Connect with us


‘Scandal scarred’ D.C. Council reverses vote on taxes

Small business owners among those hit with one of nation’s highest rates



Our city government has become an embarrassment.

The pity is D.C.’s elected officials don’t seem to realize they have crossed that elusive “line in the sand” with the public.

It’s not difficult to understand why many residents now turn their heads, lower their gaze and recoil when a news report begins, “The D.C. Council today…”

Who knows how that sentence might end?

With a majority of Council members, as well as Mayor Vincent Gray, under what is delicately described as an “ethical cloud,” a bitterly fractured Council has come to resemble a drag queen dressing room before show time — bitchy, yes, but unfortunately, not as amusing or good natured.

However, LGBT political and community organizations utter nary a peep in protest — despite the fact that it’s difficult just to keep all the details of official malfeasance organized in a pitiable voter’s mind.

Can’t someone convince disgraced Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who has agreed — without admitting any wrongdoing while a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office continues — to repay $300,000 in city funds intended for a youth athletic program spent instead on an Audi SUV, trips to golf and other resorts, meals and personal items, that it’s time to go?

Two weeks ago, the wigs really came off during the Council’s traditional pre-meeting breakfast.

Many undoubtedly let loose a cheer that was more than merely a guilty pleasure when gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) was reported to have shouted at colleague Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), a proponent of raising local income taxes, “I don’t give a shit what you think!” The often mercurial and sharp-tongued Catania was reacting to being chastened by Mendelson, who suggested it was “inappropriate . . . to talk about Council members’ personal issues” when Catania referenced the tax-paying deficiencies of at least two among them.

When Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), the financial dean of the Council who has served for more than two decades and chairs the Committee on Finance and Revenue, exhorts, “This is the worst Council I’ve ever served on,” well, you know something is not quite right.

Following failed attempts by gay D.C. Council member Jim “Don’t-Call-It-a-Bribe” Graham (D-Ward 1) and a handful of others to raise taxes on higher income residents and a proposal by the mayor last spring to raise taxes on those making $200,000 or more was defeated, Mendelson successfully proposed raising taxes on those with incomes above $350,000 to a whopping 8.95 percent, generating $106 million over four years. (When it’s supposed to sunset – like the sales tax increase recently extended.)

Passage by a single vote of a previously rejected increase in D.C.’s already steep income tax rate of 8.5 percent — among the highest in the nation — occurred as the city announced greater-than-expected revenues and a budget surplus of $89 million.

For all the talk about budget cuts last spring, city spending will actually increase to $10.8 billion and a bevy of new fees have been enacted. Like the crack addicts once symbolic of the nation’s capital, give the D.C. Council more money and they will quickly spend it like junkies in search of a fix.

Although the current tax increase affects only about 6,000 taxpayers, a number of those are local small business owners and entrepreneurs – community investors and job creators who should be encouraged to remain committed to our city as residents. While the bridges to business-friendly Virginia, where the top tax rate is more than 3 percent lower, won’t soon be jammed with moving vans, shouldn’t Washington expect a result similar to Maryland’s imposition of a “millionaire’s tax” later abandoned last year – a dramatic drop in tax filings and a loss in revenue due to resident departures?

And if — like Graham, Mendelson and the Council’s other tax-and-spenders — you think D.C.’s income tax scheme is regressive due to a lack of variable tax brackets for those making more than $40,000, why not return the largest taxpayers to the previous top-tier-in-the-nation rate and progressively lower the rates for those below?

Maybe then it wouldn’t feel like being Alice trapped inside Wonderland.

Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at [email protected].

Continue Reading


  1. Peter Rosenstein

    October 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Scandal scarred or not the DC Council did the right thing by raising the top tax rate to 8.95%.

    • Doctor Whom

      October 7, 2011 at 7:59 am

      Would you please explain why? Otherwise, we’re left with Mr. Lee’s explanation versus your unsupported assertion.

  2. @CCCAPrez

    October 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Fairly unBiased? You’re decorative article obscured the real issues in it’s muddled metaphors. And it’s another example of the Blade playing pocket pool with some electeds.

    Surely you’re just speaking on behalf of the elite. There are many in the LGBT community who appreciate Mr Mendelson (the dude who helped get gay marriage passed, which gives him honorary LGBT status in my book) and his calm methodical reasonableness; he is rarely shrill (especially for the sake of sound bites in the capitalist infotainment media); indeed, he’s usually respectful communicating with his colleagues, citizens and the media in a way that is what we’d expect from intelligent electeds. Catania’s comment was inappropriate: Councilmembers should care about what other members of the body think and come to reasonable ways to find common strategies to address issues.

    Your glip article lip glossed over the misdeeds of those you seem to get behind and fluff up in this piece. Jack Evans and his cronies (ie: slum lords greedy/heartless developers who don’t care about neighborhoods and get Evans help to evade their proper tax responsibilities, ANC Commissioners who take payoffs like prostitutes and remain tight lipped about them, charlatans who Evans has given millions of dollars to (NOT) squash gang beefs, and convicted criminals who Evans has put in charge of directing Federal grant monies) surely deserve more scrutiny.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal serves as a guide for enacting equality legislation

Equality Act supporters should take cues from Senate moderates



Equality legislation is close to passing in Congress, but close isn’t good enough. “Close” won’t change anything for the LGBTQ Americans who face discrimination every day. Senate Democrats and Republicans must make a push to negotiate. With a reach on both sides to find common ground, we can move equality legislation from “close” to “done deal.”

Some Democrats are waiting for the filibuster to end—despite clear evidence that they lack the votes to end it. Some Republicans are practicing a tried-and-true brand of obstructionism. To break this deadlock, we should look to the successful, bipartisan repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) as a guide.

The DADT repeal is the single reference point for LGBTQ advocates for overcoming the Senate filibuster. Other victories have been in the courts; notably, the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision that made gay marriage legal nationwide.

Before Obergefell, advocates had success in the state legislatures. I worked on campaigns for the freedom to marry in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and elsewhere, finding common ground between Democrats and Republicans who thought it was impossible to negotiate on marriage. Eventually, enough people from both parties came together to pass marriage laws in a majority of states.

Working together at the state level is one thing. Congress is another.

Despite Democrats’ control of the White House, Senate and House, negotiations are failing at the federal level. So, we lets look to ancient history—the 2010 repeal of DADT—for guidance on reaching 60 votes in the Senate.

The most important lesson from the DADT repeal is that Senate moderates must champion the cause and lead negotiations. The more partisan figures on both sides need to step back. Overcoming the filibuster is a job for moderates, not ideologues.

As it happens, the hero of the DADT repeal is still a senator and can help. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine led the negotiations on DADT repeal.

Senator Collins supports the Equality Act in principle and even sponsored a version of the bill in past. However, the current version is too extreme for Sen. Collins, as a result, she has withdrawn as a co-sponsor. The current bill has also foundered with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another important figure in the repeal of DADT.

The fact that moderate, pro-LGBTQ senators are unable to back the current version of the Equality Act should send a clear message to Democrats that we need to make reasonable changes to the bill. So far, the message is being ignored.

On the Democratic side, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman was essential to the repeal of DADT. There certainly were passionate, liberal Democrats who could have asserted themselves during the debate. But then, the bill would have taken longer to pass, or even might have failed.

The lesson is clear. Listen to the moderates. Let them lead this charge.

Another important lesson from the repeal of DADT is to be flexible in the legislative strategy. DADT repeal was originally an amendment to a large defense authorization bill. Rather than give up, Collins and Lieberman fought and saved DADT repeal from defeat by pulling out key provisions they knew could pass on their own and making them a standalone measure. Repeal passed with bipartisan support.

The current version of the Equality Act tries to do too much. That’s why it can’t win support from moderate Republicans who have legitimate concerns the bill might suppress free speech or shut down religious charities.  

Over 60 senators can agree on the basic premise of the Equality Act. They would gladly vote to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in employment, housing, and public accommodations, so long as the law didn’t intrude on the First Amendment.

If the far left believes that our country has too much religious liberty, they can deal with that in future legislation. But so long as we have a filibuster—and, there’s no indication it will end any time soon—the Equality Act needs to reflect our society’s current views on religious liberty.  

The DADT repeal passed with 65 votes in the Senate, overcoming the filibuster. Let’s replicate that victory by using the same playbook. Moderates: Take the lead.

Tyler Deaton is the senior advisor to the American Unity Fund, a conservative nonprofit organization working to advance LGBTQ freedom and religious freedom

Continue Reading


LGBTQ people are being hunted down in Afghanistan

Homosexuality punishable by death under Taliban Sharia law interpretation



Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

Kabul was known as one of the few “liberal” cities in Afghanistan. The word liberal is in quotation marks, and inflected, because it is liberal compared to the rest of the country. Now that the Taliban has taken over, most people who expressed themselves differently and openly are forced to adhere to Sharia law, completely change their ways, hide their identity, or be killed.

The U.S. State Department reported in 2020 that even before the Taliban took power in August, LGBTQ people in Afghanistan faced “discrimination, assault and rape” and “homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent.” Laws against lesbian, gay and transgender people made their existence illegal and punishable by up to two years in jail. Those laws were not always enforced, but they did leave LGBTQ people at risk of extortion and abuse by authorities, as reported by the U.K. government.

Even with the discrimination and abuse, LGBTQ people still had a sliver of space in society. Nemat Sadat, an LGBTQ Afghan author living in the United States said that gay, lesbian and transgender people helped the country’s cultural life develop since the Taliban’s last rule 20 years ago. But, most of these people built their lives quietly.

Now with the Taliban regime, their sliver of space in society is gone, there is no room to live quietly as an openly LGBTQ person. Under the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law, homosexuality is punished by death.

In an interview with Reuters, Waheedullah Hashimi, a top decision maker for the Taliban said, “there will be no democratic system at all because it does not have a base in our country,” and continued to say, “what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan is clear. It is sharia law and that is it.”

One source spoke to a 20-year-old university student who is lesbian in Afghanistan. Her family accepted her as a lesbian, but now the new Taliban leadership has put the lives of all of her family at risk. There is a new surge of violence against any lesbian, gay and transgender people. This includes anyone speculated of being lesbian, gay, or trans, and those who support them.

This young lesbian woman has gone into hiding. She is part of hundreds of LGBTQ people in Afghanistan who are pleading with advocates and organizations outside Afghanistan for help to escape the Taliban tyranny.

Nemat Sadat shares stories of lesbian, gay and trans people in hiding. He shared a story of a gay man who watched from his hiding place in the ceiling as Taliban fighters beat the friend who refused to disclose his location.  

LGBTQ people in Afghanistan fear the risk of being arrested, beaten and killed. The Taliban made it clear that it is enforcing its strict religious laws against Afghanistan’s LGBTQ citizens. In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper, one Taliban judge said there were only two punishments for homosexuality: “stoning or being crushed under a wall.”

LGBTQ people in Afghanistan are reporting that their friends, partners and members of their community are being attacked and raped. They also stated that Islamic fundamentalists and riotous groups are encouraged by the new tyranny and are on the hunt for LGBTQ people.

Another source shared that a gay man was targeted for his sexuality and then raped by his male attackers. That is a terrible paradox. He was raped by his male attackers, who criminalizing him for having same sex relations.

LGBTQ people are in hiding, desperately trying to get out of the country, and trying to erase any proof of their queer identity.

They feel abandoned by the international LGBTQ community. The Taliban is proving that the Western nations have normalized relations to their government. The Taliban and their supporters see this a proof of their victory. This leaves LGBTQ people defeated and fearing torture and death.

The U.S. government and other Western countries evacuated many people out of Afghanistan, including journalists, women’s rights activists and those who worked with foreigners. But, LGBTQ activists said that nothing has been done for them. A source says about her situation, “we will definitely be killed. We are asking to be evacuated immediately from Afghanistan.” To date, no safe route has been found.

Even underground measures to help LGBTQ people are challenging and near impossible. The Rainbow Railroad is a non-governmental organization helping LGBTQ people around the world escape persecution. Executive Director Kimahli Powell said evacuating LGBTQ people from Afghanistan is especially hard as they are often alone, in hiding, and unable to contact each other. If routes to get them out is nearly impossible, that still means those routes are somewhat possible. As difficult as it may be, we must find pathways to save these people and get them out.

The Taliban regime has established itself, knowing with certainty that the world will stand aside, albeit condemning and protesting, but not intervening. This is empowering jihadists across the world, especially in the Middle East. The Taliban has many allies and admirers, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas. 

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, travelled from Palestinian territories to meet with Taliban leaders in Qatar. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has a history of ties to the Taliban, even with radicals joining each other’s organizations. Very public statements of congratulations were made between leaders of the Taliban, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all with full Iranian support.

The increase in brazen forcefulness of these groups reaches beyond Afghanistan, and spreads to the lands dominated by other similar groups. This causes an escalation of the threats to anyone who opposes Sharia law or who lives differently than what Sharia law allows. LGBTQ people in these lands are in peril. 

If we do not help LGBTQ people in Afghanistan, the lives of LGBTQ people under other similar tyrannies face increased uncertainty and danger.

Since posting this video, I have been receiving direct messages from LGBTQ people in hiding in Afghanistan, and those who are seeking to be evacuated. They all share harrowing experiences of being attacked, raped, and threatened by Taliban, Islamic State and bullying groups.

Yuval David is an innovative actor, host and filmmaker with a creative mantra to entertain, uplift and inspire. He is a captivating performer and compelling storyteller who uses his platform for sharing narratives that affect social change, specifically on behalf of highly respected U.S. and international organizations that raise awareness for the marginalized and under-represented, inspired by his LGBTQ+ and Jewish identity, and his Israeli-American roots.

He can be reached through social media

Continue Reading


Proposed zoning code changes will harm Rehoboth

Public hearing to take place on Oct. 15



Double L, Diego's Hideaway, Fourth, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

As a former city commissioner for nine of the past 15 years, I have seen a lot of changes in the laws and decisions governing the city of Rehoboth Beach. Like most things in life, some have been good and some have been not so good. The ones that have been good for the city plan for the future. The ones that have been bad for the city try to hold on to the past. The city of Rehoboth Beach has been a magnet for tourists for a long time and that has not changed, nor can it be changed. Trying to stifle our business community will not decrease the numbers that come to our city but will only frustrate our residents and visitors by putting into place ordinances that will promote the construction of buildings that lack functional architectural creativity. Worse, discouraging business innovation will drive businesses to Route 1, resulting in vacant storefronts along our commercial streets that will ultimately increase costs to residents in terms of higher taxes, provision of basic services, and increased utility fees. 

On Oct. 15, a public hearing will be held regarding patchwork changes to the zoning code. The proposed changes have been put forth as “clarifications”. They are NOT clarifications but changes that will change the downtown commercial districts for generations to come. And not in a good way. 

This may seem like an over-reaction but truly it is not. Not to over-simplify, but the basic zoning code that applies to commercial buildings allows for construction of a building from lot line to lot line with a maximum height of 42 feet. The proposed changes/clarifications would count interior courtyards and elevator shafts. These changes do not change the bulk of a building but could very well disincentivize desired architectural enhancements, such as balconies and courtyards. In this day and age of COVID, open space should be promoted not penalized. Why would we stifle architects with ideas for buildings that embrace creative use of a parcel of land? The effect of the proposed changes on the new hotel projects that are currently being designed warrants involvement by everyone who wants to make sure that Rehoboth Avenue does not end up showcasing buildings with zero architectural interest. 

It is important to remember that the one square mile of the city of Rehoboth Beach is not a suburban community, nor is it a retirement community. It is a city that hosts tens of thousands of visitors eight to nine months a year with a vibrant restaurant scene, beach and boardwalk, farmers market, recreational dock, and hopefully one day a performing arts center. What can you do? Send an email by Oct. 15 to [email protected], asking the mayor and city commissioners to pause making these patchwork changes to the city code, changes that will have negative unintended consequences for years to come. Ask them to do what was programmed in the budget over a year ago—to hire a zoning expert to look holistically at the city ordinances and make practical, coordinated changes that incentivize development that sustains the aesthetics and prosperity of our town. 

Pat Coluzzi is a former city commissioner for the city of Rehoboth Beach.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts