Candidates for heavily LGBT seat all oppose gas drilling, but views differ on transgender healthcare, Trinity River toll road and other issues


ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

Screen shot 2013-04-26 at 9.46.56 AMThe new District 2 Dallas city council member will be either be an openly gay representative or an LGBT ally.

The race in the heavily LGBT district has drawn two gay candidates, as well as one who won’t discuss his sexual orientation and a community activist for the seat being vacated by term-limited Mayor Pro Tem Pauline

Medrano, who has been a staunch LGBT ally during her time in office.

District 2 encompasses most of Oak Lawn and parts of downtown and East Dallas. Candidates differ in experience, approaches to LGBT issues at City Hall and non-LGBT issues.

Openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld is in favor of the city offering comprehensive transgender healthcare.

“I think we’re at a point in time where everyone needs to be included,” he said.

He is also more outspoken on LGBT initiatives, including the need for a Human Rights Commission, the addition of a domestic partner registry, increased HIV/AIDS funding, and the creation of LGBT senior and youth programs.

“I’ve always been engaged in a very open way with my time and with my talent,” Weisfeld said. “I will be very comfortable being [the LGBT community’s] voice and being their ear at City Council.”

DISD Trustee Adam Medrano, Pauline Medrano’s nephew, didn’t return calls seeking a comment for this story.

But in response to a Dallas Voice questionnaire, Medrano said he supports trans healthcare but would want to know more about the costs. He also suggested the city should take a more active role in LGBT Pride events, adding that he’s ridden in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade the past six years as a DISD representative.

Medrano, 37, has served on the DISD school board since 2006 and was board president twice.

He refused to discuss his sexual orientation with Dallas Voice in March, but he was arrested in connection to homosexual conduct in a public restroom inside NorthPark Center in 2000.

Weisfeld, 52, has served on several boards and commissions over the years, dealing with historical prevention, business development, crime prevention and homelessness.

As an adaptive reuse developer, he said he has the business sense to bring about citizen-led change in the district’s diverse neighborhoods.

On hot-button issues, Weisfeld opposes gas drilling in urban areas and on parkland. He supports the Trinity River project’s flood control and recreational facilities, but questions whether a proposed high-speed toll road between the levees is the most effective plan, adding that he doesn’t have an alternative.

Medrano addressed his opposition to gas drilling during a Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance candidate forum recently, saying he was completely against drilling in urban areas.

Medrano and Weisfeld are the frontrunners in the race. Medrano has raised more than $15,000 for his campaign. He is endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
Weisfeld’s contributions totaled $25,000.

Insurance agent Vernon Franko is also openly gay and has not raised any money because he’s funding his own campaign. Franko supports covering trans healthcare but would want the city to research the benefits further. He also wants to look into allowing same-sex partners to receive investment and retirement benefits in addition to domestic partner benefits already offered by the city.

Franko, 48, is against gas drilling and the Trinity River toll road. His solution for the toll road is to build it outside the levees or underground.

As the other gay candidate in the race, Franko said he could speak openly about LGBT issues at City Hall.

“I think I would be more sensitive than other council members because of my experience in the community,” he said.

Community activist and general contractor Ricky Gonzales, 50, is the fourth candidate in the race and has raised a little more than $1,000. He is against gas drilling in the city and on parkland, but doesn’t oppose the toll road in the Trinity River Project because he supports the measure to end congestion in the city.

Gonzales said he plans to be an advocate for equality and would fight for the LGBT police and fire liaisons, as well as the city’s domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Luke Crosland, ilume developer, is supporting Weisfeld because he wants a council member who backs neighborhood improvements. He said Councilwoman Angela Hunt, not Pauline Medrano, pushed for the $1.2 million bond package that will bring improvement to the Cedar Springs strip.

He said he hasn’t heard Medrano’s stances on the issues, but is supporting Weisfeld because he’s “an outstanding person” willing to address economic issues.

Gay activist Jesus Chairez said Medrano and his family “has a history of supporting our community.” He cited Medrano’s resignation from his city job in the parks department to run for office as commitment to service, as well as his support for the DISD LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy, which passed unanimously.

“He has a track record of public service,” he said. “He’s always voted on our side.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 26, 2013.