Houston GLBT Political Caucus backs 4 out candidates in city elections

Mayor-Annise-Parker-300px

Mayor Annise Parker

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsed Mayor Annise Parker for re-election, as well as three other openly LGBT candidates in Nov. 5 city elections.

Unlike other cities in Texas that hold municipal elections in May, Houston holds its elections in November.

The Caucus met Saturday and voted to endorse Parker, Mike Laster, Jenifer Rene Pool and Zeph Capo.

Parker is running for her third and final term as mayor. Houston mayor and city council members are allowed three two-year terms.

Laster is running for his second term as city councilman. When elected in 2011, he was the first openly gay man to be elected to Houston’s Cty Council.

Pool is transgender and running for an at-large seat on the council. This is her second try for the position. Like Parker, she is a former president of the GLBT Political Caucus. If elected, she would become the first trans person elected in Texas.

Capo is openly gay and running for Houston Community College trustee.

“There are a couple of other LGBT candidates running whom we did not endorse,” Caucus President Noel Freeman said.

In an email to Dallas Voice, he noted two other races.

“[City Councilwoman] Ellen Cohen represents Montrose, and has always been an amazing advocate for the LGBT community. She is fantastic,” he said. “One person we would prefer to see out of office is [Councilwoman] Helena Brown. She has voted against every HOPWA contract that has been on the agenda, as well as homeless programs and a whole host of other things. She refuses to meet with me or other representatives of the LGBT community.”

The endorsements were made by 150 members of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Parker and 25 other candidates attended the meeting.

The Houston GLBT was founded in 1975 and is the oldest GLBT civil rights organization in the South. The oldest organization in Dallas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, was founded about two years later.

—  David Taffet

AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

“The Advocate” lists 15 gayest cities in America, leaves off Houston

The Advocate has come out with a list of the 15 “Gayest Cities in America” using a set of criteria that is… (what’s the best way to say this?) …”unique.” The list uses a point system based on nine criteria, assigns points for each and then divides the total points by the population living inside the city limits:

The Advocate's criteria

The winning cities range from Denver, CO at 15th (with 9 points and a score of 0.00001499) to Salt Lake City, UT in 1st place (with 6 points and  a score of 0.00003218). With a population of 2,099,451 (according to the 2010 census) Houston would have to score 32 points to make the list. Clearly the criteria are designed to favor smaller cities (Austin’s the only Texas city to make the list, coming in at 13th (with 12 points and a score of 0.00001518)), but part of the joy in making up meaningless lists for the internet is that you get to make up the criteria. So, based on the Advocates own criteria, how does Houston fair?

—  admin

LGBT candidates fare well across electoral spectrum

Houston’s lesbian Mayor Annise Parker leads the list of openly LGBT candidates, 75 percent of whom won in elections this week

Parker.-Annise

BIG WIN | Houston’s incumbent Mayor Annise Parker, who became the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major city when she won in 2009, addresses the crowd in Lee Park following Dallas’ 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, for which she was honorary grand marshal. Parker took 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, avoiding a runoff and winning re-election to a second term.

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

Tuesday was a very good day for openly LGBT candidates around the country, with three in four of more than 60 winning their races, including Annise Parker, who secured a second term as mayor of Houston.

But the real excitement in the Nov. 8 results came in some of the low-profile races of the day, many in notoriously conservative places.

Four out of five openly gay candidates won in conservative North Carolina, including LaWana Mayfield, the first openly LGBT member of the Charlotte City Council.

Another lesbian, Caitlin Copple, became the first openly LGBT person elected to city council in Missoula, Mont. Attorney Mike Laster became the first gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council, and businessman Zach Adamson became the first openly LGBT member of the Indianapolis City Council.

Alex Morse, 22, won an upset victory over a long-time public official to become mayor of Holyoke, Mass. Steve Pougnet glided to a second-term as mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., and attorney Chris Seelbach, who helped overturn Cincinnati’s anti-gay charter amendment seven years ago, won a seat on the City Council there Tuesday.

Data collected independently by Keen News Service and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund indicates there were at least 63 openly LGBT candidates on the ballot Tuesday: 47 of them won, 14 lost, and two outcomes remain uncertain.

Eight of nine openly gay candidates for mayor won Tuesday.

Parker in Houston

Parker in Houston secured 50 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates, though none of her five opponents had anywhere near the funding or organization that she did.

Still, going into the race, Parker had reason to worry. In mid-October, a local television news poll found that voters were split on her effectiveness. Fifty percent rated her job performance in her first two-year term as either “Fair” or “Poor,” while 47 percent rated it “Good” or “Excellent.”

In an interview with KHOU-TV, Parker attributed her poll split to people’s anxiety around the economy.

“We have the worst economy here in Houston that we’ve had in decades, and we have the worst economy that we’ve had nationally since the Great Depression,” Parker told KHOU.  “I understand completely why people are anxious, unhappy.  It is what it is.”

KHOU noted the bulk of the low job performance scores came from Houston’s unemployed and that mayors in other big cities around the country were polling similarly.

Right-wing groups that opposed Parker in 2009 tried again to portray her as a lesbian activist, creating a video they posted on YouTube that showed a slow-motion clip of her giving her partner-in-life a peck on the cheek after being sworn in.

It also showed a news clip of Parker appointing a transgender person, Phyllis Frye, to a local judgeship, and a news clip of an executive order Parker issued to ban discrimination in public restrooms on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.The video also showed a letter in which Parker referred to her partner, Kathy Hubbard, as “First Lady.”

Other mayoral races

In Holyoke, recent college graduate but longtime local youth and community activist Alex Morse won an upset victory against an incumbent who had been a top town official for many years.

The key issue had been over casinos — with Morse being against and incumbent Elaine Pluta being for.

Morse had served on the one-time governor’s LGBT commission and started a non-profit LGBT group. While attending Brown University in nearly Providence, R.I., Morse worked for openly gay Mayor David Cicilline, who is now in Congress.

In Palm Springs, incumbent Mayor Steve Pougnet, who is openly gay, won re-election over a field of six other candidates, taking 70 percent of the vote.

The only losing mayoral candidate Tuesday was Bevan Dufty in San Francisco, where, as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, Dufty had earned less than 4 percent of the vote in a field with more than a dozen candidates.

The apparent winner, acting Mayor Ed Lee, will become the first American of Chinese descent to be elected mayor of San Francisco. Lee became acting mayor by appointment of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, after Newsom was elected lieutenant governor.

Lee was only the third choice of San Francisco’s LGBT newspaper, Bay Area Reporter. (San Francisco voters were able to rank their choices — first, second, and third — among the 16 on the ballot.)

The paper endorsed Dufty first and the current City Attorney Dennis Herrara second.
One of the city’s LGBT Democratic Clubs endorsed Herrera first, Dufty as second choice, and Lee as third. The other LGBT Democratic Club endorsed Supervisor John Avalos, followed by Herrera and state Sen. Leland Yee.

More election news

In other interesting news from election day:

• An openly lesbian candidate, Caitlin Copple, has won a seat to the city council of Missoula, Mont. — a state with a very sparse LGBT population.

While Copple’s connections to the gay community were not consistently highlighted during the campaign, they weren’t hidden either. The local daily newspaper, the Missoulian, ran an article about her involvement “with the Pride Foundation, which works to connect and strengthen Montana’s gay rights movement.”

• Four of the 63 races Tuesday were for seats in state legislatures. One of the most important of those candidates was Adam Ebbin, who moved from the State House to the State Senate in Virginia, becoming the first openly LGBT person in that chamber.
Unfortunately, the Virginia Senate lost a number of Democrats Tuesday and is switching from majority Democrat to majority Republican, giving the state a Republican majority now in both chambers and the governor’s office.

• Two gay men won Assembly seats in New Jersey: Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora.

• The only loss on the state level was Patrick Forrest, who fell short in his bid for a Senate seat in Virginia.

• Two out of three candidates for judgeships won yesterday. The winners were Anthony Cannataro in New York and Hugh McGough in Pittsburgh. Daniel Clifford, a Republican, lost his bid for a judgeship in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

• All five candidates for local school boards won Tuesday, including Daniel Hernandez, with 60 percent of the vote, in Tucson. Hernandez was the openly gay aide to U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., credited with saving her life after a gunman shot and killed a number of people attending a meet-and-greet the congresswoman was hosting at a local grocery store.

• Of the 41 candidates running for city council or its equivalent in their cities, 28 won. Two others are still pending. Brad Bender’s bid for a Town Council seat in Southampton, N.Y., is too close to call. Lance Rhodes has been thrown into a run-off for a seat on the East Point City City Council in Georgia.    •

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas