City secretary, mayor’s office defend not adding equality resolution to agenda

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LGBT advocates plan to address council Wednesday

 

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

Dallas City Secretary Rosa Rios claims scheduling — and not necessarily opposition from Mayor Mike Rawlings — was the main reason an LGBT equality resolution didn’t make it onto this week’s City Council agenda.

As we reported Saturday, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano — who was acting mayor because Rawlings is overseas — sent Rios a request to place the resolution on the agenda at 3:43 p.m. Friday.

Rios said Medrano’s request didn’t provide enough time to add it to the agenda, which was published later that evening. Even though items can be submitted up to 72 hours before the the 9 a.m. June 12 meeting, Rios said the deadline is usually a week before so there’s time for the planning process.

“There wasn’t sufficient time to be able to coordinate getting it on there,” she said. “The primary reasoning was the scheduling.”

Rios forwarded the request to Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm because it came from a council member. When asked why she didn’t honor the request since Rawlings was out of the country and Medrano was acting mayor, Rios said Medrano would only be acting mayor if Rawlings was unable to perform his duties.

“But the mayor was available. He could be consulted by phone, etc. And I know they’ve been doing that throughout the week,” Rios said.

Following procedure, Rios said Suhm and Rawlings would have discussed the request.

Suhm didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Medrano said the reason the resolution wasn’t on the agenda was because the city attorney’s office had determined that Rawlings was still able to be reached while on official city business in Brazil. Therefore, she didn’t have the authority as acting mayor to place it on the agenda.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, told us last week that she was not aware of any conversations Rawlings had about Medrano’s effort to place the resolution on the agenda. Blackmon said Monday that she didn’t know if Rawlings and Suhm had spoken.

“I do not have any knowledge of Mayor and Mary Suhm speaking on Friday,” Blackmon wrote in an email. “However the City Attorney has determined that the Mayor Pro Tem does not have ALL of the powers of the mayor just because he is not present in the city. Currently, the mayor is in Brazil acting and serving the capacity of the Mayor Dallas and having two mayors of the City of Dallas is not possible.”

Rawlings has called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time and refused to place it on the agenda since Councilwoman Delia Jasso removed her signature from a memo that would have required him to do so. Medrano’s request was a last-ditch effort by supporters to get the resolution on the agenda before a new council is sworn in later this month, and before the Supreme Court rules in two marriage-equality cases.

After a rally downtown this past Saturday, LGBT advocates reportedly plan to address the City Council on Wednesday about the resolution during public comments.

“I need your assistance sending a message to Dallas City Hall that our lives ARE important,” Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox said on Facebook earlier today. “I will be among several speakers Wednesday morning, June 12, to address the Dallas City Council about the recent debacle over LGBT equality resolutions. If you are able to attend, the meeting starts at 9 a.m. at City Hall, and wear red as a show of unity. We need to PACK THE CHAMBERS in red–please share this with your friends.”

Those who want to address the council about the LGBT resolution not making the agenda can do so by registering to speak with the city secretary at 214-670-3738 by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

—  Anna Waugh

Petition asks Mary Suhm to put pro-equality resolution on council agenda

Mary Suhm

Mary Suhm

LGBT activists are now turning to Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm as their last hope for having a pro-equality resolution be placed on the council’s June 12 agenda.

Damien Duckett with Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance started the Change.org petition to urge Suhm to place the item on the agenda.

“This resolution deserves placement on the council agenda for an up or down vote. Marriage and workplace equality are of vital importance to local communities,” the petition reads. “This resolution allows the council to send a message in support of equality on behalf of all Dallas citizens that are disadvantaged as a result of bans on marriage and workplace equality.”

Suhm did not return calls this week asking if she’d put the item on the agenda. Her record on LGBT issues has been hit and miss. She spearheaded an “It Gets Better” video for the city, but wouldn’t back adding transgender healthcare coverage for city employees.

In addition to the city manager, Mayor Mike Rawlings, who said he wouldn’t budge on his refusal to place it on the agenda, can add an item, or five council members can add an item. But the latter failed this week when Councilwoman Deila Jasso pulled her support, leaving the memo one signature short. A new memo would require the resolution to be placed on the agenda within at least 30 days, so Suhm is the last option to bring it forward for a vote in June.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas LGBT Task Force aims to expand diversity training to all city employees within 3 years

Sherry Durant, Dallas Fire-Rescue LGBT liaison, explains the goal of expanding LGBT training to all city employees at a city services event June 13. The event was the second in the city’s June Pride series. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Fire-Rescue plans to expand its LGBT training program to its veteran employees this summer and eventually to every city employee over the next three years, according to Sherry Durant, the department’s LGBT liaison.

Durant was among six city officials who spoke and answered questions during a panel discussion at the Oak Lawn library branch on Wednesday night. The event drew about 40 people and was the second in Dallas’ “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” June Pride Month series planned by Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force.

Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group has discussed expanding LGBT training to all Dallas city employees and will work with officials to achieve the goal in the future. The only city departments that currently conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training are police and fire.

Durant, who’s served as LGBT liaison for DFR since 2008 and is a member of the Task Force, said 1,048 new recruits have undergone LGBT training since the training program began in 2004. She said she has been working with the Dallas County Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Resource Center Dallas to create a training program for veteran Fire-Rescue employees. The veteran employee training will begin in late July or early August, she said, estimating that it would take about 36 weeks for the 1,248 employees to complete the training.

After DFR finishes its veteran employee training, Durant said she wants to help the veteran police employees undergo the training and then move onto other city departments, so all city employees will have LGBT training within the next three years.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant fire Chief Joseph Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, joined Durant on the panel and shared what their departments offer the LGBT community. Executive Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles and Chalisa Warren, senior public information representative with the Fair Housing Office, spoke about the city’s decade-old nondiscrimination ordinance.

Martin oversees the Police Department’s sensitivity training, which helps recruits understand how to handle interactions with members of the LGBT community. She said she will also teach the current officers over the next two years about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. She said a lot of officers are not aware of how the law works because it is a federal law and affects how departments report hate crime statistics to the FBI.

Suhm said during her 35 years working for the city she has seen a lot of improvements for the LGBT community, from training in the police department in the early ’90s to later working with City Council to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Miles said her section of the city attorney’s office handles the discrimination complaints after the Fair Housing Office investigates, working with the alleged violators to inform them about the ordinance and to help educate them even if the complaint is dismissed for no cause.

Questions about the reporting hate crimes and discrimination under the ordinance came up during the meeting, as several in the audience said people do not report incidents of hate or discrimination because they want it to remain confidential.

—  Anna Waugh

Chris Heinbaugh leaving mayor’s office to join AT&T Performing Arts Center

Chris Heinbaugh

Chris Heinbaugh has been named external affairs director at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Heinbaugh, an openly gay former TV reporter, served as Mayor Tom Leppert’s chief of staff for three years and has remained in the mayor’s office under Dwaine Caraway.

Heinbaugh will start his new job June 9.

“I’m ready to do something different,” Heinbaugh told Instant Tea this afternoon. “I’m very excited about it. I wanted to stay in Dallas, I like the arts, I like that center.”

Here’s what Heinbaugh said in an email to members of the media:

Hey folks,

Today I notified Ms. Suhm and Mayor Caraway that I am leaving my position in the Mayor’s office. Effective June 9, I will assume the position of External Affairs Director for the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I’ll be handling government relations and institutional press and working with the new CEO, Mark Weinstein to create exciting and inclusive new programs for the many diverse communities in Dallas and its North Texas neighbors. As you probably know from my days as a reporter, I have been a lover of the arts and passionate about the ATT PAC and the Dallas Arts District. As chief of staff, I’ve been fortunate to able to be a cheerleader for the Center both here at home and during our travels across the country and overseas. I am very excited that I will now be joining this tremendous team and its new CEO to continue moving the Center and the city forward.

I look forward to maintain a personal and professional strong relationship with you as well. We’ll chat more before I go, but I wanted to be sure to let you know. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues.

All the best,

Chris

—  John Wright

David Brown is Dallas' next top cop

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It’s official. After WFAA reported last night that Assistant Chief David Brown would be Dallas’ new police chief, then City Manager Mary Suhm denied that she’d offered the job to anyone, “Dallas City Hall” is reporting on its Facebook page today that Brown will indeed take over for the retiring David Kunkle on May 5. So unless someone has hacked into the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, we’re assuming it’s true.

I’ve been unable to dig up any info on Brown’s record or views on LGBT issues, but here’s a recent profile from The Dallas Morning News. When I’ve asked LGBT advocates about the police chief selection process over the last few months, they’ve said they trusted Suhm to find someone who is good on our issues.

Foremost among those at this point would be continuing and possibly expanding LGBT diversity training in the department, as well as upholding Kunkle’s recent decision to make the LGBT liaison officer position full-time.

We’ll try to get an interview with Brown in the near future to discuss all this.

—  John Wright

What qualities would you like to see in Dallas' next police chief?

Chief David Kunkle
Outgoing Chief David Kunkle

The city of Dallas will host the first of three public forums tonight to receive input on the selection of  a new police chief. David Kunkle, who’s been chief for the last 5 1/2 years, announced his resignation in November. In addition to the community forums, the city is conducting on online survey. The survey, which can be found here, asks respondents to rank the three most important qualities they’d like to see in a new chief, and one of the eight options is “Commitment to Diversity.”

Damien Duckett, chairman of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee, said Kunkle has been an “amazing” chief, and he expressed confidence that City Manager Mary Suhm will find a good replacement.

“I think that the person in charge of that selection is very capable of making a sound decision in regard to somebody who would be fair and open to our community’s issues,” Duckett said.

Those issues include things like DGLA’s diversity training for new recruits, the department’s LGBT community liaison officer position, and crime in the Oak Lawn area. Duckett, a leader of Dallas’ newly formed citizens task force on LGBT issues, indicated that the group is working on a proposal to expand the liaison officer position. DPD’s LGBT liaison officer, Laura Martin, is currently assigned to a full-time bicycle patrol at White Rock Lake.

Tonight’s forum is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the L1FN Auditorium at City Hall.

—  John Wright

Dallas awarded $247K federal grant for HIV/AIDS program targeting ex-offenders

The city of Dallas has been awarded a $247,000 federal grant for HIV/AIDS prevention and education, according to City Manager Mary Suhm and Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who both called me first thing this morning to relay the happy news.

The grant reportedly is through a federal program called HIRE, which stands for HIV/AIDS Initiative for Re-Entry. Brett Wilkinson, director of intergovernmental services for the city of Dallas, told me last week that this program is geared toward education and prevention among HIV-positive people who are being released from prison.

Hunt said this morning that she was relieved to learn that the city had been awarded the grant given the council’s recent decision to cut $325,000 for HIV/AIDS education and prevention from this year’s budget. City officials have said they applied for the grant in July after it became clear that the budget cuts would take place.

“This is such a relief,” said Hunt, who introduced an unsuccessful budget amendment seeking to reinstate HIV/AIDS funding. “I know this has been such a serious concern to the GLBT community and me and other councilmembers who wanted to ensure that we had HIV/AIDS education/prevention funding. Thanks to the hard work of our city staff, we were able to attain a grant to address the very issues we were most concerned about.”

As I noted in this story last week, there is no guarantee that the grant money will go to the agencies affected by the budget cuts. Steven Pace, executive director of AIDS Interfaith, indicated that the city likely will issue a request for proposals, meaning it will become a competitive process and any agency that meets the criteria can apply.

—  John Wright