I have lived and worked in the District of Columbia for 20 years — first at The American University, in the Clinton-Gore administration, and as chief of staff to Tipper Gore in the Gore 2000 campaign. I have experience in D.C. government, most recently as director of Parks and Recreation. I am a candidate for Council at-Large because I believe our politicians need to stop bickering and start solving the city’s problems. We deserve better crime prevention, more transparent education reform, better job training and LGBT issues cannot be an afterthought.
As any family would, my partner Aubrey and I discussed the impact this decision would have on our personal life. We talked about the positive impact I thought my campaign could have on the city and its people. Together, we decided this was my opportunity to make a difference. With his support and with the encouragement of many other valuable voices in our city, I realized that the people deserve new ideas, a vibrant and transparent government and fresh leadership.
The fact is that my opponent and I both believe in full equality for all D.C. residents. And as part of a same-sex family, I thank him for supporting marriage equality. However, as a gay man I also know another “seat at the table” will make a real difference. I will represent the needs of all of D.C.’s residents, but I also understand first hand what it means to be a part of the LGBT community. And as part of an interracial couple, I know that my experiences and those of my partner Aubrey, an African-American, differ greatly. I’ve seen up close the racism and bigotry that too often is still a part of our community.
We must address the long ignored problem of school bullying and the resulting tragic teen suicides and we need to increase HIV/AIDS education with support from organizations like SMYAL and Metro TeenAIDS. Rebuild the D.C. police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit and attack the problem of hate crimes with the intensity such violence demands. My efforts will be grounded in knowledge I gained as a reserve police officer in D.C.’s police department, walking a beat and serving with the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit. When I speak out about hate crimes, walk in vigils, talk to survivors, it isn’t because an aide read in the newspaper about someone else’s struggle. It’s with an urgency that can only come from living as a gay man.
I am running not just as the gay candidate who will be an advocate for the LGBT community, but as a public servant in D.C. with a track record of effectiveness and independence. The effectiveness was evident in my endorsement from Rev. Willie Wilson who said that because of our friendship and working together he is now a strong supporter of full civil rights for the LGBT community. He has apologized for some of his past remarks and has invited me, an openly gay man, to speak from his pulpit. It is a platform I will use everywhere to change hearts and minds. It is an example of what it means to have “a seat at the table” and to use the public voice of a City Councilmember for the good of our community.
When I insist that we make our neighborhoods stronger, better places to live, it’s after two years as director of D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation. I brokered public-private partnerships, created the city’s first dog parks, expanded summer camps, built new parks and recreation centers and renovated old ones. That progress must continue.
When I demand true oversight of city contracts, I will do so as the only Council member to have managed a city agency. Unlike my opponent I have a hands-on understanding of city budgets, personnel and agency processes.
When I insist on workforce-development programs that give every resident a fair chance to learn new skills and hold a decent job, it’s based on experience working in neighborhood services for two different mayors. It’s with the understanding that uniting a city in which unemployment is at 3 percent in one ward and nearly 30 in another requires more than hollow words of assurances and “nitpicking” policy. We can and must do better.
When I demand Congress repeal the shameful “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, get out of D.C.’s budget and legislative process and secure statehood and voting rights, it’s with experience in the Clinton-Gore administration, under Secretary Mike Espy, working in the Office of Congressional Relations.
I am running because I know I can make government work for us. Together we can and will find the ways to make our lives better. I promise honest, independent leadership. I ask for your help, and for your vote.
Clark Ray is an at-large candidate for D.C. City Council. Reach him via clarkrayforcouncil.com.