GLBT Chamber hosts Business Expo, a chance to “get away from the elections”

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce expects this evening’s Business Expo at the Melrose to be its largest.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to meet GLBT chamber members and allies,” Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said.

He said this year’s event will feature more exhibitors than ever and has expanded beyond just the ballroom into the Oak Lawn Room as well.

A broad spectrum of businesses and organizations will be represented. Community groups like AIDS Arms and C.U.R.E. will have tables. Southwest Airlines and major banks as well as professional services such as attorneys and therapists will be represented.

The event began as a mixer for Chamber members but has grown to an events attended by hundreds, Vedda said.

“Following the election, a large number of people in the community should be in a good mood,” he said. “Thankfully we can get away from the elections now.”

He invited people to come for a cocktail and meet and mingle with some local LGBT businesspeople. Valet parking and the event are free.

Melrose Hotel. Nov. 7. 4:30–7 p.m. Free.

—  David Taffet

GLBT Chamber’s LEAP Scholarship deadline approaching

From left: GLBT Chamber Treasurer Bob Stutz, Chairman Derrick Brown; LEAP scholars Pamela Hancock, Alex Parrish and Constance Siegel; and Vice Chairman Gib Murray.

The deadline to apply for a LEAP scholarship offered by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is Aug. 3.

Created in 2009, LEAP — Leadership Education & Advocacy Program — scholarships support youth and nurture the development of leaders in the LLBT community. LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who have worked closely with the LGBT community are encouraged to apply.

“In 2011 we distributed $7,500 in scholarships,” Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said. “The LEAP Board has allocated $10,000 for the 2012-13 academic year.”

Applicants must be Texas residents, be LGBT or members of LGBT families or allies, and show a commitment to civil and human rights. Applicants should exhibit leadership potential, demonstrate strong academic abilities and be actively involved in school and community organizations. The application can be found online.

The primary fundraiser for the scholarship is the annual Holly Jolly Ball in December. Donations can also be made online.

Vedda said that applicants should complete the application and submit it as soon as possible. He said he could extend the deadline on backup documentation until Aug. 13.

—  David Taffet

Omni confirms DP benefits for convention hotel

ROOMS WITH VIEWS | Workers put the finishing touches on the pool deck this week at Dallas’ convention center hotel, as the downtown skyline looms behind them. The hotel is scheduled to open Nov. 11. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM INSIDE THE HOTEL

Facility owned by city of Dallas to open Nov. 11

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A spokeswoman for Omni Hotels confirmed this week that the company will offer domestic partner benefits to its employees at Dallas’ convention center hotel, slated to open next month.

It marks the first time a representative from Irving-based Omni Hotels has stated directly that the company plans to offer DP benefits at the city-owned facility.

Omni, which operates 50 luxury hotels in North America, is one of the few major lodging chains that doesn’t offer DP benefits across the board. However, Omni spokeswoman Caryn Kboudi said the company opted to do so at the convention center hotel because the facility is owned by the city, which has offered DP benefits to its employees since 2004.

“We’re pleased to do it, and it’s in keeping with the city of Dallas’ practices,” Kboudi said.

Kboudi said the convention center hotel, slated to open Nov. 11, will initially employ 600-650 people, about 80 percent of whom will be full time and eligible for benefits. At “peak performance,” the hotel could employ up to 800 people, she said.

The question of whether Omni Hotels would offer DP benefits at the facility was first raised in a Dallas Voice article in April 2009 — two months after the city had signed a 15-year operating agreement with the company for the $500 million hotel.

The article appeared days before the vote on a referendum aimed at barring the city from building and owning the hotel. Mayor Tom Leppert, a major supporter of the hotel, assured the newspaper that he would convince the company to offer DP benefits, even though it had not been considered as part of the operating agreement.

The referendum was defeated, and six weeks later, both Leppert’s office and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced that Omni had agreed to offer DP benefits — although the company wouldn’t confirm it at the time.

“Until you [Dallas Voice] raised the issue, it wasn’t on people’s radar,” said Chris Heinbaugh, who’s openly gay and was Leppert’s chief of staff. “A light bulb went off. It was a significant step for the city.”

It reportedly marked the first time the city has prompted a contractor to offer DP benefits.

Heinbaugh, who now works for the AT&T Performing Arts Center, declined to discuss in detail the negotiations that led to Omni’s commitment to offer DP benefits. Leppert is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican and has come out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

A spokesman for Leppert’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In addition to agreeing to offer DP benefits, Omni Hotels joined the North Texas GLBT Chamber in 2009. Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said this week the company remains a silver level corporate member, which means an annual contribution of $5,000 to the organization.

“I certainly assumed that they were going to stick to their word [on DP benefits],” Vedda said. “It would be devastating if we were told one thing and something else occurred.”

Vedda said the chamber would also like to see Omni offer DP benefits at its publicly owned convention center hotel in Fort Worth. Fort Worth began offering domestic partner benefits to municipal employees last year.

—  John Wright

Deadline approaching for LEAP scholarships

Vedda.Tony

Tony Vedda

Fewer students than expected have applied for college scholarships through a program run by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Leadership Education & Advocacy Program (GLBT LEAP) is offering up to $7,500 in scholarships this year in its first-ever award cycle. GLBT LEAP is the chamber’s scholarship and leadership development organization.

The deadline to apply for scholarships is Oct. 15, and Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said today he’s been underwhelmed by the number of applications.

“There’s still another week,” Vedda said. “We’d sure like to see some more applications, because we want to give some people some money.”

The scholarships are open to all Texas residents beginning or continuing undergraduate work in January. Applicants will be evaluated based on financial need, academic achievement and community service. Preference will be given to LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who’ve been strongly supportive of the community.

To apply for a GLBT LEAP scholarship, complete the 2011 Scholarship Application Form at www.GLBTLEAP.org

Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 15. Completed applications should be sent to Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, ATTN: Scholarships, 3824 Cedar Springs Road, Ste. 417, Dallas, TX 75219.

For more information, email at scholarships@glbtleap.org

—  John Wright

Fort Worth LGBT mayoral forum is Wednesday

Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price will attend a forum Wednesday evening sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce

Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price on Wednesday at Four Day Weekend Theater, 312 Houston St. That’s on Houston at Third Street, next to The Reata in downtown Fort Worth.

Price and Lane both talked to Dallas Voice last week about where they stand on LGBT issues. But this forum gives the community a chance to hear more from the candidates not only on LGBT issues, but on other topics of interest, too. Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy and I will be moderating. Anybody who has a specific question they would like to see asked can email that question to FairnessFtWorth@aol.com.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for 30 minutes of meeting and greeting with the candidates, and the Q&A session starts at 6 p.m.

—  admin