June 17, 2010 | by Deacon Maccubbin
Mayor Fenty deserves second term

As a longtime D.C. resident and founder of Lambda Rising Bookstore, I am writing to let the LGBT community know why I am supporting Adrian Fenty for mayor.

First and foremost, I always have great admiration for candidates who actually deliver on the promises they make during a campaign. Four years ago, Adrian Fenty promised us that he would improve the schools. One of his first actions as mayor was to bring Michelle Rhee on board to turn around what was, at the time, a failing education system. You may remember that there were schools in such disrepair that they could not open, schools without textbooks, schools in which it was simply too dangerous to learn. Today, our schools have undergone rehabilitation, they open on time, the students have textbooks, and safety has been improved dramatically. So have test scores, which are up 11 percent, the largest increase in the nation. And now, thanks to Fenty and Rhee, D.C. Public Schools have implemented a new health curriculum that educates students about gender identity and sexual orientation and developed resources for the schools that will help create safe spaces for LGBT youth.

Four years ago, Adrian Fenty promised improved policing and a corresponding decrease in crime, and he has delivered on both, with violent crime down 7.2 percent last year, far ahead of the national average. Only last year, he released the first bias-crime report in the District’s history, which provides the most accurate count possible of hate crimes in our history.

Four years ago, Adrian Fenty promised improved city services at a time when citizens could barely get through to city agencies on the phone. Today, communication by phone and website is vastly improved; you can actually reach public servants and get answers to questions, and the city is making much better use of new technology.

And four years ago, Adrian Fenty was forthright in his promise of support for marriage equality, as he had been since 2000. He made good on that promise, too, when he signed into law the historic Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Amendment Act legalizing same-sex marriage in D.C. and is vigorously defending this in court and on the Hill.

Of course, there is much left to be done, but in the four years of the Fenty administration, the improvements already made are significant, and many of them impact positively on the LGBT community directly:

• Under Fenty’s administration, the Wanda Alston House was established, providing the first transitional housing program for LGBT youth and issuing updated guidelines for other housing providers offering safe space for LGBT youth.

• His administration released the first epidemiology report dealing specifically with the HIV/AIDS epidemic among men who have sex with men. He also released the most comprehensive reports on HIV/AIDS in the city. And under Fenty’s watch, condom distribution has increased so that the city is now giving away 4.2 million condoms a year.

• The Fenty administration launched and funded an annual GLBT economic development summit that has connected business leaders to government resources and has increased the number of LGBT businesses that are eligible to be on the District government’s supply chain from three to 15.

Citizens have talked for years about getting some of these items done. Mayor Fenty has made it happen. He’s not been shy about making the tough decisions. I know some criticize him for being aloof, but I base my decision on results, not on personalities, and my decision this year is to support Adrian Fenty for mayor because I believe he has proven an ability to get the job done.

Deacon Maccubbin is founder of Lambda Rising Bookstore.

6 Comments
  • Deacon:

    You know that I admire you tremendously. You provide more inspiration in your pinky finger than Adrian Fenty has in the past three and a half years as Mayor.

    I’ve read your passionate writing before and this isn’t anything close to the kind of passion that you are capable of showing. I can’t help but think that is because your heart isn’t in it.

    Fenty broke a promise to our community on Day 1 as Mayor by not releasing the Spagnoletti memo. When Council voted to recognize out of State marriages, he was asked by a reporter at WTOP if he would fight an effort of Congress to overturn it. His response, “It depends.”

    Fenty never lobbied for votes on the marriage bill. When he was urged to testify in favor of the marriage bill, he refused.

    When hate crimes were on the rise, he refused to acknowledge it. When he finally met with GLOV, it was a contentious meeting. THAT, by the way, was the ONLY meeting with an LGBT organization he has taken in the Mayor’s office and he has never had an LGBT Town Hall meeting.

    With regard to HIV/AIDS, he just allowed the best thing to ever happen in DC’s fight against the epidemic, Shannon Hader, to leave her position as Director of HAHSTA. Reports from insiders indicate that her vision was “too broad”, “too comprehensive”, and “outside of the Mayor’s narrow vision of count, count, and count some more”. DOH Director Pierre Vigilance continued to alienate her and when the Mayor had to choose, he chose to lose Hader, bringing a stunning setback to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

    The only person in this race to show compassion and understanding for the LGBT community is Vince Gray. He is the only candidate in this race that was working to secure as many vote for the marriage bill as possible. He is the only candidate in this race to pledge to fight against any effort to repeal marriage. He is the only candidate in this race that has pledged to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS. He is the only candidate in this race with a birth to 24 years education program. He is the only candidate in this race that knows LGBT issues well enough to engage in a discussion without reading from notes.

    Fenty has not deserved another term and Vince Gray has made the case for his candidacy for Mayor. The choice is clear. Vince Gray should be our new Mayor.

    Respectfully,
    Lane

  • Please name one concrete step Fenty did to help us win marriage equality? All he did was come in at the last minute, hold a big press conference, and took all the credit. That’s the Fenty way!

  • Deacon:

    Respectfully, I disagree.

    When it comes to Mayor Fenty’s handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis, his contribution can be chalked up to appointing Dr. Hader, which was certainly a promising first step. However, his contribution ends there.

    Most in the DC HIV community will tell you that he is woefully out of touch with what was supposed to be his “number one health priority,” and never provided Dr. Hader the support that was needed to really make headway against the crisis beyond the top notch surveillance system she developed.

    But she is gone now; and the Mayor doesn’t seem interested in explaining the circumstances around her departure nor speaking of any efforts he made to prevent her from leaving.

    The condom campaign is great; however, its success has hinged largely on community partners doing the heavy lifting of distributing the condoms and lube throughout the city. In fact, the DOH’s main task in this effort is to procure the condoms and lube from Durex, a process that has gone quite badly in the past few months. Throughout most of March and May there were scarce, if any, condoms to be found in bars and many clinics (like WWC) around town because the DOH had run out of them. Less than week before Capital Pride our condom shipments were still on backorder.

    As for the recent MSM HIV/AIDS Report, you should know that Fenty’s administration originally planned to give it a “soft release,” late on Friday afternoon this past March, when the “staggering” figures it reported would be hidden and not attract as much media attention. Why? Well, it was pretty bad news, and probably wouldn’t look so good for him or the city. I don’t know what ultimately motivated this decision, but it wasn’t until community activists got wind of this plan and pushed back that it was decided a more visible release on the following Thursday was better. We need someone who’s administration will put our best interests first, and not his.

    Also, while numerous US city leaders, and even President Obama, have taken public HIV tests to show solidarity in the fight against HIV/AIDS and promote testing, Fenty has not yet done so. Multiple times he’s been asked to take the test over the past few years, but has refused according to his staff, because it was not his style. It wasn’t until he was asked twice about taking the test during the Gertrude Stein Club Meeting that he finally said he would do it. But at that point, he had no choice.

    Finally, the HIV/AIDS Surveillance reports produced under his administration are great, but they do not translate into the action needed to start winning the fight against HIV/AIDS. I don’t have confidence that Fenty appreciates the gravity of this problem in DC; otherwise he would have fought harder to retain Dr. Hader and support her during her tenure. We need a leader with a much greater sense of urgency around HIV in our community.

  • Bob Summersgill

    As an activist who has worked for our marriage rights for 10 years, and have been called the architect of the plan by the Washington Blade, I couldn’t be happier with Mayor Fenty’s support of marriage equality.

    We could have passed a marriage equality law 10 years ago. That was always the easy part. When it was finally introduced, it had a super-majority of 10 introducers and passed 11-2. We did not need the Mayor to use any influence to get those votes. The hard part—and what took so long—was to ensure that once the law passed it would not be overturned. There was both the threat of interference from Congress and the threat of lawsuits and ballot measures.

    We didn’t get a Congress that we thought wouldn’t interfere until they passed a D.C. appropriations bill without any social riders. We spent years figuring out how to fix D.C. laws so that any lawsuit to overturn our rights would fail. Phil Mendelson took the lead on that, while Jack Evans handled the numerous tax issues. Adrian Fenty voted for or signed each bill. In the past year, we moved forward 3 bills securing marriage equality. His support was never in question.

    Harry Jackson, with backing from the National Organization for Marriage, tried 3 times to get a ballot measure to get a campaign similar to California’s Prop 8 in D.C. An additional measure for an initiative was submitted by another group. In each case, Mayor Fenty’s Attorney General submitted testimony to the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) arguing that the ballot measures would be improper as violations of the Human Rights Act. Harry Jackson took the BOEE to court each time and with appeals, the Fenty administration have brilliantly defended our rights 7 times. Each brief and oral argument was absolutely wonderful. Lambda Legal couldn’t have defended our rights any better. We are waiting for the final ruling by a D.C. court, but I am very optimistic because of the vigorous defense of our rights by the Mayor Fenty’s solicitor general. Mayor Fenty has tackled the hard part of keeping marriage equality.

    In regard to the Spagnoletti letter, I have long thought that it was a red herring. Many activists asked Mayor Williams not to make it public, lest we move before we were ready to defend our rights. In the Fenty Administration it was moot. An opinion of an attorney general of a prior administration does not carry any legal weight. It was by then only a historically interesting document. The path we took to success worked precisely because we did not act rashly.

    Whatever problems that you have with Mayor Fenty, and I have many, it should not be for how he has handled our right to marriage. On that issue, he deserves high praise.

  • Bob, you are right, but Lane arrived in town already knowing everything. Strategy, planning, methodically preparing the way not just to pass a marriage equality bill but to ensure it is sustained–none of that was necessary. All that was needed was to demand total equality right now and denigrate activists that had been working for equality for years–since, after all, we still didn’t have everything, so what good could they have been? It must be nice knowing everything. The rest of us must pay attention and do our homework and plan and coordinate and build coalitions.

    I wonder, though, how Vince Gray is helped by Lane’s one-sided account that denies Adrian Fenty any credit and heaps only scorn upon him, since that account is plainly false. You and I have been calling the Spagnoletti memo a red herring for the past six years, but Lane persists in treating it as a magic key. We of course were not ready six years ago to sustain a victory; you have pointed out a key reason. But Lane finds it convenient to act as if only foot-dragging by people like you and me held up progress. Forget preparation, forget strategy, give us what we want right now! Unfortunately for Lane, sensible people know better, and understand that smart, careful preparation made our victory solid and sustainable.

    Denying due credit to Mayor Fenty for the superb work of Attorney General Nickles and his staff is not just irresponsible and unjust, it is implausible. I testified on behalf of GLAA against Nickles’s confirmation, backing up our case with 13 footnotes; the result was not our being blackballed but being invited to meet with Nickles to discuss our concerns, which led to two separate tracks of meetings that led to resolution of differences over the DP parentage bill (which is now law, and protects many families) and to improving the Corrections Dept. policy on housing of transgender prisoners. Nickles later defended the marriage bill–having his best attorneys work on those briefs–with the full backing of his boss, the Mayor.

    The Mayor’s race this year is between two allies of the GLBT community. I too have many complaints about the current Mayor, which are detailed in GLAA’s “Agenda: 2010.” But the great progress we have made in D.C. has resulted in part from building relationships with public officials, which require not just criticizing them but giving them credit where due. I voted for Vince Gray at the Stein Club endorsement meeting; but I was choosing between two allies. It is our good fortune that that is the case. That fact that we are not faced with a choice between a friend and a foe reflects decades of involvement by LGBT people in the civic life of Washington. That deserves to be celebrated, not denied.

  • I just wanted to thank Deacon and everyone who has appended a comment thus far for having a rational, polite debate about this instead of lapsing into ad hominem attacks, either against the candidates or each other.

    I have already gone on the record supporting the Mayor, primarily because of issues which transcend GLBT issues but affect us all as residents — the state of our schools, the improvements in institutional services, and because he is committed to addressing the issues of rich and poor in our city. I believe the Mayor has the vision and has been energetic in carrying it out. He deserves another term.

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