Allies on Council deserve our support

Openly LGBT candidates are great, but the community shouldn’t turn its back on the allies who have been there for us all along

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

I was surprised to learn this year that an openly gay candidate had decided to challenge Angela Hunt for the District 14 City Council seat in the Dallas municipal election on May 14.

The benefits of openly gay people serving in elected office are enormous to the LGBT community, but that goal should never cause us to abandon straight political allies who have served us well. And for her three terms on the City Council, Hunt has been a strong advocate for the LGBT community.

Like her predecessor, former Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lil, Hunt has been as much of a part of our community and its events as the rest of us.

With no openly gay people having served on the City Council since Ed Oakley left office to make his unsuccessful run for the mayor’s job, we would have been lost without strong advocates such as Hunt and District 2 incumbent Pauline Medrano.

I’m sure Hunt’s openly gay challenger, James Nowlin, is an admirable candidate. Otherwise, he would not have received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats, an action that Hunt admitted “disappointed” her. An “intense” debate reportedly preceded the decision to endorse Nowlin over Hunt.

Later, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance threw its support behind Hunt and mayoral candidate Ron Natinsky, another strong LGBT advocate on the City Council, marking a striking split in the LGBT voting community. Stonewall Democrats endorsed former Dallas Chief of Police David Kunkle.

The DGLA’s decision to back Hunt makes more sense to me because of the importance of remaining loyal to good political friends and also for its practicality. Hunt probably can’t be beat in District 14 by any challenger.

If an openly gay challenger could have beat Hunt it would have happened when she ran for the seat the first time six years ago, when lesbian powerhouse Candy Marcum, through her reputation as a prominent psychologist and social stalwart, sought the office.

Marcum had enormous support in the community, but it could not propel her to victory.

It’s more of a toss-up when it comes to whether the community should vote for Kunkle or Natinsky. They both have been good friends to the LGBT community.

In the District 7 council seat race, lesbian Casie Pierce is challenging incumbent Carolyn Davis, who to the best of my knowledge has not been an LGBT advocate.

It’s true that Davis has a larger black constituency in her district to occupy her time, but that never stopped her predecessor, Leo Chaney, from giving us much of his time and consideration.

There are large numbers of LGBT people and their allies living in District 7 in the Parkdale and Pleasant Grove areas who would welcome a resident of their communities sitting on the council.

In addition to being a member of our community, Pierce has strong credentials and enjoys respect from many quarters. She has been involved for years in community work in neighborhood clean-up, public park improvements, economic development and work with at-risk teens.

Our best shot at getting an openly gay candidate on the City Council this year is Pierce, so I hope that the whole community will support her in every way possible so we can achieve that goal again.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Candidate forums set for Saturday, Monday

Damien Duckett

As we noted in today’s cover story, candidates for Dallas mayor and City Council will attend a forum Saturday hosted by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s Political Action Committee. The forum begins at 2 p.m. at Kiest Park Recreation Center, 3080 S. Hampton Road, and it will follow an open question-and-answer format.

The three major mayoral candidates — David Kunkle, Mike Rawlings and Ron Natinsky — all plan to attend the DGLA forum. Damien Duckett, chairman of the DGLA PAC, said other City Council candidates who are scheduled to attend include Casie Pierce, Pauline Medrano, Billy MacLeod, Luis Sepulveda, James Nowlin, Cynthia Durbin, Scott Griggs, Dave Neumann, Angela Hunt, Jerry Allen and Sheffie Kadane.

• The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League will host a political forum Monday evening, and District 3 City Council candidates Scott Griggs and Dave Neumann both reportedly plan to attend. OOCCL President Michael Amonett said each will have 40 minutes for questions and answers with the voters and the League.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Avalon at Kessler Park, 2522 Fort Worth Ave. (Avalon is next to the Fort Worth Avenue Home Depot.)

—  David Taffet

Pierce HQ cleaned up, ready for volunteers

Casie Pierce

Casie Pierce says her campaign headquarters at 3312 N. Buckner Blvd. #205 is cleaned up and open for business after a break-in over the weekend.

Pierce is running for the District 7 seat on the Dallas City Council, against incumbent Carolyn Davis.

In addition to the broken glass, a laptop that belonged to her campaign manager was stolen. She said that police looked for the computer in pawn shops but it hasn’t turned up.

On Saturday, Pierce will hold an open house for volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She said she will also attend a candidate forum that day at 2 p.m. sponsored by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

The forum will be at Kiest Park Recreation Center. Kiest Park is at the corner of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road. The building is at the southern end of Kiest Park Circle within the park. There is a parking lot in front of the building.

Most of the candidates who screened for the DGLA endorsement are expected to attend the forum, which is open to the public. DGLA will vote on endorsements after the forum and announce them early next week.

—  David Taffet

Endorsement vs. endorsement

Patti Fink, left, and Damien Duckett

Stonewall Democrats backs Kunkle for mayor, Nowlin for District 14; nonpartisan DGLA prepares for candidate screenings

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee began its candidate screening process this week for the May 8 Dallas municipal elections.

Last weekend, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas interviewed candidates and has released its endorsements.

Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said his group looks for candidates who are inclusive of the community.

“But we are partisan,” Narvaez said. “We’re looking for good Democrats.”

That’s the big difference between Stonewall and DGLA.

DGLA President Patti Fink said, “We’re non-partisan and have been since the 1970s.”

In the mayor’s race, Stonewall interviewed only three of the candidates. Ron Natinsky, the fourth, spoke at Stonewall’s monthly membership meeting the previous week and honestly answered a question that he had voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.

Although he had originally asked for the group’s endorsement, he withdrew his request when Stonewall members questioned his eligibility based on their bylaws that prevent the group from endorsing Republicans.

That won’t be a sticking point for DGLA.

“DGLA endorsed him in the past,” Fink said, “And we’re looking forward to speaking to him again this year.”

Stonewall gave its nod to former police chief David Kunkle. Mike Rawlings also received considerable support, and Edward Opka screened with the group as well.

What gave Kunkle the edge, Narvaez said, was that all of Rawlings’ answers revolved around business.

“Business is a very important part of our city,” Narvaez said, “But you’ve got to think about the parks, the libraries.”

He said Kunkle spoke movingly about inclusiveness and talked about working with a transgender officer who transitioned on the job.

“He reinstated the liaison and made the position full-time,” Narvaez said, referring to the LGBT police liaison position. “His experiences were heartfelt.”

In the District 14 race, the vote was close, but in the end, the endorsement went to openly gay candidate James Nowlin over incumbent Angela Hunt.

“It was a coin flip,” Narvaez said. “That was a tough one.”

Although the vote was split, Stonewall does not do dual endorsements. He said Stonewall makes a single recommendation and then works to get that candidate elected.

“We’ll block walk, fund raise, put out yard signs, advertise, distribute push cards,” he said.

DGLA has made dual endorsements in the past when the committee’s vote was close and two candidates seemed equally suitable.

Stonewall attracted 73 people to their candidate forum. All were able to ask the candidates questions. Of those, 57 were current members who were allowed to vote on the endorsements.

Damien Duckett, DGLA’s political action committee chair, heads that group’s endorsement process. He said DGLA has a three-step procedure.

This week, they began contacting candidates by phone and sending questionnaires.

When Natinsky withdrew his name from the Stonewall endorsement process, he also released his questionnaire. Stonewall’s policy is to shred questionnaires after the endorsements are announced.

But DGLA keeps its questionnaires on file.

When President George Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005, DGLA released her written answers to a 1989 Dallas City Council election endorsement questionnaire, a document that contradicted some of Miers’ statements after she was nominated.

But, Duckett said, the questionnaires are normally not released.

Duckett said that after candidates return the requested information, the organization schedules a confidential interview with the screening committee. Those will be held over several days during the next two weeks.

DLGA’s Don Baker Educational Fund, the non-profit branch that is separate from the DGLA PAC, will hold an open candidate forum on April 9. Everyone running for city office is invited to participate and the public is invited to interact with the candidates.

The committee will then vote and Duckett said he expects to release the group’s endorsements the following Monday or Tuesday.

“We’re the only nonpartisan LGBT endorsements in Dallas,” Duckett said.

“We’ve endorsed a number of Republicans over the years,” Fink said.

Among them is Natinsky, who was endorsed by DGLA for his current council seat.

“DGLA isn’t interested in your voting history,” Duckett said. “Simply your views on LGBT issues.”

He said he was surprised at some of the candidates who indicated that they wanted DGLA’s endorsement.

District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis asked for a questionnaire. Although she never sought the group’s endorsement before, this time Davis has an opponent — Casie Pierce, who is openly lesbian and received Stonewall’s endorsement.

Duckett said the committee would concentrate on how candidates support five issues that DGLA expects to be action items over the next two-year council term.

DGLA and Stonewall endorsements are usually the same. In some council races, DGLA has endorsed Republicans in races that Stonewall offered no endorsement.

But in this race there may be different endorsements in major races including District 14 and mayor.

Both groups said they would work for their endorsed candidates. Neither thought that presented a conflict in the community.

Fink said she thought it was a sign of maturity that a variety of candidates held appeal within the LGBT community.

Narvaez said that in the District 14 race, the margin between Nowlin and Hunt was razor thin.

He acknowledged that some Stonewall members are working with Hunt’s campaign and said that although Stonewall would work for Nowlin, members were free to work for any candidate they chose.

“There were hurt feeling on both sides in that one,” Narvaez said. “It hurt to make that phone call [to Hunt]. You had to pick between two friends.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Local leaders turn focus on bullying

Rally set Friday in Dallas to promote legislation, promote awareness of bullying in schools, teen suicide

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

RALLYING FOR SAFE SCHOOLS  |  Rep. Roberto Alonzo, a Dallas Democrat, right, speaks to a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Higher Education during the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature. Alonzo is among those who will speak at a rally Friday to promote awareness of the problems of bullying in schools and teen suicide.
RALLYING FOR SAFE SCHOOLS | Rep. Roberto Alonzo, a Dallas Democrat, right, speaks to a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Higher Education during the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature. Alonzo is among those who will speak at a rally Friday to promote awareness of the problems of bullying in schools and teen suicide.

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance will hold a rally in Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff on Friday, Oct. 15 to draw attention to the problem of gay teen suicide and to opportunities in the next session of the legislature to end school bullying.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo is among the speakers. In the last session he coauthored a safe schools bill with Rep. Mark Strama of Austin. The legislation did not pass.

Larry Duncan, president of Dallas County Schools, is also scheduled to appear. Dallas County Schools is providing shuttle bus service from 8th & Corinth Station on the Red and Blue lines to Lake Cliff Park. The park is located at E. Colorado and Zang boulevards.

“The rally is important because we need a safe schools law that empowers teachers, administrators and staff to stop bullying when they see it,” said DGLA President Patti Fink. “No kid can focus on algebra when they’re fearing for their safety. Kids are losing their lives over this issue. It’s got to stop.”

Most states, including Texas, do have some form of anti-bullying laws.

Only five states — Hawaii, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana — remain without any student protection.

In 2005, the Texas legislature passed Chapter 37 of the Education code that requires school districts to adopt student codes of conduct that proscribe bullying and harassment.

The law does not specify groups that are often the targets and doesn’t enumerate what must happen when school staff observes bullying behavior.

Laws that are not specific have proven to be ineffective in preventing bullying of LGBT students, according to advocates.

The current Dallas Independent School District regulations list groups protected from harassment. Among those is the unclear “gender orientation,” sort of a combination and confusion of gender identity and sexual orientation, which are not listed.

Four representatives from the LGBT community attended a DISD board of trustees meeting on Thursday, Oct. 14. The board is considering a new anti-bullying policy. The proposed policy, as currently written, doesn’t specifically protect LGBT students.

Gregory Pynes, vice chair of the board for Resource Center Dallas, spoke during public comments and commended the trustees for wanting to strengthen their anti-bullying policy.

But he urged them to amend the proposed policy by listing protected categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pynes invited trustees to work with Resource Center on the policy, which is expected to come up for a final vote later this month.

Others from the LGBT community who attended the DISD meeting were Chastity Kirven of Get Equal Now, David Plunkett of Hope for Peace and Justice and Pamela Curry of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Earlier this year, Fort Worth ISD ran a district-wide poster campaign called “It’s Not Okay” to bully one’s fellow students or to allow others to be victimized. The district sponsored parent workshops throughout the district to combat bullying.

Sexual orientation is included in the Fort Worth school district’s bullying policy under its code of conduct. Gender identity is not.

Other large school districts in the area —  including Plano, Richardson and Arlington ISDs — do not specify groups that are covered by anti-bullying policies.

One of Tarrant County’s largest school districts, Birdville ISD, does not list covered groups. Earlier this year, Haltom City parents called police about bullying incidents at a BISD school and brought their complaints about bullying including assaults to CBS 11.

At this week’s city council meeting, Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns gave an emotional speech about having been bullied in school and considering suicide. He showed pictures of six teens who recently committed suicide after having been bullied and told their stories.

“This bullying and harassment in our schools must stop,” he said.

His 10-minute speech received a standing ovation from other council members and from citizens attending the meeting.

Equality Texas Deputy Director Chuck Smith said that stronger safe schools legislation will be the top priority of the upcoming legislative session. He said that electing legislators who will support an anti-bullying law is important. Several bills will be introduced in the House.

The law that Smith was most excited about is one being crafted by Rep. Mark Strama of Austin. Strama has introduced safe schools legislation each session since he was elected in 2004. Local representatives Alonzo and Raphael Anchia of Dallas, Paula Pierson of

Arlington and Lon Burnham of Fort Worth co-authored the bill in the last session.

Burnham’s legislative director in Austin reaffirmed Burnham’s commitment to the issue.

“He certainly supports and is concerned with the issue,” he said.

Smith said next session’s proposed law is different from previous versions. The exact language of the new bill is still being written.

However, Strama’s proposed legislation will specify what does and does not constitute bullying and what school personnel must do when they see bullying occur or when it is reported.

In defining the problem, schoolyard fights, for example, are not considered bullying.

Bullying refers to verbal or physical acts committed by a student to harass, intimidate or cause harm to another student. The more recent problem of cyber-bullying includes threats, harassment and intimidation on line as well as in texting or through other electronic means.

Locally, support for anti-bullying legislation appears strong although some representatives would not commit to supporting a particular bill until they saw final wording. Specifying gay, lesbian or transgender students has been the reason some withhold support of anti-bullying legislation in the past.

Rep. Eric Johnson represents part of Oak Lawn and campaigned on the issue of safe schools. His wife serves on the board of Resource Center Dallas.

“We must provide all Texas schoolchildren with an atmosphere in which they feel, and in fact are, safe while learning,” said Johnson.

“Our very future depends on it. I will support comprehensive legislation in the Texas House to address the issue of bullying directly so that all of our children have the opportunity to make the most of their education and their lives.”

Calls to other area legislative offices showed general consensus that schools need to be made safer for students.

Republican Rep. Linda Harper-Brown’s office said, “Of course. She’s against any bullying in schools.”

Harper-Brown’s district is in Irving. Her opponent is in the upcoming election is Loretta Haldenwang. Her campaign manager, Kirk McPike, also indicated support.

Multiple calls to other area Representatives’ local, Austin and campaign offices were not returned. Many of those legislators did support the Strama bill in the current session.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

RCD urging people to call DART

Resource Center Dallas is urging people to contact DART board members in response to the transit agency’s alleged discrimination against a transgender employee. Representatives from RCD and other groups this week asked the DART board to add gender identity and expression to the agency’s nondiscrimination policies. Here’s RCD’s Facebook message:

If you live in the DART service area, Resource Center Dallas urges you to contact your representatives on the DART board and urge them to take action. The next board meeting is Tuesday, March 9. DART’s Customer Response Center is 214-749-3333. Please pass this along.

Also, a quick clarification to my story in today’s Voice: LGBT advocates who attended this week’s DART board meeting were Pamela Curry, a friend of the employee’s; Patti Fink of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance; Erin Moore of Stonewall Democrats; Rafael McDonnell of RCD; Latisha McDaniel of Equality March Texas; and Blake Wilkinson and Corbin Bates of Queer LiberAction.

—  John Wright

What qualities would you like to see in Dallas' next police chief?

Chief David Kunkle
Outgoing Chief David Kunkle

The city of Dallas will host the first of three public forums tonight to receive input on the selection of  a new police chief. David Kunkle, who’s been chief for the last 5 1/2 years, announced his resignation in November. In addition to the community forums, the city is conducting on online survey. The survey, which can be found here, asks respondents to rank the three most important qualities they’d like to see in a new chief, and one of the eight options is “Commitment to Diversity.”

Damien Duckett, chairman of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee, said Kunkle has been an “amazing” chief, and he expressed confidence that City Manager Mary Suhm will find a good replacement.

“I think that the person in charge of that selection is very capable of making a sound decision in regard to somebody who would be fair and open to our community’s issues,” Duckett said.

Those issues include things like DGLA’s diversity training for new recruits, the department’s LGBT community liaison officer position, and crime in the Oak Lawn area. Duckett, a leader of Dallas’ newly formed citizens task force on LGBT issues, indicated that the group is working on a proposal to expand the liaison officer position. DPD’s LGBT liaison officer, Laura Martin, is currently assigned to a full-time bicycle patrol at White Rock Lake.

Tonight’s forum is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the L1FN Auditorium at City Hall.

—  John Wright