Two days after Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano was appointed by Mayor Mike Rawlings to chair the LGBT Task Force, he was already working on the group’s future projects.
Medrano held his first meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Panera Bread on Lemmon Avenue to discuss how the Task Force operates and find out how its members want to move forward.
Former Councilwoman Delia Jasso chaired the Task Force since its creation in 2009. Members began looking for a replacement after Jasso lost her District 1 seat to Scott Griggs after redistricting placed them in the same district.
Medrano said he was excited about the appointment, which the Task Force agreed to. While past projects and future endeavors were discussed at the meeting, it was agreed that the Task Force should be a core group but others are welcome to attend to offer suggestions or advice.
Possible town hall-style meetings a few times a year were also suggested to help inform the larger LGBT community about the Task Force’s projects, as well as shifting the monthly meeting locations.
Next week’s meeting at Panera will be open to the public to help set the agenda of the Task Force for the coming months. Medrano said that while he’ll come with ideas, he wants members to set priorities.
“It’s all at the will of the Task Force and however they see us moving forward,” he said. “I’m really excited to chair it and that the original Task Force agreed that I should be the chair.”
Last month, Task Force members discussed the application and interview process for selecting a new chair. Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group was in the process of distributing applications for a new chair when the mayor’s office contacted them about making it a priority of Rawlings’.
Gerber said the group was assured it would continue to operate autonomously as it has in the past four years and city employees, such as police and fire LGBT liaisons, would still be able to attend meetings.
After the meeting, Gerber said the Task Force will continue with strong leadership and driven purpose.
“I think it’s going to be exciting, strategic, educated, deliberate and effective with a real tangible impact,” she said.
Task Force member Nell Gaither said she’s excited for the direction the group is taking under Medrano.
“It sounds like it’s more formal in the right way,” she said.
Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said the Task Force is still informal even though the mayor appointed the chair. She said the mayor’s involvement guaranteed the group would continue as one of his priorities.
“It’s not changing anything,” she said. “It’s not a formal commission.”
Blackmon said the Domestic Violence Task Force started out as a formal court-ordered task force and became informal. She said task forces put forth recommendations but are not a voting body with binding decisions, and are usually considered informal groups.
Since the LGBT Task Force’s creation four years ago, she said the group has come up with several ideas like Pride events at City Hall and gender-neutral forms.
“They’ve got some great ideas and great solutions to help,” she said. “They come with an abundance of knowledge and experience that can be useful in changing and enhancing some things at City Hall.”
Blackmon said Medrano’s role as chair could eventually turn into an LGBT liaison position at City Hall in addition to him chairing the Task Force.
“That’s where we’re going,” she said. “At the moment he’s the chair of the Task Force with the intention of being a liaison [in the future].”
Medrano has declined to discuss his sexual orientation, but he said that won’t hinder the success of the Task Force in the future.
“I don’t think it matters,” he said. “I think I have their full support. And I look forward to working with the Task Force.”
But Daniel Cates, regional coordinator for GetEQUAL TX, disagreed. He said a closeted councilman chairing the Task Force hurts equality and reflects poorly on its members for agreeing to have him as chair.
“Many may say that his sexual orientation shouldn’t be a factor. However, at this moment in time, Americans are being asked to show their true colors in regards to equality,” Cates said. “Medrano would have far more power and influence if he came out and told the truth. Remaining in the closet is a setback for our community.”
The next LGBT Task Force meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at Panera Bread, 3826 Lemmon Ave.
The public is welcome to attend, but should RSVP to Monica.Huerta@dallascityhall.com for a head count.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 16, 2013.