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

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

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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].

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  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.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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