Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

—  admin

Transgender woman running for Houston council

Jenifer Rene Pool hopes to follow in the steps of another former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president, Mayor Annise Parker

Jenifer Pool
Jenifer Pool

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Jenifer Rene Pool is running for an at-large position on the Houston city council. Sue Lovell, who reached her term limit, is vacating the seat. Before Lovell joined the council, Mayor Annise Parker also served on the council at large.

Unlike her two predecessors who are lesbian, Pool is transgender.

Pool explained that in Houston, the at-large seat, rather than the single member district that includes Montrose, is the LGBT seat. She said that Houston’s LGBT community has always been even more spread out than that in Dallas. To put together the LGBT vote, a candidate needs to run citywide, she said.

Pool said her goal has always been to run for public office. But when she began to transition in the 1990s, she set her political ambitions aside.

Then Parker was elected to the City Council,  and Pool took notice. When Parker  was elected mayor in 2009, Pool decided the atmosphere in Houston was right.

Pool works in the construction industry. When she began transitioning in the ’90s, she was fired from her job. “I went from being one of the top project managers in the city to unemployable,” she said.

Since then, she has been self-employed as a consultant in construction management and permitting. She has served as a member of the Buildings and Standards and the Police Advisory commissions and was appointed by Parker to a special blue ribbon task force on buildings and standards. And like Lovell and Parker, Pool has been president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. She served three terms in that position.

She’s worked with other LGBT community organizations including the Houston Transgender Unity Committee and PRIDE Houston and several AIDS groups. But she’s also volunteered with groups such as the Houston Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Walk for the Cure.

In addition, for the past six years Pool has co-hosted Queer Voices, a two-hour weekly LGBT talk show on KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica station.

She said there’s no hiding who she is. She and her co-hosts talk about their lives on the air each week.

Because of FCC rules, she will be leaving the show temporarily during the campaign. Her last show is on Labor Day, since she officially will be on the ballot later that week. After the election, she can return to the air, whether she wins or loses.

Pool said she is fashioning her campaign after Parker’s and using what she learned at Victory Fund candidate training.

She said that begins with earning endorsements from LGBT and progressive organizations. She has already gotten four including Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, Houston Stonewall Democrats and Democracy for Houston. On Aug. 4, she also was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

She said that she’ll be trying to energize the LGBT community, progressives and friends to vote. “I’ll outreach to organizations to let them know I’m here,” she said, “Then go into the community knocking on doors.

“The race is going well,” she added. “I’m in parity with all but one of the candidates.”

Five people have entered the race, including a gay candidate. That could affect an endorsement from the Victory Fund.

“Generally, when there are two LGBT candidates, we stay out of the race,” said Denis Dison of Victory Fund.

He said that there are exceptions, especially when one candidate is viable and the other isn’t. But he confirmed that no endorsement had been made in this race so far.

Houston’s City Council is made up of five at-large seats and nine local-district seats. Two local seats will be added in the November election because of population increase.

Council members are elected for two years and may serve three consecutive terms. Unlike most Texas cities, municipal elections in Houston are held on Election Day in November.

If elected, Pool won’t be the first transgender public official in Houston. Earlier this year, Parker appointed Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge.

Nor will she be the first transgender candidate for city council. In the late ’80s, another transgender woman ran but was not elected.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens