TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
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.
“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.”
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.”