In addition to fracking and the Trinity toll road, District 1 hopefuls disagree about transgender health benefits, need for human rights commission


Delia Jasso, left, Scott Griggs, right

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

Screen shot 2013-04-26 at 9.46.56 AMNo matter who wins the District 1 Dallas City Council race on May 11, the LGBT community will lose a straight ally at the horseshoe.

Delia Jasso, 58, a two-term incumbent who currently represents District 1, launched the city’s LGBT Task Force shortly after she first took office in 2009.

Scott Griggs, 38, a one-term incumbent who currently represents District 3, is the author of a proposed City Council resolution backing marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections.

Jasso and Griggs were placed in the same North Oak Cliff district — the new District 1 — when council maps were redrawn in 2011.

But while Jasso and Griggs are both generally supportive of the community, they disagree about how the city should address key LGBT issues.

For example, Griggs said he supports establishing a standing human relations commission to  address complaints filed under the city’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. The city has never prosecuted a complaint under the ordinance despite more than 60 that have been filed since it was enacted in 2002.

But Jasso said her LGBT Task Force, made up of citizens and city officials, has been reviewing the complaints and a commission is not needed.

Griggs also said he supports offering comprehensive transgender health benefits, including coverage for gender reassignment surgery, to city employees.

“We should not discriminate against transgender people by denying them medically necessary healthcare,” Griggs wrote on Dallas Voice’s candidate questionnaire.

But Jasso said although the city shouldn’t discriminate, more education is needed on trans healthcare, and members of her LGBT task force have not reached a consensus about whether the city should cover gender reassignment surgery.

“I think we’re all wanting more information,” Jasso said. “The Task Force is wanting more information.”

Asked whether she would support comprehensive trans health benefits if the Task Force endorses them, Jasso said: “That’s a what-if. I don’t answer what-ifs. We’ve just got to figure out where the Task Force is on it.”

Griggs and Jasso also disagree about hot-button non-LGBT issues, including the Trinity River toll road and gas drilling.

Griggs said he opposes construction of the toll road between the levees, because it would be too expensive and lack connections to Interstates 30 and 35.

 “Completing Project Pegasus by improving the I-30 Canyon and I-35 Lower Stemmons Corridor will move more cars, relieve more congestion, and cost less than the Trinity Tollroad,” Griggs said.

Jasso said she supports construction of the toll road between the levees because it represents the will of the voters, who’ve signed off on the project twice.

 “If they don’t agree with it,” Jasso said of toll road opponents, “they can begin another campaign like the last one we had, but I am very much for what the citizens wanted.”

Griggs also opposes gas drilling, and he has joined Councilwoman Angela Hunt in calling for an up-or-down council vote on permits for Trinity East.

Jasso declined to take a position on the permits, citing a possible lawsuit by the company.

“Now it becomes a legal issue, and if I say I’m for or against it … I could be liable for making Trinity East lose money,” Jasso said.

Jasso said her biggest accomplishment on the council has been “working with the neighbors and the merchants to make Bishop Arts a go-to venue.” She said the biggest issue facing District 1 going forward will be bridging the gap between areas like Kessler Park and Stevens Park to the north, and lower-income areas to the south. She wants to focus on improving schools to attract more residents, including building partnerships between schools and neighborhoods.

Griggs said his biggest accomplishment was passage of an ordinance he authored regulating the city’s more than 200 group homes for the mentally ill, disabled and elderly — many of which are in Oak Cliff. He said the biggest challenge facing District 1 is managing growth while maintaining Oak Cliff’s authenticity and character. He advocates form-based zoning that allows developers to determine uses for buildings while the city focuses on amenities like bike lanes, plazas, parks and trails.

“We’re responsible for everything between the buildings. We’re responsible for creating life between the buildings and a place where people want to be,” Griggs said.

Griggs has outpaced Jasso in fundraising, bringing in $52,162 to her $39,200. Both have their share of high-profile LGBT supporters. Jasso is endorsed by Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Her individual backers include gay former Dallas City Councilmen Craig Holcomb, Chris Luna, Ed Oakley and Craig McDaniel.

“He’s more concerned about fracking and drilling and that than he is the things that are really important in North Oak Cliff,” Oakley said of Griggs, whom he endorsed for his old seat two years ago. “She  [Jasso] formed the GLBT Task Force when she went on the council and took that mantle on and helped us be represented at City Hall. She’s working on things that are important to the quality of life of the citizens of Oak Cliff, and Scott’s forgotten why he was elected.”

Griggs’ LGBT supporters include attorney Chad West, longtime bar and club proprietor Kathy Jack, real estate agent Susan Melnick and Democratic party activist Jeff Strater.

“Scott is one of the only city council members (in addition to Angela Hunt) who is not currently supported heavily by the Citizens Council, which has nothing but North Dallas interests in mind in their exploitation of

South Dallas,” West said in an email. “Also, Scott has the city as a whole in mind in every decision he makes. He doesn’t just look at what’s good for District 1, although he certainly does that, but he also looks at what is good for the city of Dallas as a whole. Scott has been the driving force behind the expansion of the walking-running trails in Dallas and understands the issues affecting the LGBT community, and advocates for us.”

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