‘Sign the Pledge!’ rally set for Friday at City Hall; mayor to meet with LGBT leaders Saturday

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall last June.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL sends along word that a demonstration calling for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, originally scheduled for tonight at Kiest Park, has been moved to Friday night in front of City Hall.

Cates said he rescheduled the “Sign the Pledge!” rally after Rawlings canceled his appearance at a neighborhood meeting in Kiest Park tonight to avoid the LGBT demonstration.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is setting up a meeting with LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas on Saturday to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge, according to the mayor’s chief of staff, Paula Blackmon.

Cates said GetEQUAL has agreed not to demonstrate during Saturday’s meeting at the Resource Center and will instead gather outside City Hall at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It’s just additional pressure, and we’re going to keep talking about it until he signs this pledge,” Cates said of the demonstration, adding that he also plans to participate in Saturday’s meeting. “We’re going to keep the pressure coming from all different angles.”

Rawlings has come under fire from some LGBT advocates for refusing to sign the pledge in support of marriage equality that was unveiled by Freedom to Marry last week during the U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting in Washington, D.C. More than 80 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, and Dallas is the largest city whose mayor hasn’t done so. Rawlings said he supports marriage equality but didn’t sign the pledge because he doesn’t want to get involved in social issues that don’t directly impact the city.

Blackmon said today that details of Saturday’s meeting at the Resource Center were still being finalized. Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for more.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Rawlings won’t attend neighborhood meeting due to threat of LGBT protest

Daniel Cates

The fallout continues over Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed today that the mayor may cancel a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Kiest Park on Tuesday night, after LGBT activists threatened to stage a demonstration at the event.

Last week, Rawlings angered many in the LGBT community when he said that although he “personally” supports same-sex marriage, he won’t sign the pledge because his policy is to avoid social issues that don’t directly impact city government.

Dallas is the largest city in the nation whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge unveiled by the national group Freedom to Marry during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It doesn’t need to be a demonstration, it needs to be conversation,” Blackmon said. “He’s willing and he’s open to sit down and talk about it, but he doesn’t want it to be done in an atmosphere that’s not constructive.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said Blackmon contacted him this morning and offered a meeting with Rawlings if the group called off the demonstration.

Cates said he’s interested in meeting with the mayor, but when he refused to cancel the demonstration, Blackmon rescinded her offer.

“Preconditions are not acceptable,” Cates said. “We’ll meet him at Starbucks at midnight if that’s what it takes, but we’re not going to cancel a demonstration in order to have a meeting. [The LGBT] community is pretty outraged by this, and I think they have a right to express that. We’ll call off the demonstration if he signs the pledge.”

Blackmon said when it became clear that Cates wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rawlings signing the pledge, she decided it would be better to pursue a meeting with other LGBT leaders. “The mayor is not going to sign the pledge,” she said.

Blackmon added that it was still “up in the air” whether the mayor would cancel the Kiest Park meeting.

Cates, who’s also launched an online petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge, said if and when the Kiest Park neighborhood meeting is canceled, he’ll call off the demonstration. However, he said GetEQUAL will look for other opportunities to demonstrate, possibly outside City Hall.

“We are determined to escalate this if they continue to refuse to cooperate,” Cates said.

UPDATE: Blackmon confirmed this afternoon that Mayor Rawlings will not attend the Kiest Park community meeting.

She said residents who plan to attend the “Meet the Mayor” meeting want to talk about things like potholes and loose dogs, and it would be unfair to subject them to an LGBT demonstration.

“He just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis,” Blackmon said.

She added that City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and Councilman Scott Griggs still plan to attend the Kiest Park meeting. She also said the mayor is reaching out to other LGBT community leaders to set up a meeting with them. However, she said it’s doubtful that the meeting with LGBT community leaders will be open to the media.

—  John Wright

Dallas now largest city whose mayor hasn’t signed pledge in support of same-sex marriage

Julian Castro

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has signed Freedom to Marry’s pledge in support of same-sex marriage, making Dallas the largest city in the country whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge. Castro becomes the third mayor from Texas to sign the pledge, joining Austin’s Lee Leffingwell and Houston’s Annise Parker. San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-most populous city, and Dallas is 9th. The mayors of all eight cities larger than Dallas have now signed the pledge. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says he personally supports same-sex marriage but won’t sign the pledge. The only other mayor in the top 1o who hasn’t signed the pledge is Chuck Reed of San Jose, which is No. 10.

According to Facebook, the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL is planning a demonstration at Kiest Park during a neighborhood meeting that Rawlings plans to attend on Tuesday evening.

—  John Wright

Candidate forums set for Saturday, Monday

Damien Duckett

As we noted in today’s cover story, candidates for Dallas mayor and City Council will attend a forum Saturday hosted by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s Political Action Committee. The forum begins at 2 p.m. at Kiest Park Recreation Center, 3080 S. Hampton Road, and it will follow an open question-and-answer format.

The three major mayoral candidates — David Kunkle, Mike Rawlings and Ron Natinsky — all plan to attend the DGLA forum. Damien Duckett, chairman of the DGLA PAC, said other City Council candidates who are scheduled to attend include Casie Pierce, Pauline Medrano, Billy MacLeod, Luis Sepulveda, James Nowlin, Cynthia Durbin, Scott Griggs, Dave Neumann, Angela Hunt, Jerry Allen and Sheffie Kadane.

• The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League will host a political forum Monday evening, and District 3 City Council candidates Scott Griggs and Dave Neumann both reportedly plan to attend. OOCCL President Michael Amonett said each will have 40 minutes for questions and answers with the voters and the League.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Avalon at Kessler Park, 2522 Fort Worth Ave. (Avalon is next to the Fort Worth Avenue Home Depot.)

—  David Taffet

New Dallas plan to balance the budget

Field of poppies in Kiest Park in Oak Cliff
Field of poppies in Kiest Park in Oak Cliff

Apparently the city of Dallas has come up with a new, secret plan to close the budget gap.

poppies2I live next to Kiest Park in Oak Cliff. Last fall, I noticed large tracts of unused park land plowed under and new signs posted that read “Nature/Wildflower area.”

Not until this week did the nefarious plan become obvious. The field is blooming with beautiful poppies.

That could mean one of two things. The city was growing a crop to supply seeds for the area’s bagel businesses or harvesting the crop for heroin.

With so few bagel shops in Dallas (and not a single good one), I surmised the plan to close the budget gap is more likely based on that of the Taliban.

Judging by the strength of the crop, Dallas’ budget crisis should be over by this summer.poppies3

Think of the advantages Dallas has over Afghanistan. Despite higher labor costs in the Metroplex, wholesale distribution has always been one of our largest industries. And we have the built in market.

Hopefully, much of the commodity will be sold elsewhere in Texas, however. Like our hotel and rental car taxes that build our stadiums and arenas, we prefer people from Houston buy things for us.

I expect to hear from the mayor’s office about this. Or maybe from the parks department. They’ll probably claim they’re just wildflowers.

Or for bagels.

—  David Taffet