outside of stores.

The companies that run those stores could take responsibility for putting police watchtowers in those parking lots — and in other high-traffic areas susceptible to crime — and not only help their customers by keeping them safer, but gain a highly visible advertising platform as well.

“It’s just a creative way of making sure the public is safe without spending tax dollars. If I can sell that idea, we won’t need those 600 officers the police department is short right now,” he said.

Moore also proposed working to help forge alliances Dallas Independent School District and private sector corporations, such as programs through which corporations could adopt a school and donate funds and supplies to help those schools out.

Such a partnership, he said, would help improve public schools that are hurting for funds, and improving the schools makes the city more attractive to potential new corporate citizens, thus improving the city’s tax base and stimulating economic growth.

For Natinsky, the key to the city’s future is economic development.

He said Dallas has been “very fortunate overall” during the recent economic downtown, and while “we have had our issues to deal with,” the situation has not been as drastic as in other cities.

“I think we have started to turn the corner. Our sales tax revenue is starting to come back up, and our building permits are up,” Natinsky said, and that makes Dallas attractive to companies looking to relocate from the hard-hit regions of the West Coast and what he called “the rusty northeast.”

Bringing new companies to the city means “growing the economic base and providing jobs for the people who are here, and provides a foundation for the things that everybody wants to get done.”

Natinsky said the city has made strides in reducing the crime rate, and that continuing that trend — as well as providing the necessary city services — depend on economic growth. But Dallas needs to pay attention to more than just the basics, he said.

“We work hard here in Dallas, and we play hard, too. People want their parks and recreation centers and the opera house and the theaters. We have got to have those things to balance out the ‘work’ part of people’s lives. They are very important assets,” he said.

While others suggest the city cut back in those areas to make up for the lack of revenue during the recession, Natinsky said that instead the city should “reinvent the way the city government operates.

“There is always the question of revenue vs. expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut services,” he said. “If you find more efficient ways to provide those services, you lower costs and you don’t have to cut services. I think you can always find more efficient ways of operating.

“And if we can work more efficiently and at the same time grow the economic pie, grow our tax base, we can lessen the tax burden on everyone who lives here and at the same time continue to provide the services we need.”

The elections

Dallas municipal elections will be held May 14. All 14 council seats and the mayor’s seat are up for election.

The first day to file as a candidate is Feb. 14, and the filing deadline is March 14.

The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance PAC will be sending out informational packets and setting screening appointments with candidates seeking the DGLA endorsement probably beginning in late February or early March.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will hold its candidate screening session on March 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

FWISD to update bullying policy

Director of counseling says officials did not realize sexual orientation didn’t include gender identity, expression, and applauds new bullying awareness campaign

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Report nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — When the Dallas Independent School District was lauded recently for becoming the first school district in the state to approve an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy, officials in the Fort Worth Independent School District reacted with consternation.
The Fort Worth District, officials said, had passed such a policy months before, in March.

But the problem, Kathryn Everest, director of guidance and counseling for the Fort Worth district, said this week, was that “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

And what school officials didn’t know was that the term “sexual orientation” does not include issues of gender identity and gender expression, Everest said.

“Our policy protects all students,” Everest said, adding that she initially believed simply saying “all students” would be adequate. But she said she understands the need for more specific wording after discussion with those in the community advocating for changes in the policy.

Everest said that she met Monday afternoon, Nov. 22, with gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Jon Nelson of Fairness Fort Worth. Both men, she said, have pledged to help the district fine-tune the wording of its policies.

“We want to make it plain that everyone is included. Now that we have found out what we didn’t know — that sexual orientation doesn’t include gender identity and gender expression — we will make those changes. We’re not fighting it, and we’re not intimidated by it. We just didn’t know,” Everest said.

She added that the policy in question relates specifically to students. The district also has a mirror policy protecting faculty and staff members, and it, too, will be updated, Everest said.

“We want our policies to align with the city of Fort Worth’s policy,” she said. The Fort Worth City Council voted last year to amend its nondiscrimination ordinance, which already included protections based on sexual orientation, to include specific protections based on gender identity and gender expression.

Another point of confusion centered on the wording of Fort Worth’s anti-bullying policy itself. The policy defines bullying, gives examples and outlines the procedure for reporting incidences of bullying and for investigating those reports. But it does not enumerate specific groups protected under the policy, as the Dallas ISD policy does.

Everest explained this week that the Fort Worth ISD’s “Freedom from Bullying” policy is an extension of the district’s “Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Policy, which reads:

“The District prohibits discrimination including harassment, against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or on any other basis prohibited by law, that adversely affects the student.”

Everest said FWISD officials now recognize that, technicalities aside, the bullying policy should also include that wording — with the addition of gender identity and gender expression — so that it is clear.

Although gender identity and gender expression were not among the protected categories listed, evidence of the district’s intention to provide protections based on those categories exists in the discrimination policy, under the category of examples:

“Examples of prohibited harassment  may include offensive or derogatory language directed at another person’s religious beliefs or practices, accent, skin color, gender identity or need for accommodation … .”

‘It’s not okay’

While the Fort Worth school district may be lagging behind the Dallas ISD in perfecting the wording of its nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies, Fort Worth is several steps ahead of Dallas when it comes to it’s anti-bullying campaign, Everest said.

The district implemented the “It’s not okay” campaign at the beginning of the current school year, focusing each month on a different aspect of harassment. Topics are “bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, teen dating violence, suicidal thinking, sexual harassment, use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and gangs.

The campaign includes efforts to explain each topic and to promote the district’s procedures for reporting and investigating offenses. A primary component, Everest said, is the “Friends 4 Life” hotline that anyone can call to report specific incidents or concerns. Students discovered to be targets of bullying or harassment are paired with counselors who work with them and help them find other resources if necessary, Everest said.

She said students had input in designing the campaign, helping choose the topics and suggesting ways to address each one. The district also has designed posters on each topic to be displayed in schools, as well as billboards that are going up each month around the city.

“By the end of the school year, we will have billboards across the city addressing each one of these topics,” Everest said. “There is a kind of entrenched generational acceptance of certain kinds of harassment and bullying — the idea that it’s just what kids do, and you need to get over it and move on. That’s what we have to change. We have to say to the whole world that it’s not OK.

“And this [campaign] is not just a flash in the pan, not just a one-time thing,” Everest continued. Our goal is to make it an ongoing program, something that is deep and broad and addresses all the angles. That’s how you change the social norms. That’s how you stop the bullying.”

She added, “This is all a learning process for us. We are making corrections and improvements as we go along. We thought we were covering everything, and now that we know we didn’t, we will make the changes we need to make.

“Our goal is to make our entire educational community as safe as possible — our students, our faculty and our staff. And we will do what we need to do to make that happen.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Bigots are so unreliable!

Despite news reports indicating otherwise, no one spoke Tuesday night at the Fort Worth City Council meeting to air disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech last month. Tuesday’s meeting lasted into the wee hours, as the council dealt with several controversial issues. The only person who referenced Burns’ speech during “Citizen Presentations,” which came after midnight, spoke in support of it. Linda Sandoval Foley said she’s been a special education teacher since 1964.

“Bullying and harassment, whatever the reason, is not only injurious to the person who is bullied, but to the bully themselves,” she said. “Parents and community often offer a model to kids as to what is acceptable and give both tacit and implicit approval to bullying behaviors. But equally present is a capacity for acceptance and understanding, and expectations for appropriate behavior toward people who are different from you in any way, whether it’s the color of your eyes, or whether you’re tall and skinny, awkward and clumsy, whatever. Yes, it does get better. But we need, our kids need, the support and involvement of their parents, their teachers and all the other adults who are in their lives. And I thank Councilman Burns for his statement, and I do appreciate his life experience, and I do look forward to it being better for all our kids.”

Earlier, during councilmembers’ reports, Burns also referenced his “It Gets Better” speech, saying he had a lot of announcements but none of them were likely to make YouTube. “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” he said.

Among other things, Burns went on to congratulate the TCU football team for its victory last weekend over Utah, saying it was the only time he’s ever wished he was in Salt Lake City. Burns also congratulated those from Fort Worth who received awards during Saturday’s Black Tie Dinner: the Rev. Carol West (Kuchling Humanitarian Award) and American Airlines (Elizabeth Birch Equality Award).

—  John Wright

WATCH LIVE: Fort Worth City Council meeting

We’re not sure if or when someone plans to air their disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech during tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting. “Citizen presentations” are near the end of the council’s agenda. You can watch the meeting live by going here, but it sounds like there’s not much point in heading down to City Hall if you’re not there already. Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks reports on Twitter that the meeting is packed and that the fire marshal isn’t letting anyone else in. We’re sure many are there for other reasons, but it’s also possible that some didn’t heed the advice of Fairness Fort Worth, which earlier today encouraged people NOT to attend the meeting. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It would appear that most of the folks in the audience are there to talk about an ordinance that would limit rooster ownership.

—  John Wright

Fairness Fort Worth, Joel Burns urge people NOT to attend tonight’s City Council meeting

On Monday we told you that some folks reportedly plan to speak at tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting, to air their disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech to LGBT youth on Oct. 12. But Fairness Fort Worth says that both Burns and the group are urging people not to attend tonight’s meeting. FFW’s David Mack Henderson said on Facebook that the threat is “not all that credible” and “does NOT warrant giveing them the public dog-fight they desire.” Here’s his full message:

On Monday many of you noted a brief, rather vague and titillating article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram suggesting that “at least one — and possibly more” persons plan to protest Councilman Joel Burns’ recent “It Gets Better” speech tonight in a city council meeting.

Given the international attention Joel brought to LGBT bullying and teen suicide rates you can understand how the blog comments went wild rather quickly. Joel’s amazing outreach produced loyal advocates ready to come to his defense in a heartbeat.

HOWEVER, both JOEL and FAIRNESS FORT WORTH are convinced that this protest threat is not all that credible. Sure, a handful of folks from a city straddling another county may show up and make a bit of noise. In any case, we’ve collectively determined that this does NOT warrant giving them the public dog-fight they desire. COUNCILMAN BURNS and FAIRNESS FORT WORTH urge you NOT to attend this city council meeting specifically to engage these folks. (If you’re there on other city business, by all means, be part of the process as any citizen should.)

Our LGBT Community now plays a strategic and productive role in the future of our city. We’ve earned our seat at the table. As such, WE get to determine the time and place for these discussions, not our detractors.

So, if you’re committed to devoting your Tuesday night toward making a difference in our LGBT Community, FAIRNESS FORT WORTH urges you to attend our general meeting instead. YOU’RE NEEDED THERE! Join us at 7:30PM. We’ll be at Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania, creating initiatives and programs to advance equal access for all of us!

And yes — we DO have a gay agenda:

*** Anti-Bulling, Safe Schools project with FWISD
*** Hospital & Healthcare Providers Equal Access project
*** FW City Manager’s Diversity Task Force initiatives
…and more as we continue to grow and improve LGBT lives in Tarrant County. We’re on a roll!

Please join us. What a great time to live in Fort Worth, Texas — Where the West Begins — Again!”

—  John Wright

U.S. Department of Education warns schools that anti-gay bullying can violate civil rights laws

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

“It Gets Better” has been a success. Videos and public appearances by people like Councilman Joel Burns led to videos by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A transgender North Dallas High School student’s attempt to run for homecoming queen ended with a rally of support at her school as well as an appearance on MTV.

Many young people have gotten the message but so have school districts and even the U.S. Department of Education.

The education department announced Tuesday that school districts that do nothing to combat bullying will lose money. The letter said the guidelines “do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.”

The announcement also said that the White House will convene a conference on bullying early next year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“Bullying is a problem that shouldn’t exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others. To every student who feels threatened or harassed—for whatever reason—please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you.”

—  David Taffet

National spotlight focuses on Burns

As Fort Worth councilman’s staff, volunteers continue to field e-mails, calls from bullied teens seeking help, Dallasites stage a 2nd vigil to remember teen suicide victims


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

PROUD COUPLE  |  Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
PROUD COUPLE | Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Joel Burns has been a familiar name and face in North Texas since 2007 when he was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council, becoming Cowtown’s first openly gay council member.

But in the last two weeks, thousands have learned Burns’ name and are hailing him as a hero of the LGBT community and the battle against bullying and teen suicide.

Fort Worth City Council’s Oct. 12 meeting started out as usual. But then Burns took his turn during that part of the meeting in which councilmembers routinely offer recognition to individuals and events in their own districts. But this time, Burns took on a national topic.

Struggling to choke back tears until finally giving up and letting the tears run down his face, Burns talked about several teenagers who were LGBT, or at least perceived to be LGBT, who had recently taken their own lives after enduring months, sometimes years, of anti-gay bullying and harassment.

And then the councilman told his own story, how he had himself been bullied as a teen and had contemplated suicide.

By the time he finished, everyone in the Council Chamber had risen to their feet to salute him with applause.

But it didn’t stop there. Burns posted the official  Fort Worth City Council video on YouTube as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign to encourage and reassure LGBT teens — and suddenly, Burns was an Internet sensation.

Newspapers around the world posted the video on their websites and it went viral on YouTube. Before he knew it, Burns was being asked to be on, first local and then national and international news programs, including The Today Show with Matt Lauer. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Burns was a guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ television talk show.

During an appearance on Ellen, Burns said that the best part of the last two weeks has been the number of teens from around the world who have e-mailed him and contacted him on Facebook.

“The countless number of kids from around the world … who said, ‘I was in a really, really bad place and I was making plans to take my own life,’” he said. “The fact that they have reconsidered — that makes it worth me crying at City Council, the heartache for my mom and dad, worth every bit of all that because they’re still alive.”

While Burns has been traveling coast-to-coast speaking out against bullying on all of the network morning shows in New York, on cable news and on Ellen in Los Angeles, a team of volunteers has been sorting through thousands of messages pouring into his e-mail inbox at Fort Worth City Hall.

By Monday, Oct. 18, more than 20,000 e-mails had arrived after the video had been streamed 1.3 million times. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the number of YouTube hits passed 2 million, and the e-mail and Facebook messages continue to pour in.

The YouTube page has logged more than 27,000 comments.

Actually reaching Burns or his office this week has been almost impossible. His office phone switches to directly to voice mail.

The Fort Worth City Hall media office said they would pass a message to his office to contact Dallas Voice. But spokesman Bill Begley said he’d walk a message down to Burns’ office himself.

Will Trevino in Councilmember Kathleen Hicks’ office said that former staff and volunteers in Burns’ office had been working overtime trying to keep up with the flood of messages.

Remembering the lost ones
Wednesday was Spirit Day, designated to remember young people who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Many wore purple to show solidarity for efforts to stop the bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the call for an end to bullying by releasing an “It Gets Better” video earlier this week and wearing purple on Spirit Day.

More than 200 people gathered in the Caven parking lot off Cedar Springs Road and held a candlelight vigil marching to the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Marchers carried purple signs that read “Hope” and “It Gets Better.”

At the monument, organizer Ivan Watson read the names of recent suicide victims and a moment of silence was observed for each one.

Watson said he was inspired to organize the vigil after hearing about Asher Brown, the recent Houston suicide victim.

Organizer Steve Weir of DallasGay-Agenda.com billed the event as a peace march and vigil in memory of those who died and a stand against bullying D/FW area. He said that school policies must change to make schools safe for LGBT youth.

Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas said he searched bullying policies of school districts across the state and found none that specifically addresses bullying based on sexual orientation. Austin’s comes closest, he said.

McDonnell also said that Philadelphia’s school system passed a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation and sexual identity.

“It’s in Lew Blackburn’s hands,” McDonnell said.

Blackburn is the DISD trustee who has shown the most interest in crafting a policy that will protect LGBT students and those perceived to be.

The “It Gets Better” campaign continues. Randy Potts is the grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts. His uncle was gay and committed suicide. He is recording an “It Gets Better” video this weekend.

To watch video from Wednesday’s vigil, go to DallasVoice.com/videos

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Watch: Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Husband J.D. Angle on ‘The Last Word’

Angle_burns

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and his husband J.D. Angle appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell to talk about Burns' viral speech about bullying. Angle says he didn't know that Joel had even written the speech till just before he delivered it. Angle also says that he hadn't heard Joel's bullying story in 17 years of marriage.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP



Towleroad News #gay

—  admin