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Gay incumbents face opposition in ANC races

Crime, parking, nightlife issues dominate contests for unpaid posts

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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)

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Rob Chasteen

    October 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    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.

  2. James Fournier

    October 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    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

  3. Logan Durham

    October 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

    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.

  4. Kenny Williams

    October 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    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.

  5. Barrie Daneker

    October 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    @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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In plea deal, D.C. trans woman’s killers could be free in 3 years

Two in 2016 killing of Dee Dee Dodds guilty of voluntary manslaughter

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Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed on July 4, 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

A D.C. LGBTQ anti-violence group will be submitting a community impact statement for a D.C. Superior Court judge scheduled to sentence two men on Dec. 10 for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds in a case D.C. police listed as a hate crime.

Stephania Mahdi, chair of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community’s Anti-Violence Project, told the Washington Blade the project has been in contact with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C., which is prosecuting the case against the two defendants set to be sentenced this week, to arrange for the submission of a statement on the impact the murder of Dodds has had on the community.

The impact statement would also apply to the sentencing of two other men charged in the Dodds murder case who are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20.

The Dec. 10 sentencing for Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, was set to take place a little over two months after Little and Johnson pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a single count of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

In exchange for the guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the charge of first-degree murder while armed originally brought against the two men. The plea agreement also called for dropping additional charges against them in connection with the Dodds murder, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

In addition, the plea agreement includes a promise by prosecutors to ask D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men. Under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Johnson has been held without bond for five years and three months since his arrest in the Dodds case in September 2016. Little has been held without bond since his arrest for the Dodds murder in February 2017. Courthouse observers say that judges almost always give defendants credit for time served prior to their sentencing, a development that would likely result in the two men being released in about three years.

The plea deal for the two men came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Judge Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodds’ murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain offer by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at Johnson and Little’s the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point blank range after he said she grabbed the barrel of Johnson’s handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Ave., N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that on the day of Dodd’s murder, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, some of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s office initially designated the murder charge against Little and Johnson as an anti-trans hate crime offense based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. But during Johnson and Little’s trial, Judge Lee dismissed the hate crime designation at the request of defense attorneys on grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little on the murder charge for Feb. 25, 2020. But court records show the trial date was postponed to June 22, 2020, and postponed several more times – to Jan 11, 2021, and later to Feb. 17, 2022, due to COVID-related restrictions before the plea bargain offer was agreed to in September of this year.  The public court records do not show why the trial was postponed the first few times prior to the start of COVID restrictions on court proceedings.

Legal observers have said long delays in trials, especially murder trials, often make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain a conviction because memories of key witnesses sometimes become faulty several years after a crime was committed.

“The D.C. Anti-Violence Project is disappointed to hear about the unfortunate proceedings in the case to bring justice for Dee Dee Dodds,” Mahdi, the Anti-Violence Project’s chair, told the Blade in a statement.

“A plea bargain from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter as well as a reduction of years in sentencing from 30 to 8 communicates not only a miscarriage of justice, but a message of penalization for victims who attempt to protect themselves during a violent assault,” Mahdi said. “The continual impact of reducing the culpability of perpetrators who target members of specifically identified communities sends a malicious message to criminals that certain groups of people are easier targets with lenient consequences,” she said.

“As a result of this pattern, the D.C. community has failed to defend the life and civil rights of Dee Dee Dodds and leaves criminally targeted LGBTQ+ community and other cultural identity communities critically undervalued by stewards of justice in the nation’s capital,” Mahdi concluded.  

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has declined to disclose the reason why prosecutors decided to offer Johnson and Little the plea bargain deal rather than petition the court for a second trial for the two men on the first-degree murder charge.

Attorneys familiar with cases like this, where a jury becomes deadlocked, have said prosecutors sometimes decide to offer a plea deal rather than go to trial again out of concern that another jury could find a defendant not guilty on all charges.

During the trial, defense attorneys told the jury that the Hall brothers were habitual liars and there were inconsistencies in their testimony. They argued that the Halls’ motives were aimed strictly at saying what prosecutors wanted them to say so they could get off with a lighter sentence.

The two prosecutors participating in the trial disputed those claims, arguing that government witnesses provided strong evidence that Johnson and Little should be found guilty of first-degree murder and other related charges.

Before the jury announced it was irreconcilably deadlocked on the murder charges, the jury announced it found Little not guilty of seven separate counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and found Johnson not guilty of five counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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