New Fort Worth Councilwoman Ann Zadeh sworn in

zadeh swearing in

Courtesy of Kathryn Omarkhail

Ann Zadeh was sworn in as Fort Worth’s new councilwoman for District 9 at Tuesday night’s council meeting. After winning a special election in June to replace former councilman Joel Burns, Zadeh told the Star-Telegram she’s ready to “go back through this thick notebook I have been compiling from neighborhoods to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”

In her first speech, she didn’t go without acknowledging her supporters, thanking the “dynamic citizens who were never lacking in enthusiasm.”

Nor did she hesitate to be ambitious.

“I want to lay out my vision for the district,” but that would take two hours, she said with a laugh.

She also didn’t forget a shout out to her influential predecessor, either.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said with a pause.

“Literally, Joel’s feet are big,” she told the crowd to a laugh.

Burns, who announced his resignation in February, must’ve heard her. After the former chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission thanked her supporters and took her seat, Burns joined the meeting via Skype to say hello … from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some things never change.

—  James Russell

Dallas finance committee approves ‘comprehensive’ LGBT resolution


Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, center, speaks during the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee meeting Tuesday. Burns joined Dallas Assistant City Attorney John Rogers, Dallas interim Assistant City Manager Theresa O’Donnell and HRC’s Cathryn Oakley to encourage the committee to pass a resolution in support of LGBT policy changes in Dallas. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas councilmembers voted Tuesday to send a resolution to the full City Council to address inequalities in city employment, healthcare and lobbying efforts.

In a 4-1 vote at the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, councilmembers voiced support for the “Comprehensive Statement of Support” resolution, which guides city staff and the city’s LGBT Task Force to research areas for improved LGBT equality and report back to the committee quarterly on the progress. Items will then be addressed on an individual basis and voted on.

Members who voted in favor of it were Committee Chair Jerry Allen, who originally pushed for a broad statement of support, Vice Chair Jennifer Gates, Philip Kingston and Tennell Atkins. Sheffie Kadane voted against it because he said he didn’t like that it focused solely on the LGBT community.

O’Donnell said a resolution wasn’t originally expected to go before the committee Tuesday, but members of the city’s LGBT Task Force encouraged a resolution so research about policy changes could begin.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns announces he will resign, effective immediately

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 7.15.27 PM FORT WORTH — Openly gay City Councilman Joel Burns announced Tuesday night he is resigning his seat.

Burns stepped down in order to attend a yearlong, mid-career program with the Harvard Kennedy School, where he once attended a summer program and went back in the last few years as a guest lecturer in the summer.

“It is an amazing honor and an incredible opportunity that I never would have thought possible,” Burns said. “I was excited to accept Harvard’s invitation last week. But it’s a bittersweet moment because participating in this program means choosing to step out of this seat here on the City Council and say goodbye to what has truly been a life-changing experience I could have never imagined then and particularly not even when I got elected in 2007. So tonight, with a mix of pride, excitement and a little bit of sadness, I am announcing my resignation.”

Burns said the announcement was not “an easy one” and he’d remember the work he’d acompished on the council and focus on the work to do before his time on the council expires this summer. He also didn’t rule out another political run after the yearlong program, saying that his political future is up to the voters.

Burns got his start in Fort Worth when state Sen. Wendy Davis appointed him to the city Zoning Commission, and he later went on to run and win her seat when she left the council to run for the Senate in 2007. He was re-elected last year to a third full two-year term.

Burns was a favorite to replace her in the Senate as well when she announced her bid for governor. He considered running but decided against it to remain on the City Council.

In his announcement, Burns said the resignation would be effective this summer, but Mayor Betsy Price advised him that because of technicalities, his resignation would be effective immediately. Burns will remain in his position until he is replaced in a May election.

Read more of this story in a follow-up.

—  Dallasvoice

Wendy Davis to return to roots to announce her governor bid

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis plans to announce her future political plans next Thursday at Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, where she graduated from high school.

Davis made the plans public in a media advisory Thursday evening, but didn’t say which office she’ll be running for — either her Senate District 10 seat or governor. But there was no need. Sources have been saying she’d run for the Democratic nomination since before she postponed an announcement when her father became ill.

And sources are again confirming that the senator, who shot to stardom after an 13-hour marathon filibuster this summer to block an abortion bill, will indeed run for governor.

The race, with Attorney General Greg Abbott running as the Republican favorite, is sure to be an ugly fight. Abbott has tirelessly fought against the LGBT community in situations like the two gay divorce cases now at the Texas Supreme Court and issued an opinion earlier this year that said he thought domestic partner benefits violated the state’s marriage amendment.

Davis, on the other hand, has been an LGBT champion, from voting for Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance when she served on the City Council to fighting for LGBT-specific protections in the state’s anti-bullying law in 2011.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s openly gay and took Davis’ council seat when she ran for the Senate, is a favorite to replace her again in the Senate.

Burns has said he will not comment on the race until Davis makes her plans official.

—  Dallasvoice

Wendy Davis may announce her intention to run for governor this week

State Sen. Wendy Davis addresses the crowd at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats Spring Fundraising Kick-off Party in Fort Worth Wednesday, May 23. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

State Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis may announce her poltical intentions to run for governor later this week.

She had planned an announcement on whether she would run for re-election to her Senate seat or for governor after Labor Day until her father became ill. He died earlier this month.

Davis’ father was Stage West founder Jerry Russell.

To run a competitive campaign against Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking the Republican nomination, Davis would need to raise at least $40 million. Advisers are confident she would be able to do that.

Davis sent the following announcement to supporters and followers today:

—  David Taffet

Wendy Davis delays announcement on whether she’ll run to focus on family


State Sen. Wendy Davis

It’s no secret that state Sen. Wendy Davis is the favorite candidate among Democrats for governor in 2014, but the public will have to wait a little longer for an announcement on whether she’ll run.

Davis was expected to announce her future plans after Labor Day on whether she was going to run for her Senate seat again or for governor, but her father’s health has made her delay the decision until at least the end of next month.

Davis’ father, Jerry Russell, has been in critical condition at Fort Worth’s Harris Methodist Hospital after complications from recent abdominal surgery that turned into pneumonia. In light of this, David told the Texas Tribune she was postponing an announcement to focus on her family.

“I had hoped to make public my decision about that next week, but with everything that’s going on with my dad, I won’t be doing that,” she said. “It’s likely it will be late September before I do.”

A longtime LGBT ally, Davis’ decision will have a great impact on the LGBT community. If she runs for governor, openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns would be the likely Democratic challenger to the many Republican candidates who have announced they plan to challenge Davis for her District 10 Senate seat.

—  Dallasvoice

Joel Burns may seek Wendy Davis’ Senate seat if she runs for governor


Last week we mentioned that if state Sen. Wendy Davis decides to run for governor, one of the possible candidates to replace her in the Senate would be openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. At the time, however, Burns wasn’t commenting on a a possible bid for Davis’ District 10 seat in Tarrant County.

But this week, Burns told The Dallas Morning News (subscription required) “that he’s been approached by operatives about a possible campaign to replace Davis.”

“It’s something that I have thought about,” Burns said. “But until she decides what she wants to do, I can’t give it more than that.”

—  John Wright

Fort Worth Council declares today ‘Jon Nelson Day’ in honor of FFW president


Jon Nelson, center left, shakes Councilman Joel Burns’ hand during the Jon Nelson Day proclamation presentation at Fort Worth City Council. (Via Facebook)

The Fort Worth City Council issued a proclamation Tuesday declaring it “Jon Nelson Day” in the city to honor the local LGBT leader.

Nelson, who worked on the city’s Diversity Task Force after the Rainbow Lounge raid and later helped start the city’s LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, moved to Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood earlier this month.

Nelson has lived in Fort Worth for 38 years and has been involved in numerous city organizations and commissions for at least 30 of those years. He said city leaders wanted to recognize his contributions to the city over that period.

“I’m honored,” Nelson said about the proclamation. “It was a surprise to me that I got that but I was honored to get it.”

—  Dallasvoice

Gay FWISD Trustee Carlos Vasquez responds to DV story, attacks Burns

PIONEERING PAIR  |  Carlos Vasquez became only the second openly gay elected official in Tarrant County history when he joined the Fort Worth school board in 2008. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns was the first.  (Andrea Grimes/Dallas Voice)

Carlos Vasquez

In today’s print edition we reported that openly gay Fort Worth school board member Carlos Vasquez faces opposition within the LGBT community in his bid for re-election to the District 1 seat. It’s not the first time Vasquez, who challenged staunch LGBT ally and Stonewall Democrats founder Lon Burnam for his state House seat last year, has butted heads with the gay establishment in Cowtown.

Openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has not formally endorsed Vasquez’s opponent, political newcomer Jacinto Ramos Jr. However, in our story, Burns called Ramos an “up and coming star and Hispanic leader in our community.” Ramos, meanwhile, said of Vasquez: “I just don’t feel we have the quality of leadership in my district that advocates for all backgrounds.”

We’ve tried repeatedly to contact Vasquez — whom we profiled in a cover story in July 2011 — for comment over the last two weeks, but he didn’t return our calls. Now, though, he has posted a comment below the story suggesting that we didn’t really try to contact him — and attacking Burns. Vasquez says Burns’ husband (a word he strangely puts in quotes), J.D. Angle, is running Ramos’ campaign and accuses the couple of recruiting Ramos to run against him. He concludes by saying, “So Joel don’t worry I am not trying to take your ‘FW Queen’ status! I am just a ‘Bear!'”

You can read Vasquez’s full comment by going here, but we’ve also reposted it below.

—  John Wright

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Gay Councilman Joel Burns on the Boy Scouts

Joel Burns“Today’s decision by the Boy Scouts of America was not a partial or incremental win for LGBT scouts; it was a disappointing failure by BSA to demonstrate the very leadership they should be fostering in kids.

“As I mentioned earlier today in an NBC5 interview, the BSA needs to understand that discrimination of any kind undermines the values and goodwill they have fostered in youth and families since I was a scout and for generations of scouts before and after.

“I get invited to speak to scout troops frequently, but last year when our foreign exchange kid Jakob joined the scouts I could only be a guest speaker, their Council member, and a his dad, but not a “scout dad” at his troop. Jakob and many of his fellow scouts saw through this absurd hypocrisy, as did their parents.

“And while many of my fellow parents of scouts are friends and were able to make a “learning moment” from the situation, what there is to learn from today is what makes me most sad about BSA’s decision: Inviting more youth into the organization to be told they will be accepted only up until a certain age and will then be rejected is grossly cruel, indefensible and shameful. The BSA today failed scouts and parents alike.”

— Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, commenting Friday on his Facebook page about the Boy Scouts’ proposal to allow gay youth but not gay adult leaders

—  John Wright