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

More photos from Dallas delegates to the Democratic Convention

—  David Taffet

Texas Stonewall Dems issue statement on Orlando

Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus President Eli Olivarez issued the following statement:

“As our LGBTQ community and our allies celebrated Pride Month, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Too many souls were lost to hate, and too many are now injured. Our country is in mourning.

“Our nation will have to deal with this horrific tragedy of terrorism, hate crimes and mass shootings. Discrimination and hatred against LGBTQ community is clearly something we’ve lived with for decades, and even in these days of progress in equality for the LGBTQ community, we once again witness the brutality of bigotry.

“We must ask ourselves once again, who are we as a nation and what do we stand for? The answer is simple; we stand for freedom, equality, justice and liberty for all. The vigils across Texas and the Democrats who stood with the LGBTQ community show us that we will always come together and march forward. That is who we are, and that is what we do.

“Our hearts go out to the Orlando LGBTQ community, the lives lost, and their families. ”

—  Tammye Nash

Community leaders meet with Police Chief Brown

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Resource Center CEO Cece Cox talks to reporters Tuesday after meeting with Police Chief David Brown, as Cannon Brown of Stonewall Democrats looks on. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox and a team of six other LGBT community leaders attended a meeting with Dallas Police Chief David Brown this afternoon (Tuesday, May 31) in which the chief “acknowledged that standing up with [anti-LGBT First Baptist Church pastor Robert] Jeffress has harmed the LGBT community,” Cox said.

In mid-April, at a press conference attended by Brown and former Mayor Tom Leppert, Jeffress announced that his church was offering counseling services to Dallas police officers, as well as offering summer camp scholarships — presumably to the First Baptist Chuch camp — to the children of police officers and holding weekly Sunday School classes specifically for officers. The church also honored Brown at an April 17 morning service.

Jeffress is widely known  for his anti-gay sermons and his condemnations of every religion other than his own. The same weekend that Resource Center opened it’s new building, Jeffress made statements declaring transgender-friendly businesses to be a bigger threat than ISIS.

Resource Center officials had asked for a meeting with Brown last week after issuing a statement condemning Jeffress’ anti-trans comments, according to the center’s communications and advocacy manager, Rafael McDonnell. McDonnell said they had received word Saturday that the chief wanted to meet with them, but did not know until about 10 a.m. today that Brown wanted to meet with them this afternoon.

Others attending the meeting were McDonnell, North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Association President Patti Fink, Stonewall Democrats President Jay Narey, and Stonewall Democrats board member — and Young Stonewall and Take Back Oak Lawn member — Cannon Brown. City Councilman Adam Medrano was also there.

Cox said about 14 members of Brown’s staff were also present.

Cox said that while “We don’t agree on every single thing that got said today,” she and the other community leaders “felt heard.”

Cox said that while Brown did not agree to “step away” from any association with Jeffress and First Baptist, he did agree to issue a statement acknowledging that he understands how that association could be harmful to the LGBT community.

Cox said Brown told the community leaders that he and the police department as a whole have a responsibility to the entire community, and that it is their job to “ensure everyone has free speech.” He also said that he doesn’t turn down invitations from any segment of the city’s population.

Cox said she and the other community leaders addressed the “18-plus unsolved attacks” that have happened in the Oak Lawn area since last September, and that the chief is committed to solving those crimes, as is the community. The chief and community leaders are also “all committed to continuing the dialog.”

“Oak Lawn has become dangerous in a way it has not been in decades,” Cox said, noting that many community members — for a variety of reasons — are reluctant to report crimes and if they report them, follow through by cooperating with police in the investigation. She said she believes Brown understands that and is committed to addressing those problems.

Cox said Brown acknowledged that the city’s crime rate has been rising, due largely to spikes in crime in Oak Lawn, in domestic violence and in drug-related incidents. He said the police force — which is shrinking in size and is one of the lowest-paid departments in the area — faces a number of barriers in addressing those increases.

“Dallas needs to get with the program and solve some big issues, micro and macro,” Cox said.

Cox said that she and other community leaders are working to find ways to offer resources other than those available through First Baptist, and that Tuesday’s meeting is just the beginning of what needs to be an ongoing dialog.

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Cannon Brown of Stonewall Democrats, Patti Fink of DGLA and Jay Narey of Stonewall Democrats

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North Texas GLBT Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda speaks to reporters

—  Tammye Nash

Ann Richards’ campaign manager speaks at Stonewall

This month’s Stonewall Democrats meeting features Mary Beth Rogers, former campaign manager for Gov. Ann Richards.

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Mary Beth Rogers

Rogers new book is Turning Texas Blue: What It Will Take to Break the GOP Grip on America’s Reddest State.

Stonewall President Jay Narey said he likes a quote from her book: “Few people really ‘get’ Texas,” Rogers writes. “We are too damn big. Too diverse. Too rich. Too poor. Contradictions abound.”

The meeting is Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Vixin Lounge, upstairs at Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St.

—  David Taffet

Welcome aboard, Erin Moore

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We are thrilled to welcome aboard the newest addition to the Dallas Voice family, graphic artist Erin Moore.

That name may sound — probably does sound — familiar. That’s because Erin has been an active member of DFW’s LGBT community for years. She has been president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and vice president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas.
Erin’s also served on the Human Rights Campaign’s national Board of Governors and co-chaired National Coming Out Day.She grew up in Slidell, La., and moved to Dallas in 1992 to be staff adviser to Southern Methodist University’s student newspaper the Daily Campus. From there she began doing layout and design for Texas Lawyer and most recently worked at Brown & Partners designing jewelry advertising for national clients. Erin’s partner, Patti Fink, is currently president of DGLA and hosts the show that Dallas Observer named best talk show in Dallas, Lambda Weekly.

—  Tammye Nash

Democratic platform calls reparative therapy quackery and calls for Texas marriage equality

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Stonewall Dallas President Jay Narey, center, at the Texas Democratic Convention

The platform that emerged from the Democratic Convention held in Dallas last week stands in stark contrast to that of the Texas Republican platform that encouraged reparative therapy to “cure” gays.

“For decades it has been beyond dispute by health professionals that homosexuality is a normal, natural and positive variation of human sexual orientation,” the Democratic platform says. “Similarly, it is clear that a person’s gender identity — one’s inner sense of being male or female — is deep-seated and cannot be changed.”

Jeff Strater, a gay delegate, was elected to serve on the state Democratic Executive Committee from Senate District 23. He said he was overwhelmed by Democrats’ response to the Republican platform.

“LGBTQ mentions are peppered throughout the platform,” Strater said, adding that each plank in the platform was passed by the entire convention.

“There were no holdouts,” he said. “No cranky ‘no’s’ from East Texas.”

Strater is not the first gay man elected to the executive committee from District 23. Gary Fitzsimmons and Buck Massey held that seat in the past.

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey said he was impressed by the planks submitted by the trans community that passed just as easily as the others. Those planks would make it easier for a person to change information on their state identification.

While LGBT is mentioned elsewhere in the platform, one whole section is devoted to “personal security and equal protection for LGBTQ Texans.”

Had Texas Republicans not made so-called “reparative therapy” an issue by calling for it in their state party platform, Strater said, most Democrats would likely not have given the concept a second thought. But with the GOP platform making headlines on the subject, reparative therapy ended up being included in the first section in the Dems’ platform relating to the LGBT community. Democrats want to ban the practice — referred to as “quackery” in their platform.

Strater said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro reflected the sentiment of the convention when he addressed delegates on Saturday: “Gov. Perry, if you believe gay people need repairing, then I would suggest your soul needs repairing,” Castro said.

Jay Narey, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said, “Democrats stand in stark contrast to Republicans — like day and night.” He said the reparative therapy issue was just the obvious contrast, but positive platform planks on issues affecting everyday life in the LGBT community’ were passed overwhelmingly.

Other planks Democrats adopted dealt with marriage equality, trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination and personal security that call on “social, health care and public service professionals to seek out and adopt best practices in the delivery of services to all Texans.”

Narey also pointed out that while Log Cabin Republicans were not allowed even a small table at the GOP convention, the Stonewall Caucus was so large, it met on the main convention floor while other caucuses were assigned meeting rooms.

Narey said he had no idea how many people attended the Stonewall Caucus because there was no controlled access to the convention floor. Hundreds of people — and all but one statewide candidate — attended the caucus. He estimated at least 300 LGBT delegates participated, but hundreds more allies also participated in Stonewall events.

“There’s been a dramatic shift on our issues over the last four election cycles,” Narey said. “State Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa is extremely supportive of the LGBT community. He’s largely responsible.”

Strater said he was energized and motivated as a result of the convention and made quite a few new contacts that he’ll call on through the campaign. His only negative comment about the weekend concerned the Ladybird Johnson breakfast: “When [anti-gay Dallas City Councilwoman] Vonceil Jones Hill was introduced to give the prayer, there were gasps from the audience,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Caucus at the Texas Democratic Convention

The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus met on the main convention floor of the Texas Democratic Convention on June 27. Major candidates for statewide office and current officeholders addressed the caucus.

—  David Taffet

Alameel addresses Stonewall as LGBT equality advocate

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David Alameel

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate David Alameel attended the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting Tuesday, the first time he has had contact with the state’s largest Democratic organization. He faces Kesha Rodgers in a runoff. The Texas Democratic Party has issued a warning against Rodgers whose main platform is impeaching President Obama.

While Stonewall usually packs the back room at Ojeda’s on Maple Avenue, attendance was sparse because gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was opening her Dallas headquarters on MLK Boulevard at the same time.

Alameel addressed not yet having visited the group. He said he’s tried to visit each of the 254 counties in Texas, but when he arrives he mostly hears complaints that he hadn’t been there yet.

He said he and his wife could retire to Hawaii and not have to work another day, but he said he remembers working minimum wage jobs. He wants to go to Washington, he said, to address the Republican war on women, war on the poor, war on the elderly and war on immigrants.

Alameel is an immigrant, himself. He was born in Haifa, Israel, and is Lebanese Christian. He’s lived in the U.S. more than 40 years.

He attacked Texas Sen. John Cornyn for voting against protecting women in the military from sexual assault. He said he opposed corporate greed that shipped jobs overseas and recent Supreme Court decisions giving corporations the same rights as people.

“I don’t remember where it said in the Bible God created Wall Street in His image,” Alameel said.

He also attacked what he called the Republican war on the gay and lesbian community.

“I’m a devout Christian who accepts equality,” he said.

He said if one of his kids told him he was gay, he knows how he’d want his child treated.

Early voting continues through Friday, May 23. 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Runoff day is Tuesday, May 27.

—  David Taffet

Early voting begins Tuesday

EEarly voting for the Democratic and Republican primaries begins Tuesday, Feb. 18 and runs through Friday, Feb. 28. The primary takes place on Tuesday, March 4.

A registered voter may vote at any early voting location in the county where registered. On primary day, voters must go to their own precincts. No early voting locations will be available in Oak Lawn, which is one of Dallas’ most densely populated neighborhoods. Grauwyler Park Recreation Center on Harry Hines Boulevard, five blocks north of Mockingbird Lane, is the closest.

Early voting times in Dallas County:

Tuesday, Feb. 18 – Friday, Feb. 21 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 22 7 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 23 1 p.m.–6 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 24 – Friday, Feb. 28 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

—  David Taffet