FFW, Fort Worth HRC win IAOHRA President’s Award

Anable, Tucker say honor is recognition of Fort Worth’s ongoing efforts to improve city’s position, policies on human rights issues

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor

AUSTIN — The International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies this week presented its President’s Award jointly to Fairness Fort Worth and the city of Fort Worth’s Human Relations Commission.

The award presentation occurred during the IAOHRA’s annual conference held the first part of this week in Austin.

“It was totally unexpected, at least from our standpoint,” said Tom Anable, Fairness Fort Worth president. “I had no idea that this was happening.

“They lured me down here [to Austin] by asking me to speak as part of a panel on Tuesday. When the panel was done and I was getting ready to leave, they asked me to stay for the dinner that night” when the award was presented.

Anable said that he believes the award will help the city of Fort Worth in terms of economic development and in being recognized as a city that cares about its citizens.
He added that he hopes it will encourage “other agencies in stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Anable also said he “couldn’t be more pleased” that the IAOHRA gave the award to the FFW and the city Human Relations Commission jointly.

“It shows that they recognize how well we work together to solve our problems in Fort Worth,” he said. “And this is a huge coup for the city. They have done a great job in addressing the problems.”

Human Relations Commission Chair Estrus Tucker said his agency is “deeply honored” to have received the IAOHRA President’s Award.

“This award is a testament to the invaluable role of organizational allies and friendships beyond identity politics in advancing civil and human rights,” Tucker said.

“Together, our efforts, in collaboration with others, demonstrate the importance of championing our common human well being, despite the socio-political identity labels that too often divide and confuse us.”

Anable and Tucker said FFW and the Human Relations Commission received the award in recognition of their efforts in the wake of the June, 2009 raid on the gay bar Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth Police officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Within a week of the raid, Fairness Fort Worth was formed, initially to help organize efforts by FWPD and TABC investigators to interview witnesses to the raid.

By the beginning of 2010, FFW had incorporated and has gone on to become an umbrella organization of sorts that helps coordinate LGBT rights efforts and events among other organizations and governmental agencies.

The Human Relations Commission took an early leadership role in prompting FWPD and TABC to investigate the actions of those officers and agents involved in the role, and in prompting the city government to respond quickly and appropriately.

The City Council quickly established a Diversity Task Force — which included several members of Fairness Fort Worth and the Human Relations Commission — to examine areas in which the city could improve its relationship with the Fort Worth LGBT community. The council eventually approved all of the task force’s recommendations except one involving expanding health benefits for transgender employees.

That one item has been tabled pending ongoing investigation into possible costs. But the council did quickly approve changes to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression, and the council approved domestic partner benefits.

The council also agreed to expanding diversity training to cover more LGBT issues, and to have every city employee take the training.

“By Sept. 15 this year, we should be at the 50 percent mark in terms of the number of city employees who have been through the diversity training,” Anable said this week. “I think that shows the city’s continuing commitment to this issue.”

Tucker agreed, saying, “Our continued efforts and this award, in part, transform the pain and injustices of the Rainbow Lounge incident.”

Tucker, chair of the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission for about 10 years, has also been an IOHRA member for about 10 years. He was elected to the board last year to serve the remainder of the unexpired term of Vanessa Ruiz Bolling, former executive director of Fort Worth’s Community Relations Department.

This week, Tucker was re-elected to a full term on the board.

IAOHRA is a private, non-profit corporation founded in 1949 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. With a membership of about 160 human rights agencies in the U.S. and Canada, the organization’sprimary focus is to promote civil and human rights around the world.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Council incumbents discuss election issues

Angela Hunt, from left, Delia Jasso and Pauline Medrano

Medrano, Hunt face challengers; Jasso unopposed but still plans ‘get out the vote’ effort in April

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Three incumbents — Pauline Medrano, Angela Hunt and Delia Jasso — running for re-election have forged close ties with the LGBT community. All are running for reelection, they said, because they love their jobs and each highlighted particular community issues and economic development in their districts.

The one thing all three mentioned was making Dallas more bike-friendly. Two of them — Jasso and Medrano — returned from an urban biking conference in Seville, Spain last week with ideas on how to accomplish their goal.


Pauline Medrano

“Crime reduction, economic development and quality of life issues” are what Medrano said she has been focused on for the past six years on the council.

Running for her fourth term as District 2 councilwoman, she said, “I take my job very seriously. I put in an eight-hour day, and I love it.”

Although she said that people in her district know her well, she is taking nothing for granted as she faces an opponent in her bid for re-election. She said she talks to people around the district daily about what she’s done and what she still plans to do.

Neighborhood watch groups have been a key to crime reduction in the district, Medrano said. She touts the 10-70-20 plans that the police department helps implement — 10 percent of a neighborhood are non-tolerant and actively report crimes, 70 percent are tolerant and uninvolved, while 20 percent make up the criminal element.

By involving more of that 70 percent, Medrano said, one neighborhood reduced crime by more than 30 percent.

Medrano said she always has her eye on the neighborhood. She said she’s out five nights a week and constantly reports street lights that are out.

“If I’m in someone else’s district, I pass on the information,” she said.

Medrano is excited about development coming to her area, including two new Krogers — one at the current Elliot’s Hardware site and another at the former Loew’s Theater site. Both neighborhoods lack convenient grocery shopping and residents asked for her help in bringing the stores to the area.

Medrano noted that Elliot’s is staying in the area and is relocating to a space across from Inwood Station that was formerly a Carnival supermarket.

The CityPlace development will also include new housing units and an LA Fitness.

Medrano called the Green Line expansion that cuts through her district the best economic engine in the area.

She said that with construction of the new Parkland Hospital, the challenge has been to keep traffic in the area moving, but once the rail line is complete, employees can walk over to the new Kroger, shop and then hop on the Green Line to get home.

Medrano said she would like to integrate an idea she got in Spain to her district’s new DART service. She called them docking stations: Run a card through the docking station to get a bicycle. Ride to DART and return it to the docking station there before boarding a train. Take the train to another station and pick up another bike.

Medrano said she talked to someone who runs the bike share program in Seville who told her it was a way of life there.

Medrano called her job a seven-day-a-week job and her work on the council a privilege and an honor.

Angela Hunt

The incumbent that attracted the most opponents in her race for re-election is Hunt, with five. One of them, Chad Lassiter, will appear on the ballot but has dropped his campaign.

Hunt’s delay in deciding whether to run for mayor or for re-election to her current seat may have been a factor in attracting those opponents. In her last two races, she was unopposed.
Hunt said she was surprised she hasn’t had opponents in the past and thought every race should have a choice of candidates, saying a choice of candidates is healthy.

Hunt said she decided to run for the council rather than mayor because, “I don’t think this council can best be run by someone from the council.”

Hunt has her eye on citywide issues like the 2012 bond package, the budget and redistricting. But she has spent a lot of her time on neighborhood issues.

“We need to be focused on more bike-friendly streets and make neighborhoods more walkable,” she said. She wants to add streetcars to downtown. She said the Katy Trail, which runs through her district, has become more than a linear park and is now used as a transportation device. She said she’d like to see the 2011 bike plan fulfilled.

On one issue, Hunt remains a holdout against the rest of the council:

“I’m still against pouring millions of tons of concrete into our floodway,” she said, adding that she wants to see “the parks the voters were promised,” which she said would be an economic generator.

Hunt called improvements to the Trinity River levee system a public safety issue.

Hunt said she has been working with police, business owners and neighborhood groups to solve problems on Lower Greenville Avenue. She said that the city would invest in streetscape improvements this summer, including planting trees and making the strip more walkable.

New zoning will require businesses to obtain city permits to remain open after midnight to lower the concentration of bars.

Hunt said she worked with neighborhood groups and the landlord to change zoning for a property on Oak Lawn Avenue. Neighborhood groups didn’t want another convenience store or liquor store on the street, and the landlord needed additional options for the space. Rezoning will allow the owner to lease the storefront as an office, a restaurant or a variety of other new possibilities.

On the other side of her district, Hunt said that while the city is investing a half-billion dollars to modernize Love Field, she’s working to address noise issues with neighborhood groups when the Wright Amendment goes away in three years.

Delia Jasso

After 20 years of trying, Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts neighborhood finally has taken off during the two years Jasso has been in office.

“I’ve liked being able to affect Bishop Arts,” Jasso said.

And, she said, she hopes to bring that success to other parts of her North Oak Cliff district.

Jasso said she is working with the city to come up with solutions to improve tricky intersections on Westmoreland Avenue and hopes to bring some of the sparkle back to Jefferson Boulevard.

But while Jasso wants to spread some of the Bishop Arts success, she is keeping a close eye on the successful area.

“I don’t want Bishop Arts to go the way of the West End,” she said.

One difference, Jasso said, is that West End developers worked hard to keep out LGBT-owned businesses while those businesses are an important ingredient in the Oak Cliff success.

Jasso said that during her first term she learned a lot and spent quite a bit of time helping small businesses navigate the city’s complicated permit and inspection process.

“Lucia is a perfect example,” she said.

Without her intervention, that new restaurant, which has already received a five-star rating, would have had a more difficult time opening.

Jasso said she would like to see some of that process streamlined.

Also recently back from the bike conference in Seville, Jasso said, “It’s amazing how easy it is to put in bike lanes. We make it hard on ourselves.”

She said studies show that women are less likely to ride bikes as transportation without buffer zones protecting them from vehicular traffic.

Jasso has become a biking enthusiast herself. She’ll be leading Bike Friendly Oak Cliff on a ride to City Hall on May 22 in honor of International Bike Day, and said she would ride in this year’s Lone Star Ride in September. Among the Lone Star Ride beneficiaries is AIDS Services of Dallas, which is in her district.

In her first two years, Jasso spearheaded an anti-graffiti campaign funded by a $100,000 donation from Mark Cuban. She initiated the GLBT Task Force to update policies and procedures and begin diversity training for Dallas Fire and Rescue. Working with a wide cross-section of animal advocate groups, Jasso also started Dallas Loves Animals.

“We need pet adoptions and [to be taught] how to treat our pets,” she said.

Although she wasn’t on the council when ExxonMobil paid the city $30 million for drilling rights inside the city limits, Jasso said she’s very concerned about the process of  frakking and what goes into the air and water.

Although she faces no opposition in the May election, Jasso said she’s running a “get out the vote campaign” in April to keep people used to voting for city council members every two years.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

What does Chris Heinbaugh think about Mayor Leppert’s decision to endorse Rick Perry?

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert on Wednesday endorsed Republican Gov. Rick Perry for re-election.

The Dallas Morning News described it as a “rare display of public partisanship for Leppert,” and said it marked the first time he’s endorsed a candidate for major office. The DMN also noted that Leppert may run for U.S. Senate in 2012, when Perry presumably might return the favor.

Leppert has been generally supportive of the LGBT community and has an openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh. However, Leppert is also a member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, which is led by anti-gay Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress.

Perry, meanwhile, is virulently anti-gay and spearheaded Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Leppert says his decision to endorse Perry was based on their shared views about economic development and job creation.

Instant Tea asked Heinbaugh on Thursday what he thinks about the endorsement.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” Heinbaugh said. “It’s his business what he wants to do.”

—  John Wright