Election day in Houston: Future of City Council at stake

It’s election day in Houston. Four of the sixteen seats on the Houston City council are up for grabs in the run-off.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr, Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting has been paltry with only 15,690 people voting in Harris Couny  (compared with the 33,101 who early voted in the Place 5 general election). Low voter turnout means that every vote counts more than ever.  With a fourth of the City Council in the balance the results of today’s election will affect every LGBT issue in city government for the next two years. It’s crucial that the queer vote turn out.

To find your voting location visit harrisvotes.org. Many voting precincts have been consolidated due to the expected low turnout, so you may not be voting at your regular voting location. Polls close at 7 pm sharp!

—  admin

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

East coast victories for LGBT candidates

While we’re waiting here in Houston for the results of today’s municipal elections the Victory Fund reports of victories for LGBT candidates on the East coast where polls closed an hour earlier than Texas.

State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) was elected to Virginia’s state Senate today, making him the Commonwealth’s first openly gay senator.

“I am honored by the trust the voters have showed in me,”  Ebbin said in a statement. “During the campaign, I listened to the voters’ concerns and will work on behalf of the values we all share: improving our public schools, expanding our transit system and cleaning up Virginia’s environment. I will make sure their voices are heard…”

“Alex Morse, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University, has just been elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a city of nearly 40,000 residents near Springfield…”

“Zach Adamson has won his race for city council in Indianapolis, giving the city its first openly LGBT city council member.”

“An incumbent on the Largo, Fla., City Commission who attacked her openly gay opponent over his sexual orientation has lost her reelection bid to him tonight. Michael Smith defeated Mary Gray Black, who has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans activism on the commission.”

—  admin

Houston Chronicle pulls endorsement of school board member Rodriguez over anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

The Houston Chronicle has rescinded its endorsement of Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez over an anti-gay flier distributed by the Rodriquez campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier attacked Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flier also suggested that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

In the online opinion piece removing their endorsement, the Chronicle editorial board called out the overt homophobia in the Rodriquez flier.

“With his hateful flier, Rodriguez perpetuates the kind of stereotypes that put our kids in danger. And he implies that all right-thinking people agree with him – an insult to his constituents, and precisely the kind of blithe, old-school homophobia that makes school hallways so treacherous.

Members of the school board are supposed to be role models, not bullies. They’re supposed to support civil rights, not fight against them. They’re supposed to fight hate speech, not commit it.”

In response to the Rodriquez flyer the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had encouraged people to contact the editorial board and ask that the Chronicle endorsement be rescinded. “Certainly we’re very pleased that the Chronicle has taken this step,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “They recognize that there is no place for this kind of homophobia on the school board.” Freeman added the next step for the Caucus will be to continue to work to elect Fonseca. “We’re looking for volunteers who can help us by handing out literature at the polls.”

Until this recent controversy very little attention had been paid to the District III HISD race outside of political circles. No scientific polling on the race has been made public, but it’s considered to be a dead heat, with neither candidate having a clear advantage. It remains to be seen how the Rodriquez flier, and the overwhelmingly negative response it has garnered, will affect the outcome of the race.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

What’s ahead for LGBTs in Dallas, Fort Worth under cities’ new mayors

Dallas-mayor elect Mike Rawlings and his family were led in a prayer by the Rev. Steven C. Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church following his victory speech on Saturday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

With municipal election runoffs finally complete in North Texas, LGBT advocates in Dallas and Fort Worth said they are looking forward to working with new mayors and councilmembers in both cities.

Mayoral runoff candidates in both cities openly and diligently courted LGBT voters, and all four candidates participated in forums specifically addressing LGBT issues. Advocates said those efforts indicate that Dallas Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor-elect Betsy Price will likely be willing to work with the LGBT community in the years to come.

Fort Worth

“I was very pleased that both candidates, Betsy Price and Jim Lane, had an open dialog with our community during the runoff campaign,” Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable said. “And I believe we can continue making the kind of progress we have made over the last two years as we go forward with Betsy Price as our mayor.”

Price, former Tarrant County tax assessor/collector, defeated lawyer and former City Council member Jim Lane, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Anable noted that Price and her husband, in another outreach to the LGBT community, attended Celebration Community Church on the Sunday before the June 18 runoff vote. Celebration, pastured by the Rev. Carol West, has a primarily LGBT congregation.

Anable said the city’s Employee Health Benefits Committee is expected to present estimates to the council during negotiations on the FY 2011 budget on costs associated with expanding health care benefits for the city’s transgender employees. Including insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery is the only one of 20 recommendations made by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force — convened in 2009 following the Rainbow Lounge raid — that has not already been implemented.

Although the city now offers domestic partner benefits, Anable said, the employee is required to pay the full cost of those benefits. The Employee Health Benefits Committee is also investigating the cost to the city to pay the same percentage on DP benefits that it already pays on benefits for employees’ opposite-gender spouses and children.

“We have already completed diversity training for 20 percent of the city’s employees, and with Mayor-elect Price having said she is on board with continuing that training, and with set-asides for GLBT-owned businesses, we are looking forward to working with her on these and other issues,” Anable said. “I have to say I am very pleased with the way the [electoral] process worked in Fort Worth.”

Dallas

In Dallas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said they are looking forward to a productive relationship with Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings, even though both organizations endorsed his opponent, David Kunkle, in the runoff.

Rawlings defeated Kunkle, 56 percent to 44 percent.

“We had some differences in policy approaches during the election cycle itself, but I fully expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings and DGLA will have a good working relationship going forward,” Fink said. “I know that DGLA will work to have a good relationship, and I don’t expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings would want any less.

“Elections are a time when we have some heated discussions about who we want to lead our city, but when it’s done, we all come together and work for what’s best for the city,” Fink added.

DGLA endorsed another candidate, Ron Natinsky, in the general election, at the same time issuing a rare warning against Rawlings, saying that Rawlings seemed likely to put business considerations ahead of human rights considerations.

However, when Natinsky failed to make the runoff, DGLA gave its endorsement to Kunkle without re-issuing the warning against Rawlings.
Narvaez said that while members of his organization that their endorsed candidate did not win, “we are looking forward to working with Mike Rawlings…. I think we will see some really good things coming out of the City Council in the next few years.”

Narvaez said that although Stonewall Democrats endorsed Kunkle as an organization, “we had several members who supported Rawlings and worked on his campaign and with him. Mike Rawlings is a great idea man who will work well with all the communities in our city. I don’t think he is the kind of person to hold a grudge. He is too mature for something like that. He is a bigger man than that.”

Narvaez said the fact that Kunkle came out ahead in voting precincts identified as being heavily LGBT means that Rawlings “knows he has some work to do in the LGBT community.” But, he added, he believes the mayor-elect is willing to do that work.

“I think he will be there to support our community, and we will support him as well, because our main mission is to move Dallas forward and make it a better, more inclusive city for everyone.”

Both Narvaez and Fink said they are excited about the LGBT Pride month reception planned for Monday at Dallas City Hall, during which Councilwoman Delia Jasso will present an LGBT Pride Month proclamation from the council.

“We can start working on it now, and maybe next year we can have a whole month of Pride events [involving city officials],” Fink said. “We heard a lot of support for that across the board from council candidates and council members who screened with us during the election.”

Narvaez added, “Hopefully next year, the Pride Month celebration will include a rainbow flag flying over City Hall.”

Narvaez said he hopes to see the City Council move forward in the coming months with plans to form and city human rights commission or board, and that Stonewall Democrats will continue to work with city officials to find ways to reinstate city funding for HIV/AIDS services and programs.

Fink said that while the city already has numerous policies and protections in place for its LGBT employees and citizens, “we want to work to ensure that those policies and protections are optimized.”

—  John Wright

Local Briefs

GAIN holding monthly meeting

GAIN, the GLBT aging interest network that is a program of Resource Center Dallas, will meet Thursday, April 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Resource Center, 2701 Reagan.
Educator, public speaker and writer Deneen Robinson, BSW, will present the program on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the aging LGBT community.
Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

Students seeks study participants

Cindy Chwalik, a clinical psychology student at Walden University who is interning with Youth First Texas, is looking for natal females (those who were born biologically female) who were born in the South and came out as lesbians while living in the South to participate in a research project she is conducting. She is particularly looking for women born in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

Participation involves a 60-to-90-minute interview. Chwalik said there is no compensation for participating, but the information will help those who come out in the future.
Contact her via email at cindychwalik @aol.com.

TDWCC to hear from candidates

Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their next general meeting Monday, April 25, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The program will feature a forum of candidates in the upcoming non-partisan municipal elections. Confirmed thus far from Plano are Judy Drotman, campaign manager for City Council Place 3 candidate Andre Davidson; City Council Place 5 candidate Matt Lagos; City Council Place 5 candidate Jim Duggan, and City Council Place 7 candidate Pat Gallagher.

Candidates in the Frisco elections who have confirmed so far are Mayor Maher Maso, City Council Place 5 candidate Bart Crowder, and Frisco ISD candidated Anne McCausland and Dody Brigadier.

—  John Wright

Local Briefs

CCGLA surveys candidates, sets meet-and-greet events

As municipal elections approach, the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance has sent an online survey to city council, school board and mayoral candidates in Allen, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, and “meet-and-greet” sessions for candidates are planned in Frisco, Plano and McKinney in April.

The organization will also create and distribute a voters’ guide.

The Plano “meet-and-greet” will be held on Friday, April 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at a private residence. For more information, go online to CCGLA.org.

Results of CCGLA’s candidate surveys will be posted on the CCGLA website prior to each event. The events are informal, non-partisan, and all candidates are invited.

Oak Cliff Earth Day to feature vendors, info booths and more

Oak Cliff Earth Day, which has become the largest all-volunteer-run Earth Day since it started five years ago, will be held on Sunday, April 17, from noon to 5 p.m. at Lake Cliff Park, located at the intersection of Colorado Street and Zang Boulevard in Oak Cliff.

There is no charge to attend the event, which will include art, food, plants and other environmentally-friendly products available for purchase.

There will also be educational booths on topics such as how to save energy and clean up the environment, along with locally-grown honey, animals to adopt and native plants for gardens.

Parking at the park is limited, however, free parking is available at Methodist Hospital, in Lot 10 only, located at 1400 S. Beckley Ave. across from the hospital entrance on Beckley Ave. Methodist Hospital is providing a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the event.

Participants are also encouraged to take DART to the event or walk or ride a bicycle. There are a number of bike racks, funded by Oak Cliff Earth Day, at the park.

Mayoral candidates to speak Sunday on animal issues in Dallas

Dallas’ mayoral candidates will participate in a forum on animal issues in the city of Dallas on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at the Central Dallas Library, 1515 Young St., in downtown Dallas. The Metroplex Animal Coalition is sponsoring the forum, with is free and open to the public. Journalist Larry Powell with Urban Animal magazine will moderate.

The mayoral candidates are former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, Councilman Ron Natinsky, real estate consultant Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings, former Pizza Hut CEO and Dallas homeless czar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright