October 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay incumbents face opposition in ANC races

Editor’s note: Some minor changes were made to this story after it was posted as the Blade’s Lou Chibbaro heard from additional sources. The changes are in bold.

At least 29 gay or lesbian candidates are running for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats in the city’s Nov. 2 election, and some who have served as commissioners for multiple terms are facing strong opposition.

Most observers familiar with ANC races say issues like trash collection, street crime, parking, and liquor license applications for restaurants or bars rather than LGBT rights dominate ANC elections.

Among the gay commissioners facing opposition this year is Dupont Circle Commissioner Ramon Estrada, who is being challenged by attorney Sunit Talapatra, who says Estrada’s opposition to various development projects along the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor don’t represent the views of the majority of those living in Single Member District 2B09.

Estrada did not return a call seeking comment.

Four other gay commissioners in the Dupont Circle ANC are running unopposed in their re-election bids.

In the section of Ward 6 near the Washington Nationals Stadium, gay longtime Commissioner Bob Siegel, who represents SMD 6D07, is being challenged by urban design advocate David Garber, who says Siegel has not been aggressive enough in monitoring the rapidly changing area surrounding the new stadium.

Siegel disputes that claim, saying Garber has only been to one ANC 6D meeting in the three months he has lived in ANC 6D07. He says Garber doesn’t have the familiarity of the longtime residents in an area where new high-rise condominiums and upscale rental apartments are rapidly replacing the warehouses and auto repair garages that once dominated the neighborhood. Garber told the Blade he moved into the district in July but has familiarized himself with the important issues facing the neighborhood.

Siegel received a setback last month when popular Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells endorsed Garber.

Congress created the ANCs in the early 1970s when it wrote and approved the city’s Home Rule Charter. In what was then considered a new means of advancing grassroots participatory democracy, the city’s congressional overseers designated 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to represent neighborhoods throughout the city and subdivided them into 286 Single Member Districts.

Each district includes approximately 2,000 residents and is represented by a single commissioner elected to a two-year term. Commissioners are unpaid and their role is limited to advising the city government on a wide range of policy matters. The Home Rule Charter instructs city officials to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.

In Ward 5, gay incumbent Barrie Daneker, who represents SMD 5C07 in the city’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, is facing a challenge from attorney James Fournier. Fournier states on his campaign website that Daneker didn’t adequately reach out to his constituents over a controversial liquor license application in the district and has not adequately handled a controversial proposal to develop the site of the city’s former water filtration plant near North Capital Street and Michigan Avenue.

Daneker said he has a two-term record of working closely with constituents and soliciting their views on a wide range of issues, including the water filtration site and the liquor license flap. He told members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night his outspoken support for the city’s same-sex marriage equality law was controversial in a ward where many residents strongly opposed the law.

Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who angered many of his constituents by voting for the marriage bill, endorsed Daneker’s ANC re-election bid. Thomas won the Democratic nomination for his own seat by winning the primary in September by a comfortable margin despite organized opposition led by same-sex marriage opponents.

Daneker said some of that same opposition may be seeking to oust him from office in the ANC race.

Fournier could not be immediately reached.

In the Estrada-Talapatra race in Dupont Circle, Talapatra, who is straight, is being backed by gay civic activist and former Dupont Circle Civic Association President Joel Lawson.

Lawson and gay D.C. nightlife advocate Mark Lee have raised concerns in the past about Estrada’s tactics in opposing the liquor license of the Cada Vez restaurant, which hosted a weekly gay Latino dance party called Fuego. Estrada and others living near 15th and U St., N.W., where Cada Vez was located, complained that it appeared to be operating as a nightclub disguised as a restaurant, placing it in violation of the terms of its liquor license.

In an action that angered gay activists, Estrada and his domestic partner confronted the gay patrons of the Fuego dance party with video and still cameras, videotaping and photographing them as they entered and left the premises. Estrada said the action was needed to submit evidence to the city liquor board that Cada Vez was violating its liquor license by operating as a nightclub. But gay activists said the videotaping intimidated many Latino gays, some of whom feared they would be outed.

“Although Ramon is gay and I am a straight ally, I remain disturbed by the insensitivity Ramon’s demonstrated in sanctioning the videotaping of young LGBT patrons entering a club a couple years ago,” Talapatra told the Blade. “What home situations were those young kids returning to? Although businesses should abide by the conditions of their liquor licenses, of course, it is important not to embroil innocent patrons in any alleged dispute,” he said.

Another seven of the gay or lesbian ANC incumbents are facing opposition, but most are expected to win re-election to their respective seats.

Stein Club President Jeffrey Richardson said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing ANC candidates because ANCs were created as non-partisan positions and the club doesn’t endorse non-Democrats. But Richardson said the club would send a list of the gay or “LGBT supportive” ANC candidates to its members to help them make “an informed decision” on which ANC candidates to support.

(Photo: Stein Club president Jeffrey Richardson; Blade file photo)

Following is a list the ANC candidates, both incumbents and challengers, who identified themselves as gay or lesbian to Stein Club members:

Juan Lopez, SMD 1B07, incumbent (South Columbia Heights)

Bill O’Field , SMD 1C02, (Kalorama Triangle)

Mike Feldstein, SMD 2B01, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Jack Jacobson, 2B04, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Victory Wexler, 2B05, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Mike Silverstein, 2B06, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Phil Carney, 2B07, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Ramon Estrada, 2B09, incumbent (Dupont Circle)

Alexander ‘Alex’ Padro, 2C01, incumbent/unopposed (Shaw)

Michael Benardo, 2F05, incumbent (Logan Circle)

Lee Brian Reba, 3C01, incumbent/unopposed (Woodley Park/Zoo)

Tom Smith, 3D02, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)

Bob Summersgill, 3F07, unopposed (North Cleveland Park/Van Ness)

Michael Yates, 4C01, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)

Joseph Martin, 4C09, incumbent/unopposed (Petworth)

Thalia Wiggins, 5B06, incumbent (Northeast)

Mary Lois Farmer-Allen, 5C06, incumbent (Northeast)

Barrie Daneker, 5C07, incumbent (Bloomingdale)

Neil Click, 6B08, incumbent (Capitol Hill)

Michael Patterson, 6B09, incumbent (Capitol Hill/Barney Circle)

Larry Frankel, 6B10 (RFK Stadium area)

Brian Cox, 6C05 (North Capitol Hill/H St., N.E. corridor)

Andy Litsky, 6D04, incumbent/unopposed (Southwest Waterfront)

Roger Moffatt, 6D05, incumbent (Southwest Waterfront)

Robert ‘Bob’ Siegel, 6D07, incumbent (Nationals Stadium area)

Zina Williams, 7B02, incumbent/unopposed (Naylor Rd., S.E. area)

Catherine Woods, 7C03, incumbent (Fitch Pl., N.E. area)

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I feel our story needs to be told. My husband and I got married in March when DC passed the same sex marriage and next month for adoption day we finalize our adoption on 2 of our kids that we have been foster parents for. We are still waiting to finalize 2 more but we feel couples like us who want kids need to know that DC has over 2,000 kids looking for homes and if we get our story out maybe other people will see this and want to adopt kids in dc.

  • I have never been contacted by anyone from the Blade for comment on any story – ever.

    Second, I wholly support gay marriage, which the Blade would have known had it bothered to contact me. Third, I grew up in Northern California and lived in Berkeley, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C. and probably have more gay friend than straight ones and have been to my several gay unions over the years – another fact that would have been pointed out had the Blade bothered to contact me. The Blade also would have known this if it had bothered to read the brief biography posted on my website. Mr. Chibarro inaccurately refers to my website, yet manages not to cite it, not to quote it, and fails to even present the website address.

    There is not much of a connection between ones sexuality and whether you are a decent ANC Commissioner (or if there is it escapes me). The issues that people actually care about in SMD 5C07 are listed on my website at http://www.jamesjfournier.com and certainly are not limited to the issues referenced in Mr. Chibbaro’s piece.

    Commissioner Daneker’s comments reflect a transparently desperate effort for public sympathy three weeks prior to an election after four years of grandstanding and failing to grasp the fundamentals of what it means to be a good ANC Commissioner.

    James Fournier

  • As a gay resident of ANC 5C07, and someone who recently took advantage of DC’s new marriage law, I have observed the Bloomingdale neighborhood continuing to become a close-knit community that celebrates the diversity of all residents. The vibe and feed-back I continue to get is that sexuality doesn’t matter in the race for Commissioner. However, honesty is very important, and the truth is James Fournier has no bias against the LGBT community. I have known James since moving to this neighborhood over 3 years ago and he has made it clear to all in word and deed that he is supportive of gay people and is NOT against same-sex marriage as Barrie Daneker seems to suggest. This race in 5C07 has nothing to do with the same-sex marriage law as both canidates are in support. We just need a Commissioner who actually does work closely with constituents, solicits their views, and is available to their constituents.

  • The implication made by Mr. Daneker that “some of the same sex marriage opponents may be seeking to oust him in the ANC race” is incorrect and dishonest. His only opposition in the SMD 5C07 race is Mr. James Fournier.
    Mr. Fournier is supportive of all Bloomingdale residents, regardless of their sexuality. More importantly, he is a strong supporter of same sex marriage equality in the District of Columbia. Since my spouse and I of 17 years moved to Bloomingdale from Logan Circle 5 years ago, Mr. Fournier has been one of the most helpful and welcoming neighbors.

    While I am disappointed in Mr. Daneker’s inference, I am really disturbed by the Washington Blade’s willingness to post and print such erroneous information without a simple fact check by the editorial staff. Did anyone even attempt to reach Mr. Fournier before printing or reporting this misinformation?

    As out, gay men my family has read the Blade since the early 1990’s. We did so because of it’s honest, unbiased and accurate representation of the facts. Sadly, your publication missed the boat this time.

  • @kenny williams– I would hope that you would read the article again. Many have inferred that the word oppostion refers to Mr. Fournier…In fact it does not! the sentence prior refers to oppostion (voters who were against gay marriage). In no way was it a reflect on Mr. Fournier. I would hope that people would be more careful no to infer something that was not said!

    Personally, it’s just another ploy of Mr. Fournier, OurMcMillan, and the McMillan Park Committee’s support of their canidate Mr. Fournier.

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