Redistricting plan could hurt LGBT voters

Map approved by Dallas council would cost community an ally, put heavily gay neighborhood in homophobic councilwoman’s district

DRAWN OUT | Raymond Crawford, president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road as a “gayborhood.” Under the redistricting plan, Kiestwood would be placed in the district represented by anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Much has been made of the fact that a redistricting plan approved by the Dallas City Council last week could disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

But the redistricting plan, should it be signed off on by the U.S. Department of Justice, could also hurt the LGBT community.

Newly elected District 3 Councilman Scott Griggs said the map approved by the council would effectively cost the LGBT community an ally at the horseshoe because he’s been drawn into District 1, currently represented by Delia Jasso.

Meanwhile, under the plan, heavily LGBT areas of Oak Cliff currently represented by Griggs and Jasso have been drawn into districts that are home to Dwaine Caraway and Vonciel Hill.

“Delia and I have been pretty involved and very supportive of the GLBT community over the years,” said Griggs, who hasn’t indicated whether he’d run against Jasso in 2013 if the plan holds up. “You have two other council members who haven’t shown as much support.

“You are losing an ally,” Griggs added. “Is Dwaine [Caraway] or her [Hill] going to be as open or responsive as Delia and I have been?”

Jasso, who formed a citizens LGBT task force after taking office in 2009, couldn’t be reached for comment this week. But Jasso reportedly supports other Hispanic leaders who plan a lawsuit against the city if the redistricting plan is approved by the justice department.

Led by attorney Domingo Garcia, they allege the plan violates the Voting Rights Act. The plan guarantees that only two to four of the council’s 14 districts would be represented by Hispanics, who account for 42 percent of the city’s population.

Jasso believes she might have difficulty retaining her seat, because the new District 1 would include heavily Anglo areas with high voter turnout, including Kessler Park, Stevens Park and Winnetka Heights.

Openly gay former Councilman John Loza, who’s Hispanic and served on the city’s redistricting commission, agreed.

“I think that map is horrendous, and I’m really hoping that a lawsuit is brought forward based on that map, and I’d be happy to testify against it if and when it happens,” Loza said.

Loza lamented that the redistricting commission spent 95 hours working on the map it submitted to the council. But the council redrew the commission’s map based on what Loza called “a backroom deal,” and the panel’s work went “down the toilet.”

Loza said although his primary concern is Hispanic representation, he’s also bothered by the fact that two of the LGBT community’s strongest allies were placed in the same district.

“I don’t think it’s as unfortunate to the LGBT community as it is to the Latino community, but I think it does both communities a disservice,” he said.

Under the plan, Oak Cliff south of Illinois Avenue is split along Hampton Avenue, with the east side being placed in what would be Caraway’s district and the west side in Hill’s.

Hill is the lone current council member who’s refused to appear at gay Pride or sign a letter congratulating organizers of the event.

Asked in 2009 why she won’t ride in the parade, Hill voiced religious objections to homosexuality, saying she believes that “there are acts God does not bless.”

Raymond Crawford, who is gay and serves as president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Hampton Road and Kiest Boulevard as a “gayborhood.” Crawford counts 15 gay households on his street — Southwood Drive — alone.

Under the redistricting plan, the 400-plus-home Kiestwood neighborhood, currently represented by Griggs, would be placed in Hill’s district.

“The day she [Hill] comes to call to do some door-knocking or to get some votes, whether I’m the president or not, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with Councilmember Hill,” Crawford said this week. “She’ll be in trouble in 2013 based on her previous statements.”

Hill didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment.

VIEW A MAP OF THE REDISTRICTING PLAN: CLICK HERE

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Oak Cliff home tour features mostly gay-owned houses

OOCCL returns funds raised at the weekend event to neighborhoods for safety and beautification projects

OOCCL

EIGHT AND A HALF MEN | OOCCL president Michael Amonett sits on the porch of a restored house in Bishop Arts that has been repurposed into a law office and is part of this weekend’s Old Oak Cliff Tour of Homes. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Of this weekend’s 14 houses on the annual Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s Fall Home Tour, eight and a half of them have gay owners.

With 14 homes on the tour, this will be the largest home tour OOCCL has staged,  OOCCL President Michael Amonett said, and the largest and most profitable in the city.

“We started taking applications in the spring,” Amonett said, adding that deciding which houses to include was difficult because there were so many good choices.

A committee spent months deciding which homes to include.

“We made appointments and looked at people’s homes,” Amonett said. “We had a grade sheet and rated them for drive-up appeal, art work, historic interest.”

They also were looking for variety, spread across the area’s different neighborhoods. The committee met in June and selected the winners that were not announced until September.

“Two of the houses are in Oak Park Estates,” Amonett said. “We’ve never had any in that area. People will see a part of Oak Cliff they’ve never seen.”
Oak Park Estates, which lies south of Kiest Park between Hampton Road and Highway 67, is one of Oak Cliff’s southernmost neighborhoods.

“One of them is very Brady Bunch,” he said.

That house, with its two-story arched roof, was built in 1964 and is the newest of the homes.

The oldest, built as a convent in 1900 in the Elmwood neighborhood, has been a railroad storage depot, part of an amusement park and a gambling casino and speakeasy that was one of Bonnie and Clyde’s old haunts, according to legend.

The largest house has been expanded to 7,000 square feet and faces Stevens Park Golf Course.

One house was built for the 1936 Texas Centennial as a companion piece to the Magnolia Lounge. The Bauhaus-designed East Kessler Park home was dubbed “The Electric House” because of the four and a half miles of wire laid to power the then state-of-the-art General Electric kitchen and outdoor living areas around the pool.

At the time it was built, similar homes were selling in West Hollywood, Calif., for $4,000. This one had a price tag of $15,000.

Another sits adjacent to the Bishop Arts District that was renovated last year and is now a law office. Amonett wanted that house included to show that older houses can be renovated and repurposed rather than just torn down and replaced.

Good Space, the company that bought and renovated the Bishop Arts house and rented it to Remington Law, is now working on two other properties in the area.

Two bonus stops are included in the Oak Cliff tour — the newly renovated Stevens Park Golf Course and the new Twelve Hills Nature Center, a five-acre urban preserve in the 800 block of Mary Cliff Road.

“The home tour has been instrumental over the years in profiling what Oak Cliff has to offer,” Steve Habgood of Hewitt & Habgood Realty Group, a lead sponsor of the event, said.

He said that the tour includes everything from small boutique cottages to mid-sized homes to old estates.

“It’s a cross-section of what Oak Cliff is all about,” Habgood said. “The diversity that runs the gamut — that’s one reason this tour is as popular as it is.”

He said that the money raised funds a variety of projects throughout the 30 Oak Cliff homeowner associations. Last year $22,000 funded projects such as solar lighting for alleys in the Hampton Heights neighborhood and neighborhood patrols. Other grants funded websites and neighborhood signage.

OOCCL donated $5,000 to the Bishop Arts Theater Center for half the cost of a new marquis on the restored building. They also contributed to replacing the roof on Turner House, a landmark in Winnetka Heights that is home to the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts.

And the eight and a half gay owners? Amonett explained that he thought one house is owned by a “Will & Grace couple.”

Old Oak Cliff Tour of Homes, Oct. 8 and 9 from noon to 6 p.m. $25 for adults over 10, $15 for seniors available at any of the homes on the tour or under the service station canopy at 8th Street and Bishop Avenue in the Bishop Arts District. More information at OOCCL.org.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Scott Griggs is running for Dallas City Council

Scott Griggs

Scott Griggs will announce his candidacy for the District 3 seat on the Dallas City Council on Monday, according to a press release we received this morning.

We don’t know much about Griggs, but his publicist is former Dallas Voice staffer Kris Martin, and his campaign coordinator is openly gay former DISD trustee Jose Plata. District 3, of course, is the seat once held by Ed Oakley for three terms until he stepped down to run for mayor in 2007. Since then, the seat has been held by Dave Neumann, who narrowly defeated gay candidate Joseph Hernandez in 2007. From the press release:

What: Oak Cliff resident and community leader, Scott Griggs, announces bid for Dallas City Council, District 3 post.

When: Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 @ 12:30pm

Where: Intersection Fort Worth Avenue and Jacqueline Drive (Northeast corner) near ALDI construction site and Cliff Manor Apartments.

Who: Scott Griggs is a proven business and neighborhood development leader in the City of Dallas. He has served in elected and appointed roles with Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, City of Dallas Board of Adjustment, Oak Cliff Transit Authority, Stevens Park Estates Neighborhood Association and helped create the Fort Worth Avenue Tax Increment Finance District. The young attorney and his wife, Mariana Tenorio Griggs, are passionate community volunteers who advocate for a livable, safe, sustainable and healthy District 3 and the City of Dallas.

Why: As a Dallas City Council representative, Scott Griggs will provide the strong, responsible, decisive, and trusted leadership that District 3 needs.

It goes on to say that Griggs’ campaign website, www.ScottGriggs.com and Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/ScottGriggs, will go live on Monday. City elections are in May.

—  John Wright