Clinton meets with Sheriff Valdez and others in law enforcement officials

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Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton met in New York today with eight law enforcement leaders today, Aug. 18, including Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

The officials represent a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. On Tuesday this week, Valdez spoke to Stonewall Democrats about reducing rates of incarceration.

“It’s obvious that recent events — from Dallas and Baton Rouge to Milwaukee and across the country — underscore how difficult and important the work is ahead of us to repair the bonds of trust and respect between our police officers and our communities,” Clinton said, according to the Washington Post.

In addition to Valdez, the group meeting with Clinton included New York’s commissioner and chief, chiefs from Camden County, N.J., Los Angeles, Seattle, Tucson and the former Philadelphia commissioner.

In a story about the meeting, The Dallas Morning News referred to Valdez as “one of the most popular Democrats in North Texas. When she appeared onstage, Texas delegates in Philadelphia chanted her name.” Valdez spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

—  David Taffet

Sheriff addresses Stonewall on mental health programs in Dallas County jail

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Sheriff Lupe Valdez at Stonewall Democrats meeting

Suicide is the No. 1 cause of death in jail. Since becoming sheriff, the suicide rate in the Dallas County jail, the seventh largest jail in the U.S., has been reduced by 92 percent.

Valdez spoke at the monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats on Tuesday, Aug. 16, fresh off her nationally televised appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Her topic was mental health programs in the Dallas County jail.

Valdez’s goal is to reduce the jail population and serving those with mental illness is the area she’d like to reduce the most.

“The mentally ill do not belong in jail,” Valdez said.

The current jail population is 5,300 people. When she took office in 2004, about 350 people per day were processed into custody. Today the number is about 250. Of those, about 67 per day are referred to the psychiatric unit. More than half of those are homeless. About 1,100 of the the jail’s inmates are on some sort of psychotropic medication.

“The majority can be in programs other than jail,” Valdez said. “We need to get them out of the cycle of incarceration.”

She said people go to jail to learn to become better criminals.

Valdez said one reason so many with psychological problems are placed in jail rather than other programs is a lack of space elsewhere. Parkland’s psyche unit was full, Valdez said, and another facility was closing. When there are no alternatives, she said, people end up in jail where they don’t belong.

She said the jail’s programs for those with psychiatric problems have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

—  David Taffet

Outrageous Oral 15

Four story tellers added to The Dallas Way’s history project as they told their stories at S4 last night (Thursday, April 23).

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who has been in office for more than a decade, talked about what it was like to become the country’s only Hispanic lesbian sheriff.

Former Dallas city Councilman Ed Oakley talked about his run for mayor and how the media (not us) sabotaged his campaign.

Kathy Bowser told her story of going from nun to lesbian fundraiser to pastor at Celebration on the Lake church in Payne Springs on Cedar Creek Lake.

Finally, Mark Shekter told funny stories about his years of fundraising for dozens of LGBT groups over the years and documented a group he created, Meals on the Move — MOM, which was the first group to provide daily meals at home for hundreds of people living with AIDS.

Steve Atkinson was Master of Ceremonies and Kay Wilkinson begged, pleaded and scrounged for money to help The Dallas Way continue its work documenting the LGBT community’s history. A fundraiser will be held on May 27 at the Rose Room in S4 with a special edition of Outrageous Oral documenting drag in Dallas.

—  David Taffet

LOCAL BRIEFS: HRC and LULAC hold Cinco de Mayo

The Human Rights Campaign will partner with the local LGBT chapter of LULAC — The Dallas Rainbow Council to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

The annual Salsa Cocktails event —featuring dancers, food and high-energy music — takes place at Havana, 4006 Cedar Springs Road, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.

“We have already confirmed Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as one of our speakers,” said Kimberly Williams, HRC event coordinator. “Our dance group will also offer free salsa dance lessons for our guests.”

HRC and LULAC will talk about recent national and local successes. The public is invited to attend. The event is free, although a $20 donation to HRC at the door will get two free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

“Both HRC and LULAC will have information about membership and ways to get active,” said Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC 4871. “We have great projects coming up this summer. We invite community members ready to get involved to come learn about opportunities to further equality.”

—  John Wright

Elected Democrats begin to gather at Ozona

Judge Eric Moye and Sheriff Lupe Valdez
Judge Eric Moye and Sheriff Lupe Valdez

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—  David Taffet

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.
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—  admin