TABC renews contract with RCD

Carolyn Beck

Beck says center will provide diversity training for about 50 new TABC employees

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — A spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed this week that the agency plans to continue LGBT diversity training for its employees, which she called “one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Thursday, March 17 that the agency has signed a new contract for LGBT diversity training with Resource Center Dallas.

A few months after the raid of the Fort Worth gay bar in 2009, TABC paid Resource Center $14,212 to train all of the agency’s roughly 700 employees — in a series of 24 two-hour sessions in 11 locations across the state.

This time, Resource Center will train the roughly 50 TABC employees who’ve been hired since the initial round of training was completed last year. The second round of training, at a cost of $2,700, will take place during sessions in Dallas, Houston and Austin between March and July.

“We thought it was important at the time for our employees to receive diversity training like this, and it’s still important for the same reasons that it was before,” Beck said. “It really only makes sense if you continue the training. … The training is one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC, whose agents raided the bar along with officers from the Fort Worth Police Department in June 2009, later fired three employees for policy violations related to the incident.

TABC Commissioner Alan Steen has publicly apologized for the raid on at least two occasions.

TABC reportedly is the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all of its employees.

Beck, who also serves as TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community, said she doesn’t believe diversity training would have prevented the Rainbow Lounge raid.

However, she said the training has been beneficial to the agency.

“The one thing about it, across the board, it creates a lot of discussion, which I think is in itself a positive thing,” Beck said. “The training pushes some people’s boundaries, which I believe is the intent.”

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the new training contract is the culmination of efforts that began last spring, when TABC solicited input on its strategic plan.

“I think this shows that TABC is committed to treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with respect and dignity by having all of its employees learn about who we are,” said McDonnell, who helps conduct the LGBT diversity training.

“We did surveys and proved that there was a demonstrated increase in knowledge about the LGBT community among the employees who took part in the training,” McDonnell added. “It shows that what we did is making a difference throughout the state, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

UT Arlington GSA honors David Mack Henderson

Joshua Little, David Mack Henderson and Zachary Murphy

On Thursday, Oct. 28 the Gay Straight Alliance at the University of Texas at Arlington celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the founding of the campus’s first gay organization.

As part of the celebration, they honored David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth. That organization was created in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid and has worked with the city to become more inclusive.

Henderson was one of the founders of the UTA Gay/Lesbian Association when he was a student at the school. He is a tax accountant and Realtor and is a facilitator for the diversity training that all Fort Worth city employees must take. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Dallas Gay Alliance board and a founder of Resource Center Dallas.

The Certificate of Appreciation was presented by GSA President Joshua Little and Vice President Zachary Murphy.

The GSA meets every Wednesday at noon in the Upper University Center, usually in the Guadalupe Room. The group is open to all students. UTA policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Homage is another LGBTQ organization at UTA. Homage meets Thursday evenings in the University Center.

—  David Taffet

PD offers tips on staying safe as crowds come to Oak Lawn for Pride

Shooting, recent uptick in muggings raise concerns in the gayborhood

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

LGBT Liaison Officer Laura Martin
LGBT Liaison Officer Laura Martin

Pride weekend is expected bring huge crowds to the Oak Lawn area. But will the extra crowds translate into safety in numbers, or will it offer more chances for random attacks?
Dallas Police Officer Laura Martin, the department’s LGBT liaison, said that there would be at least 40 off-duty officers patrolling during the parade and festival in Lee Park.

Depending upon the size of the crowd, additional on-duty officers will also be in the area.

Martin said that any time crime is reported in an area, patrols are stepped up. But that doesn’t mean that officers will be found on every corner, and she warned anyone coming to Oak Lawn to take safety precautions.

“Parking in well lit areas makes a difference,” she said. “Don’t walk alone. Be aware of your surroundings.”

She said to be aware of groups of people that look they might be up to no good.

“Don’t be afraid to offend them,” she said, advising that people turn around or cross the street.

Because of the number of people who will be in Oak Lawn, Martin said that parking will be a problem. Available parking may be farther from the bars than usual. And she warned visitors to the area not to park illegally or in lots marked for towing.

“A lot of cars will be towed this weekend,” Martin said.

She suggested that people who are staying to go to the bars or restaurants on Cedar Springs after the parade and festival in Lee Park either move cars closer early in the evening as the crowds thin or take a cab back to their car later at night.

Martin also suggested that visitors “avoid ATMs in the area where you’re going to be.” She suggested going to the ATM near home or stopping off for cash the day before, and said visitors to the area shouldn’t carry too much cash with them.

A robbery in Oak Lawn last week involved someone who was carrying cash that he had not gotten to deposit in the bank.

On Sept. 10, a 21-year-old man was held up at gunpoint at as he was retrieving keys from a friend’s car on Dickason Avenue, one block from the bars on Cedar Springs Road.

Two Latin males in their 20s demanded money and property and got away with $500 in cash and a cell phone valued at $500. The incident happened at 10:15 p.m. The victim, who asked not to be identified, was not injured.

Several other incidents have occurred in the area over the past month.

On Aug. 30, Oak Lawn resident Doug Tull was shot in a robbery on Brown Street just a couple of blocks from his apartment. After two emergency surgeries, he was scheduled to be released from Parkland Hospital on Thursday, Sept. 16.

On Aug. 19, Kellen Sullivan was at Uncle Julio’s on Lemmon celebrating a friend’s birthday when he stepped outside to smoke. He was standing about 10 feet from the entrance when he was assaulted. Although Sullivan willingly gave the mugger his wallet, the man still hit him in the face with his pistol and ran.

“My nose was a complete bloody mess,” said Sullivan. “I had a gash on the side of my eye.”

He said that his has three scars from the attack and left the side of his eye is misshapen.

Two witnesses saw the attack. One said that he saw the suspect take the wallet and run through an alley toward Wycliff Avenue. He and another witness followed the suspect down the alley and reported to police that he jumped into a waiting gold Chevrolet Cavalier parked at an apartment complex off Wycliff Avenue.

The suspects drove off with their lights off, and the witnesses were unable to get the license plate number in the dark.

Allison said Sullivan came back into the restaurant with two black eyes and a cut on his cheek. Dallas Fire-Rescue treated him at the scene.

Violent crime is down in the city of Dallas by 7.3 percent for the year. The biggest decrease is in the murder rate. Rape is the only category that shows an increase.

Aggravated assaults are down, but only by less than 1 percent.

Overall crime is also down in the reporting district that includes the Cedar Springs entertainment area and surrounding neighborhoods, but reported street attacks on members of LGBT community appear to be on the increase.

Martin said that she would like to see increased reporting by witnesses. Although she said she hopes most people feel comfortable working with officers assigned to patrol the area, she said she is there for anyone who was not.

Martin said she understands concerns of people who are not out, have employment concerns or are married and she can take witness information confidentially. She can be reached at a non-police department e-mail at police@rcdallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Did the Rainbow Lounge raid prompt TABC to stop arresting people for public intoxication?

In fiscal year 2009, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents made 761 arrests for public intoxication — a figure that includes a few high-profile ones you may have heard about at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth.

In fiscal year 2010, which began one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, TABC has made just 81 arrests for public intoxication, The Austin American-Statesman reported over the weekend.

Based on these numbers, one might deduce that the highly controversial raid — which resulted in three agents being fired — also prompted TABC to abruptly change its enforcement practices. But according to the agency, this is only partly true.

TABC officials say the changes really began in fiscal year 2007, two years before the raid. Consider that in fiscal year 2006, TABC agents made a whopping 3,100 public intoxication arrests.

But in response to a long series of controversies — the Rainbow Lounge raid being just one of the latest — TABC began shifting its focus from petty criminal enforcement back to its mandate of regulating the businesses that sell alcohol.

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC who also now serves as its liaison to the LGBT community, told Instant Tea on Monday that’s it’s “impossible to calculate” how much of a factor the Rainbow Lounge raid has been.

“If you look at the decreasing numbers of criminal citations issued by our agents, and the increasing number of hours spent on investigations, it’s clear that we have been moving in this direction since FY 2007,” Beck said. “But you can also see a significant jump forward this fiscal year which started 9/1/09. It’s impossible to calculate how much of that push was in response to the Rainbow Lounge, but certainly incidents like the Rainbow Lounge and the shooting in Austin resulted in our agency direction changing at a faster pace.”

—  John Wright