Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Defining Homes • Super (re)model

Remodeler Chris Sandlin says slow your roll before that redux

Wingren-Kitchen-5By Jonanna Widner

As a third-generation homebuilder and remodeler, it’s no surprise that Chris Sandlin opted out of a journalism career and instead chose the family business. He made the change in 2005 and with such a history of the industry in his blood already, Sandlin brings a fairly unique perspective to the market.

“I’m 30 years old, which is relatively young compared to others in my position,“ he says. “But I put a lot of time and energy into the right team of workers and sub-contractors to customers’ homes so the end result lives up to what the homeowners deserve. As a gay business owner, I’m happy in providing stellar home services to the community.”

Before moving forward with that remodel, Sandlin says to think before demolishing.

Wingren-Master-Bath-2Know when to remodel: “I commonly work with homeowners to determine whether it makes more sense to remodel or move. I approach each situation openly and honestly, and try my best to suggest what I think would be best, even if that means I don’t win the job.”

Remodel before selling: “This is usually the case with older homes that have not been remodeled recently. Homeowners accept my guidance for what sells. I have a good combination of experience in the homebuilding and real estate industry.

“There is a catch-22 here. If the house sells quickly, homeowners in won’t have time to experience the finished remodel project which tends to be the kitchen or master bath.”

“This can happen very easily. Most $250,000 homes do not need a $50,000 bathroom redo, nor does a $300,000 home need a $100,000 commercial grade kitchen. A wide variety of factors need to be considered, including how long they plan to stay in the home, what’s the budget, how it adds to the home’s value.“

Budget help: “When in the budgeting/planning phase with homeowners, research the values of nearby homes, especially with remodels. This has been helpful in concrete figures regarding their remodel, as well as experienced conjectures about how the remodel will affect the home’s future value.”

Don’t rush the details:  ”Too many homeowners want to rush into their project without a clear vision. Step back, assess the project and come up with a plan. With that, the end result will be everything the homeowner wants. Rushing into it without a plan will only result in more time, money and headaches.”

Going green: “This is an area I take pride in. As a certified green professional through the National Association of Homebuilders, I integrate green philosophies and I want to minimize waste factor and landfill component as much as possible.”

“I started making many green features as my standard a long time ago because I feel it’s the right way to build and remodel. I’m happy to see more homeowners interested in these options.”

DIY:  “I’m happy to help prepare homeowners for what they would encounter if doing it on their own. Sometimes it works out just fine, with small jobs that don’t require licensed tradesmen or city permits. When it comes to larger jobs, people need to know if they honestly have the time to do this in addition to the day job.”DH

Visit SandlinBuild.com for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—  Kevin Thomas

The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Predictable Backlash To The Obama Admin’s Go Slow Approach To Repealing DADT, Other LGBT Issues

Politico has a six webpage long article up on their website, entitled Obama’s Go-Slow ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Plan Backfires. Image: Military veterans Autumn Sandeen, Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, Jim Pietrangelo II, Mara Boyd, and Larry Whitt handcuffed to the White House FenceThe piece recounts how when President Clinton first took office, one of his first acts was attempting to remove the barrier to gays serving openly in the military services. The attempt failed, and from this we ended up with the federal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) compromise.

When President Obama took office, he appeared to have taken a lesson from the Clinton Administration: Go slow on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or face Congressional backlash.

Unfortunately for President Obama, LGBT community members want him to live up to quickly live up to his campaign promise to repeal DADT, and allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers to serve openly.

Politico‘s Josh Gerstein is indicating in his piece that there is a backlash from the LGBT community that is hurting him not only with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, but hurting him with the Democratic base.

From the piece:

Obama now faces his own political crisis over the issue that threatens his support from key Democratic constituencies, undermines his relationship with the Pentagon and puts him in the odd position of defending a practice he has denounced as discriminatory and harmful to national security.

“It’s crazy that all this is happening 2½ weeks before a national election,” said Richard Socarides, an adviser to Clinton on gay issues during the ’93 fiasco. “The timing could not be worse for them, but it was fairly predictable that their strategy of postponing and delaying getting into this stuff was, at some point, going to come back to haunt them.”

Obama’s current predicament is a result of a collision between a go-slow White House strategy that deferred to Pentagon and military leaders on the pace of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the progress of a stuttering federal lawsuit that a small group of gay Republicans filed more than six years ago.

The Obama White House, led in large part by Clinton veteran Rahm Emanuel, sought to avoid a showdown with the military over the issue. Particularly as Obama, a relative neophyte on national security, faced critical decisions on Iran and Afghanistan, he didn’t want the process derailed by the culturally freighted gays-in-the-military fight.

Socarides adds:

The part of this that was smart was that they figured the only way to get this done was to get the Pentagon’s buy-in. That is informed by the Clinton experience. You cannot outsmart the Pentagon on this kind of thing.

The timing could not be worse for them, but it was fairly predictable that their strategy of postponing and delaying getting into this stuff was, at some point, going to come back to haunt them.

Thumbnail Link to Politico article 'Obama's go-slow DADT plan backfires', which used the iconic DADT photograph of Autumn Sandeen, Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, Jim Pietrangelo II, Mara Boyd, and Larry Whitt handcuffed to the White House FenceAnd, of course, there’s a place in this where I played a part in this story on DADT:

While many organized gay groups deferred to a greater or lesser extent to the White House’s strategy and timeline, bloggers like John Aravosis and in-your-face protesters like Dan Choi did not. The online activists and upstart groups never bought into the wait-for-the-Pentagon approach, even after Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented historic testimony in February endorsing an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I literally stood next to Dan Choi when Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, Jim Pietrangelo II, Mara Boyd, Larry Whitt, and I chained ourselves to the White House Fence in a bid to encourage President Obama to propose repealing of DADT in his Defense Department budget request. From the GetEqual press release at the time:

The Defense Authorization Bill (DAB) provides funding for all military operations, and it will soon be up for renewal.

President Obama knows that the DAB provides a way to repeal DADT immediately. And he knows that repealing the policy quickly and decisively is the right thing to do for LGBT servicemembers and for all of the armed forces. But recent reports suggest that the Administration is trying to delay any law change until December or even later.

Yes. That delay plan has been going on awhile, and now many in the LGBT community are dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Congress’ failure to not only to successfully repeal DADT, but also failing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and pass into law the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Personally, I can’t tell you how odd it is to see that a photo by AP photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais has turned into the iconic DADT photo, in the sense that and that I’m one of the six LGBT veterans in that iconic photo. It’s also kind of odd to me to be in a photo that has become that iconic, but is one where no one in the mainstream media is highlighting that I’m a transgender military veteran.

But beyond it just being about Dan Choi and me being in a photo, there were four others in that photo working for the freedom, equality, and justice of LGBT community members. That image captures a microcosm of how it’ not just one or two activists that are working on LGBT issues, but it’s diverse population of folk within the LGBT community who are working on LGBT issues.

And, that diverse population of LGBT folk (as well as LGBT folks’ friends, families, and allies) are, as stated so many times (and even in this piece), dissatisfied with the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Congress’ failure to not only to successfully repeal DADT, but also failing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and pass into law the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The Obama Administration apparently believed their was a danger of moving to quickly on LGBT issues — including DADT — because of possible backlash from the Pentagon and Congress. I don’t think the Obama Administration was acutely aware that there was another danger regarding LGBT issues — moving so slowly on LGBT issues that many in the LGBT community don’t believe that The President delivered on the change we can believe in. In other words, there may have been a backlash from some quarters regarding moving to quickly on LGBT issues — such as DADT — but there is now a backlash from many LGBT community members because they see him moving too slowly on LGBT issues.

Since a major constituency of his party and to his presidency are LGBT community members, he should have perhaps paid much more attention to that LGBT constituency then he has done in the first two years of his presidency.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Pew Poll Shows America’s Slow, But Sure Evolution On Gay Marriage Acceptance


Ssmchart2
 Yesterday I noted how Exodus International, an "ex-gay" group, has dropped out of the homophobic "Day of Truth."

Though the news seems small, Exodus' departure signals, I said, the erosion of social conservatism's power in America. If you want more proof of the nation's gay evolution, check out this news from Pew Research:

Polls this year have found that more Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally than did so just last year.

In two polls conducted over the past few months, based on interviews with more than 6,000 adults, 42% favor same-sex marriage while 48% are opposed.

In polls conducted in 2009, 37% favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally and 54% were opposed. For the first time in 15 years of Pew Research Center polling, fewer than half oppose same-sex marriage.

While it can be distressing to live in a nation that restricts rights based on people's sex lives, this latest report, coupled with Exodus' exodus, suggests that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. An inclusive America is on the horizon, inevitable, and our virtuous patience will be paid in spades. Or, rather, in marriage.

Just a little longer, reader!


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

NYT: Obama let Gates ‘set a slow pace in overturning’ DADT

You may recall that on April 30, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sent a “strongly worded” letter to Capitol Hill making it clear that he did not want legislative action on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. That confirmed what SLDN had been hearing via “multiple reports” from Capitol Hill: Obama administration officials had been urging Congress not to vote on DADT this year.

It was Obama who repeatedly promised to end DADT — and he reaffirmed that commitment in his State of the Union. But, Obama has let Gates set the agenda on DADT:

Mr. Obama has relied on Mr. Gates as his ambassador to the military and deferred to him repeatedly. When Mr. Gates wanted to force out Gen. David D. McKiernan in May 2009 as commander in Afghanistan in favor of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Mr. Obama signed off. Likewise, cognizant of Bill Clinton’s ill-fated effort to end the ban on gay and lesbian soldiers, Mr. Obama let Mr. Gates set a slow pace in overturning the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, even though it has disappointed gay rights advocates.

Yes, that “slow pace” it has indeed disappointed gay rights advocates. We’re going to be even more disappointed — actually quite angry — if the compromise DADT repeal language isn’t signed into law this year. The looming problem is that the “slow pace” set by Gates may take us into the next Congress. And, if Democrats lose control of the House, there will be no repeal.

Let’s hope Jim Messina, who (along with CAP’s Winnie Stachelberg) concocted the DADT repeal compromise, has a strategy to make sure the Defense Authorization bill, which contains the DADT repeal language, is signed by the President this year. The GOPers are going to do their part to prevent that from happening.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright