Rawlings sets LGBT equality resolution for June 12 but won’t say how he’ll vote

Daniel Cates says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, confirmed today that Rawlings plans to place an LGBT equality resolution on the City Council agenda on June 12 — which just so happens to be right in the middle of National LGBT Pride Month.

As we reported last week, Rawlings is required to place the resolution on the agenda on or before June 12. He has chosen the latest possible date. The resolution would express the council’s support for marriage equality and LGBT employment protections.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports marriage equality, made national news when he said he believes the resolution is a “misuse” of the council’s time because the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over marriage. Rawlings also said last week he hadn’t made up him mind how he’ll vote on the resolution.

Councilman Scott Griggs, author of the resolution, counters that it won’t take much time at all and would send a powerful message to officials in Austin and Washington, D.C. — not to mention Dallas’ LGBT residents.

Blackmon said today that Rawlings will wait until after Municipal Elections on Saturday before commenting further on the resolution.

Griggs says he has the eight votes needed to pass the resolution — with or without Rawlings’ support.

Those who’ve indicated they’ll vote for the resolution are Griggs, Delia Jasso, Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano, Monica Alonzo, Jerry Allen, Dwaine Caraway and
Sandy Greyson.

Those who haven’t publicly said how they’ll vote are Rawlings, Sheffie Kadane, Ann Margolin, Linda Koop, Tennell Atkins, Carolyn Davis and Vonciel Hill.

To email council members, go here. For phone listings, go here. To find out which district you live in, go here.

—  John Wright

The hypocrisy of Mayor Rawlings

DMNmetrofront

The above image — from the front of today’s Dallas Morning News Metro section — highlights the hypocrisy of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ argument that marriage equality isn’t a city issue.

Public education, of course, isn’t technically a city issue, either. The school district is run by an elected school board, which appoints a superintendent. Neither the mayor nor the City Council has any jurisdiction over the school district. But as you can see from the headline, Rawlings isn’t shy about wading into public eduction issues. I’m not saying he’s wrong for that. I’m saying it’s hypocritical for him to turn around and argue that a resolution expressing support for the basic civil rights of tens of thousands of Dallas residents is a “misuse” of the council’s time.

—  John Wright

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings suggests LGBT civil rights are a waste of time

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that he thinks a proposed City Council resolution backing marriage equality and LGBT employment protections is “a misuse of City Council time.”

As we reported Tuesday, Councilman Scott Griggs, who authored the resolution, says he believes it has the eight votes needed to pass. Griggs filed the resolution last Friday, and Rawlings now has until June 12 to place it on the council agenda.

Later Tuesday, Rawlings’ chief of staff told the Morning News that the mayor hadn’t read the resolution, even though he received a copy of it three weeks ago. Then, on Wednesday, Rawlings told The DMN’s Rudy Bush that while he personally supports marriage equality, he doesn’t think the council should debate political issues over which it has no power:

“I don’t want to be talking about late-term abortions, or gun control, or GITMO,” he said.

To do so is “a misuse of City Council time.”

Well, personally I’d argue that the city should be involved in gun control. Besides, Rawlings has not been shy about getting involved in other issues the city doesn’t control, including public education.

Furthermore, although the city doesn’t have direct control over marriage equality or employment discrimination outside its limits, the council can certainly exert some influence.

Dallas has had an ordinance banning anti-LGBT employment discrimination since 2002, so it would only be logical for the council to give its blessing to a statewide law — especially when enforcement of the city’s ban has been inhibited by the lack of a state or federal statute. In fact, Rawlings reportedly agreed last year to travel to Austin and lobby in favor of statewide LGBT employment protections. But now he’s getting cold feet about a council resolution?

The “misuse of City Council time” excuse is similar to one Rawlings used last year when he refused to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality. At the time, he said he wanted to focus on “substantive” things, not “symbolic” ones like the pledge.

But symbols do matter, and any expert will tell you that the U.S. Supreme Court, which is about to decide two key marriage equality cases, is influenced by public opinion.

And those 300-plus mayors from across the U.S. who did sign the marriage pledge? Turns out they ended up filing a friend-of-the-court brief in one of the marriage equality cases. Now, what could possibly be more substantive than that?

—  John Wright

Scott Griggs files marriage equality resolution, says it has votes to pass

Griggs.Scott

Scott Griggs

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs says he has the eight votes needed to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections.

Griggs has said he didn’t want to place the item on the agenda until he was sure it had the eight votes needed to pass. He told me Friday that in addition to the seven council members who’ve previously indicated support for the resolution, Sandy Greyson is now a yes. Greyson couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm her position. The other seven supporters are Griggs and co-author Delia Jasso, along with Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano, Monica Alonzo, Jerry Allen and Dwaine Caraway.

It remains unclear whether Mayor Mike Rawlings will vote in favor of the resolution.

The only definite “no” vote is Vonciel Hill, who has made her anti-gay positions clear. Another likely “no” is Sheffie Kadane, who attends First Baptist Church of Dallas. Linda Koop, Ann Margolin, Carolyn Davis and Tennell Atkins are question marks.

Griggs filed a memo Friday with the five signatures needed to place the resolution on the agenda, and Rawlings now has 30 days plus one meeting to do so. The latest the mayor could place the item on the agenda is June 12.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed Monday she had received Griggs’ memo.

“Yes I received the signed memo this morning and will have to check with attorney/city secretary/city manager on timing,” Blackmon wrote in an email.

Asked whether the mayor would vote for the resolution, Blackmon said Tuesday: “I do not know. We take one agenda item at a time.”

Blackmon reportedly told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that Rawlings was traveling and had not seen the resolution. However, Griggs copied Dallas Voice on a draft of the resolution he sent to both Blackmon and Rawlings on April 9. (Click here to see a screen grab of the email.)

The City Secretary’s Office sent over the below copy of the memo and resolution.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Gay Dallas council candidate Leland Burk begins running TV ads

Screen shot 2013-04-10 at 2.55.14 PMBURK,LELAND-HEAD-SHOTLeland Burk, an openly gay candidate for Dallas City Council District 13, began running TV ads on cable that will air through the election — an unusual but not unprecedented move.

Burk’s campaign manager C.P. Henry said although this isn’t a first, TV isn’t used often in council races, and the cable buy overreaches beyond the district. He said District 13 incumbent Ann Margolin used radio ads in 2009 in her race against Brint Ryan — who ran TV ads.

Burk faces Jennifer Staubach Gates, Richard Sheridan and Jacob King. Gates is his principal opponent. Both Burk and Gates are running well-funded campaigns in the wealthy district, and voters will soon get a better idea of how much they’ve spent with campaign finance reports due Thursday.

Burk’s ad is called “Middle Names” and plays off Gates using her maiden name in large letters on her campaign signs.

Burk uses a variety of middle names in the ad, including “Financial Expert,” “Budget Watchdog,” “Entrepreneur,” “Business Leader,” “Experience” and “Endorsed by Ann Margolin.” The middle names appear on campaign signs placed throughout the district.

Burk is basing his campaign on his experience in oil and gas, real estate and as a bank founder — and has downplayed his family ties to the Zale and Lipshy families.

District 13 covers Preston Hollow but includes a small piece of Oak Lawn as well as parts of Northwest Dallas inside LBJ Freeway and Vickery across Central Expressway near NorthPark.

Watch the ad below.

—  David Taffet

Weisfeld calls Medrano ‘no show opponent,’ challenges him to a debate

Herschel Weisfeld and Adam Medrano

Herschel Weisfeld, left, and Adam Medrano

Openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld is calling out opponent and DISD Trustee Adam Medrano for failing to appear at City Council District 2 candidate forums.

Wesifeld sent out an email today highlighting Medrano’s absence at an arts forum in March where organizers couldn’t reach Medrano’s campaign to confirm his appearance after hearing from volunteers that he’d attend. Medrano told the Dallas Morning News he had a scheduling conflict that night.

Weisfeld also mentions that Medrano didn’t attend a LULAC 102 breakfast to meet the candidates April 6, where only he and Ricky Gonzales were present.

“A conversation of the candidates before the community is a critical part of the democratic process for the voters to see the differences in each of the candidates running in this important election and in making their choice when going to the polls,” Weisfeld said in his email.

Contacted by Instant Tea, Medrano said Weisfeld was “running a negative campaign because his campaign is not going well.”

“Our campaign’s going great,” Medrano said. “I just have to stay positive and focus on my campaign.”

Medrano said he’ll be at the Deep Ellum Community Association’s event at 7 p.m. tonight at Kettle Art Gallery, 2714 Elm St.

Medrano said he also plans to attend the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s forum at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Sue Ellen’s.

—  Anna Waugh

Time for Medrano to come out

Having a closeted council member representing one of Dallas’ most heavily LGBT districts in 2013 would be a major step back for equality

John Wright

Twenty years ago this May, Craig McDaniel shattered a glass ceiling when he became the first openly gay candidate elected to the Dallas City Council.

Since then, Dallas has had four openly gay council members, including McDaniel. Two of them, John Loza and Chris Luna, were Hispanic and represented District 2, which is arguably Dallas’ most heavily LGBT district.

This year, another gay Latino candidate is running in District 2, Adam Medrano. However, unlike Loza, Luna and two of his opponents, Herschel Weisfeld and Vernon Franko, Medrano has chosen not to be open and honest about his sexual orientation — even though he was once arrested after allegedly engaging in homosexual sex in a public bathroom.

Last week, Dallas Voice posed a simple question to Medrano: “Are you gay?”

“I’m not going to discuss that,” Medrano responded. “I don’t think that sexual orientation is an issue in the race.”

While I suppose this response is preferable to an outright lie — such as the one Medrano told when he denied being gay in an interview with Dallas Voice last year — it’s hardly the type of transparency voters should expect from someone who’s asking for their trust with the public’s business.

On an LGBT level, Medrano’s efforts to cover up his sexual orientation seem to imply that he thinks there’s something wrong with being gay — that he’s somehow ashamed of it. And let’s face it, it’s this type of shame that has often led closeted gay people to seek out anonymous sex in public bathrooms. Would history repeat itself if he is elected to the council?

Another problem with closeted gay elected officials — even if they are generally supportive of the community on a policy level, as Medrano appears to be — is that they tend to avoid LGBT issues because they’re afraid of being outed.

Medrano has been in office for seven years as a Dallas Independent School District trustee, thrice being elected president of the school board. Medrano and his LGBT supporters tout his vote in 2010 in favor of the district’s fully inclusive anti-bullying policy. But this policy passed unanimously, and Medrano wasn’t among trustees who led the charge publicly. Meanwhile, other important LGBT issues, such as domestic partner benefits for district employees, have gone largely undiscussed at DISD.

Furthermore, Medrano could have accomplished more for LGBT youth than any policy by simply coming out and serving as a positive gay role model — living proof that it gets better.

But the school board is one thing. Having a closeted City Council member representing a heavily gay district would undeniably be a major step backward for the Dallas LGBT community in 2013.

Which is why it’s so difficult to understand why one so-called LGBT advocacy group, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, would choose to endorse Medrano.

Even though many Stonewall leaders are aware of Medrano’s sexual orientation, no one brought it up during the group’s recent candidate screenings.

That’s probably because some feared the wrath of the powerful Medrano family, which had many members in the room and is a force in the Dallas County Democratic Party.

Mind you, though, this is the same organization that put so much stock in electing an openly gay council member two years ago that it was willing to stab a staunch LGBT ally in the back to endorse her out challenger.

Medrano, because of his family name, as well as the fact that District 2 overlays much of his school board district, remains the odds-on favorite to win the seat.

Coming out wouldn’t hurt Medrano’s chances, and in fact it would probably help him among the district’s many LGBT voters.

But remaining in the closet could hurt him, especially among LGBT voters who may wonder how he can represent their interests if he can’t even represent his own.

LGBT political experts have long said that when gay candidates try to hide their sexual orientation, it ends up becoming an even bigger issue.

That’s why the best approach for Medrano would simply be to acknowledge that’s he’s gay and move on to the real issues facing the city — both LGBT and otherwise.

John Wright is senior editor of Dallas Voice. He can be reached at Editor@DallasVoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 22, 2013.

—  Kevin Thomas

Stonewall Dems finalize City Council endorsements without discussion

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Garland mayoral candidate Delores Elder-Jones speaks at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting March 19. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas ratified its full endorsement slate for City Council races without discussion or objections at Tuesday’s general membership meeting at Ojeda’s.

The endorsement are: Delia Jasso in District 1, Adam Medrano in District 2, Claudia Meyer in District 3, Jesse Diaz in District 5, Monica Alonzo in District 6 and Bobby Abtahi in District 14.

Among the speakers at the meeting was Delores Elder-Jones, who is running for Garland mayor. She’s running against three other candidates. Incumbent mayor Ronald Jones is not seeking re-election.

Elder-Jones said she was running so in Garland “we can be inclusive of everyone.”

“When I’m mayor of Garland, you can be that Garland will be a city that recognizes LGBT citizens,” Elder-Jones said.

She said she would work to change the city’s policies to protect against LGBT discrimination in and help provide domestic partner benefits for the city’s employees.

Arturo Sierra, who is running as an openly gay DISD trustee candidate in District 7, said he would work to help the district offer DP benefits, which it currently cannot do.

“I will push for same-sex benefits across the board,” he said.

Sierra has two challengers in the race, including incumbent Eric Cowan. The district covers North Central Oak Cliff and parts of West Dallas.

Kim Morris, the new executive director for the Dallas County Democratic Party, also spoke briefly about her new role. She said she wants to get Democratic clubs like Stonewall more involved in the party.

—  Anna Waugh

District 14 candidates to debate the arts as campaign forums begin in earnest

WylyDistrict 14 Dallas City Council candidates will gather at the Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. beginning at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss arts issues. The forum is sponsored by the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition.

Topics will include arts funding, cultural tourism, economic development in and around the Arts District, maintenance of facilities and the neighborhood. The Arts District lies within District 14.

DACAC sent questionnaires to candidates asking about their support of the arts — such as which arts organizations they support and if they are on any boards. DACAC asked about using the arts in crime prevention and in attracting corporate relocations and convention business.

Arts are important to the district economically and past District 14 council members Craig McDaniel and Veletta Lill both chaired the council’s arts committee.

Seven candidates are vying for the District 14 seat, which is being vacated by the term-limited Angela Hunt.

DACAC also sponsors a District 2 forum on the arts next Monday, March 25, at KERA, 3000 Harry Hines Blvd.

Meanwhile, four candidates running for District 13 — including openly gay candidate Leland Burke — meet on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Marcus Recreation Center, 3003 Northaven Road west of Webb Chapel. That forum is sponsored by the Northwest Dallas Improvement League.

—  David Taffet

Dallas City Council candidates to screen for Stonewall Democrats on Saturday

Stonewall

Twelve candidates or their surrogates from six Dallas City Council races will appear at Resource Center Dallas on Saturday as they vie for endorsements from Stonewall Democrats.

Everyone is invited to attend the candidate screening sessions, but only those who have been members of Stonewall Democrats for more than 30 days may vote on the endorsement recommendations, which will be ratified at the group’s next general meeting on March 19.

Opening remarks and instructions begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, and candidates will appear by district. Oak Cliff-area races will be covered in the morning, with Oak Lawn-area races in the afternoon.

Stonewall political chair Jeff Strater is organizing the screenings. He said each candidate will be given three minutes to make a statement and then members can ask questions for seven minutes.

Under Stonewall’s bylaws, the organization may endorse only Democrats, even though the races are nonpartisan.

Of the seven people running in District 14, five have predominantly Republican voting histories, according to Strater. Phillip Kingston signed a pledge affiliating with the Democratic Party to qualify for the Stonewall endorsement. Bobby Abtahi’s most recent voting is in Democratic primaries, which qualifies him without signing a pledge, Strater said. Only Jim Rogers has a record of voting exclusively in Democratic primaries.

The full schedule for Saturday’s screenings is below.

—  David Taffet