Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

—  admin

Stonewall Democrats Holiday Party 2011

Photos by John Wright/Dallas Voice


—  John Wright

Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Anti-gay advocacy group sends out false ballots to Democrats

Winconsin Family Action, an anti-gay group, has been sending out intentionally misleading ballots containing false instructions for voting in the state’s upcoming recall elections. The return address on the fliers say to mail the ballot back “before Aug. 11,” when the elections end on Aug. 9.  WFA allegedly sent out the information on behalf of Americans for Prosperity.

WFA director Julaine Appling admitted to Wisconsin resident Barbara With that WFA was involved with the mailings to a concerned Wisc. citizen, With videotaped the conversation and posted it on Facebook. However, after learning that the ballots constituted mail fraud, Appling was quick to deny knowledge that the AFP was using her address.

According to the Wisconsin Gazette, WFA is a small group whose mission is to fight gay rights. The group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Republicans in the Aug. 9 elections. Observers have questioned where WFA was able to obtain such large-scale, unprecedented funding. In her recorded conversation, Appling appears to say that her financial backing has come from billionaire David Koch’s group.

Is this a true case of misprinting, or is the conservative advocacy group trying to throw the election by weeding out Democratic voters?

According to Charles Schultz, a Democratic senior citizen from Wisconsin, “It seems to me like it was an effort by this organization to delay the process or make the process more complicated.”

Schultz officially filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, pointing out the inaccuracies of the ballots.

“It is interesting to me that I would receive it from the Republican organization, because I’m a Democrat,” Shultz said.

To avoid this kind of confusion in the future, Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election officer, said, “If you need or want to vote absentee, contact your municipal clerk directly and request a ballot.”

—  admin

Dallas Dems throwing an Obama birthday party

President Obama

Today is President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday, and local Democrats are going to party.

The Dallas County Democratic Party is holding a celebration honoring the president’s big 5-0 tonight in the Atrium of the Infomart, 1950 N. Stemmons Freeway. The event begins with a reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by the party beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information, call 214-821-8331.

—  admin

Griggs knocks off Neumann in District 3

With 52 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs leads incumbent Dave Neumann in the District 3 Dallas City Council race.

Griggs, endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, appears well on his way to pulling off a rare upset of an incumbent.

With only four precincts left to be counted, Griggs has 57 percent of the vote to Neumann’s 43 percent. This one’s over.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Rawlings continues to lead Dallas mayor’s race; Kunkle pulling away from Natinsky

With 202 of 555 precincts reporting, former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings continues to lead in the race for Dallas mayor. And it’s looking more and more like Rawlings will face former Police Chief David Kunkle in a runoff.

Rawlings has 43 percent of the vote, Kunkle has 30 percent, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky has 25 percent. Edward Okpa has 2 percent. Kunkle now leads Natinsky for second place by almost 2,000 votes, but there’s still a ways to go. Remember, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June runoff assuming Rawlings doesn’t eclipse 50 percent.

In other Dallas races, with 20 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs has expanded his lead over incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3. Griggs now has 59 percent to Neumann’s 41 percent, and appears well on his way to a rare upset of an incumbent. Griggs is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

In District 14, with 11 of 59 precincts reporting, incumbent Angela Hunt maintains a hefty lead over gay candidate James Nowlin. Hunt has 63 percent to Nowlin’s 20 percent.

—  John Wright

Contact all five Dallas County commissioners and ask them to add transgender protections

County Judge Clay Jenkins says he was not aware that sexual orientation didn’t include transgender people.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed today that he’s requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about adding transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

Jenkins’ request for information from county attorneys follows the Commissioners Court’s vote last week to add sexual orientation, but not gender identity, to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees.

Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two newly elected Democrats who spearheaded the proposal to add sexual orientation to the policy, said they thought sexual orientation covered transgender employees, which experts say it does not.

Since then, Jenkins said he’s received about a dozen e-mails from people in the LGBT community — which he called a lot — asking him to revisit the issue.

“The reason that it’s not in there is not because we don’t support it,” Jenkins said of transgender protections. “I don’t want people to misinterpret that I wasn’t for one type of discrimination but somehow was for another type of discrimination. Nothing could be further from the truth than that.”

Jenkins said he’s asked the civil division of the DA’s office to assess the impact on county code of adding gender identity to the policy.

“It’s going to depend on getting three votes … and the first step is to look at what impact it would have,” Jenkins told Instant Tea. “I care about making sure that we have a welcome and open workplace for all, and discrimination against no one. I’m against any type of discrimination in the workplace. I’m for treating all people equally.”

Rafael McDonnell, of Resource Center Dallas, spoke during public comments of the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting Tuesday. McDonnell said he thanked commissioners for adding sexual orientation to the policy — which they did on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Maurine Dickey absent — and asked them to go back and add gender identity.

McDonnell said Commissioners Court rules prohibit him from speaking again during public comments for a month, so he encouraged others in the community to sign up to speak in coming weeks. To sign up, call the clerk’s office at 214-653-7886. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St. in Dallas.

McDonnell and others also encouraged people in the LGBT community to contact all five commissioners to thank them for adding sexual orientation and ask them to add gender identity. Here is their contact info, with confirmed email addresses:

County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949

Dist. 1 Maurine Dickey – 214-653-7552

Dist. 2 Mike Cantrell – 214-653-6100

Dist. 3 John Wiley Price – 214-653-6671

Dist. 4 Dr. Elba Garcia – 214-653-6670

—  John Wright

Poll: U.S. divided in thirds on gay marriage

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the nation is divided roughly into thirds, according to a new poll from Daily Kos.

Thirty-four percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, 31 percent favor civil unions and 31 percent are opposed to any legal recognition for gay couples, the poll showed.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, and Daily Kos says it will be asking the question every four weeks.

Not surprisingly, younger people and Democrats were more likely to support marriage equality, while Republicans, Teabaggers and older people were more likely to oppose it:

But there are some surprises in this poll, if one believed the claims that African Americans and Latinos are less tolerant than whites. In fact, this poll suggests the exact opposite. Of course, the sample sizes for both those demographics is small, so these numbers could just be a function of a large margin of error. It’ll be interesting to track them over time to see if they hold up as the number of Latino and African American respondents add up over time.

—  John Wright