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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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

Veletta Lill joins 4 gay former council members in endorsing Bobby Abtahi

Lill.Veletta

Veletta Lill

Former District 14 Dallas City Councilwoman Veletta Lill has added her name to the list of endorsements for Bobby Abtahi, who is running to replace Councilwoman Angela Hunt.

Lill joined former Councilman Craig McDaniel, who represented the district before her. McDaniel was the first openly gay person elected to office in Dallas. Openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons has also endorsed Abtahi. Other gay former elected officials who’ve endorsed Abtahi are former Dallas City Councilmen Chris Luna, Ed Oakley and Craig Holcomb.

Lill, who represented District 14 from 1997-2005 before becoming executive director of the Dallas Arts District, wrote in her endorsement:

“I want a councilmember with a strong vision for the entire district and a passion for our city. At the same time Bobby understands that the small details in our lives can make a big difference in the way we live – safe streets, stable neighborhoods, basic services and a good quality of life keep us personally invested in our community.

“It is no secret that I believe the arts are important to a city, from our school children to our seniors and from our neighborhood artists and cultural centers to the Dallas Arts District — Bobby is committed to being an ally for arts and culture on the council.”

Current District 14 Councilwoman Angela Hunt and former County Judge Hon. Margaret Keliher have endorsed Philip Kingston in the race.

Former state Reps. John Bryant and Harryette Ehrhardt have endorsed Jim Rogers. Former City Councilwoman Lori Palmer, who represented Oak Lawn before McDaniel, as well as former Mayor Mary Poss, have also endorsed Rogers.

Also in the District 14 race are David Blewett, Kevin Curley, Chuck Kobdish and Judith Liimatainen. None of those four had high-profile endorsements listed as of today.

—  David Taffet

LGBT supporter Claudia Meyer files to run against anti-gay incumbent Hill

Raymond Crawford

Raymond Crawford

Back in October 2011 we reported on the plight of gay residents in the South Oak Cliff neighborhood of Kiestwood.

Kiestwood is currently represented by District 3 Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs, a strong LGBT ally. But in 2011 redistricting placed Griggs in District 1, where he’ll face off against fellow LGBT ally Delia Jasso this May. Meanwhile, the heavily gay Kiestwood remains in the redrawn District 3, where Vonciel Jones Hill is the incumbent.

Hill, the lone sitting member of the Dallas City Council who has refused to appear in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, once explained her boycott of Dallas’ gay Pride celebration as follows: “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.”

Raymond Crawford, the gay president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, warned in 2011 that Hill’s anti-gay views would come back to haunt her.

“The day she [Hill] comes to call to do some door-knocking or to get some votes, whether I’m the president or not, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with Councilmember Hill,” Crawford said then. “She’ll be in trouble in 2013 based on her previous statements.”

Which brings us to last Friday, the filing deadline for May elections, when Crawford sent word that longtime Mountain Creek resident Claudia Meyer is among three candidates challenging Hill.

“Claudia is a good friend of mine and would be a good friend, and solid supporter of the LGBT community at Dallas City Hall,” Crawford wrote.

The other candidates who’ve filed in District 3 are Michael J. Connally and Kermit Mitchell. Below is full press release announcing Meyer’s candidacy.

—  John Wright

Leland Burk files in District 13

Burkfiles

Leland Burk, right, via Facebook

Out businessman Leland Burk has filed to replace Dallas Councilwoman Ann Margolin in conservative District 13.

Burk, who founded First Independent Bank and is now a real estate and oil and gas investor, has been endorsed by Margolin and her predecessor Mitchell Rasansky.

Burk’s run marks the first time a viable openly gay candidate has sought office outside of the heavily gay districts in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff.

District 13 has been redrawn to include all of Preston Hollow, which is in the center of the district. One of the wealthiest and most conservative areas of Dallas, Burk describes himself as a conservative and says his sexual orientation likely won’t be an issue during the campaign.

Jennifer Staubach Gates is the only other candidate who has filed in the race so far.

Between Burk filing in District 13 and Herschel Weisfeld in District 2, it’s likely Dallas could gain an openly gay council member this year. The last time Dallas had a gay member on the council was in 2007, when Ed Oakley resigned from office to run for mayor.

But with the filing deadline only two days away, who knows, we could see even more gay candidates pursue a bid for office.

—  Dallasvoice

Herschel Weisfeld files in District 2

Herschel.Weisfeld1

Herschel Weisfeld

Gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld made his bid for City Council District 2 official today.

He filed for Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano’s District 2 seat, which she is vacating due to term limits.

Wiesfeld’s been heavily involved in the arts and historical preservation spheres, starting the Sara Ellen and Samuel Weisfeld Center in honor of his parents. He said he’s excited about the race and looks forward to sharing his diverse experience of cultural knowledge and civic engagement in Dallas with voters.

“I’ve had an active presence and I think it’s important for people to know that I would bring a diverse experience and knowledge to the council to all the diverse communities I’m a part of and have worked with,” he said. “At this point, I think it’s a choice between someone who’s worked on a lot of things instead of someone with a single focus like my opponents.”

DISD trustee Adam Medrano, Pauline Medrano’s nephew, filed for the seat earlier this month after resigning from his position in the Park and Recreation department in January. Community activist Ricky Gonzales has also filed.

Vernon Franko, who’s also gay and ran for District 14 in 2011, returned a Dallas Voice candidate questionnaire and filed a treasurer’s report for District 2. He’s expected to file for office. The deadline to file is March 1.

Dallas hasn’t had an openly gay council member since Ed Oakley resigned in 2007 to run for mayor. Two past openly gay council members, Chris Luna and John Loza, have served District 2.

The district covers most of Oak Lawn, as well as parts of downtown and East Dallas, making it one of the gayest council districts.

Pauline Medrano has been a staunch LGBT ally during her time on the council, riding in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and agreeing to support pro-equality two resolutions expected to go before the council this spring in favor of marriage equality and a statewide ban on anti-LGBT job discrimination. Medrano was on the DISD school board when its LGBT nondiscrimination policy passed. And he, too, has ridden on the Dallas Tavern Guild’s float alongside his aunt over the years.

Weisfeld has been active in Dallas’ LGBT community, announcing his candidacy for City Council at last year’s Pride parade. He is a founder of the Oak Lawn Stakeholders Crime Watch group.

Medrano hasn’t returned our calls seeking comment about his run for his aunt’s seat, but he recently launched his campaign and website.

—  Dallasvoice

Scott Griggs is ‘very optimistic’ his pro-LGBT resolutions will pass

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs addresses LULAC #4871—The Dallas Rainbow Council on Thursday at Havana on Cedar Springs Road.

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs says he wants to obtain signatures from eight or more council members — a majority — before he brings forward resolutions in support of marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections.

Only five signatures would be needed to place the resolutions on the agenda for a council vote, but Griggs said because it’s an important issue, “You want to know where you are going into it.”

Dallas Voice reported in December that seven of 15 council members have said they support the concept of the resolutions, which Griggs now hopes will pass sometime this spring.

Griggs said he met with Mayor Mike Rawlings recently to discuss the resolutions, which the mayor has not yet publicly endorsed. Griggs called it a “positive meeting” but would not comment on whether he thinks Rawlings will come around.

“I’m not in a position to speak for him or any of my colleagues on a particular vote,” Griggs said, adding that he’s “very optimistic” the resolutions will pass the council.

—  John Wright