By ALAN ROTH
LGBTQ voters in Ward One have a profound choice to make in the April 1 primary. That’s because when a new D.C. Council is sworn in next January, it will lack an openly gay Council member for the first time in nearly 18 years — unless Jim Graham is re-elected.
With Jim being challenged by someone who has no real record or experience beyond the narrow boundaries of her former ANC single member district, and with David Catania giving up his at-large seat to run for mayor, now is the time for LGBTQ voters in the Ward to focus seriously on an old political adage: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Simply put, that adage reminds us there is no substitute for being represented by one of our own — someone who, like Jim Graham, has lived what we have lived, experienced what we have experienced, and will never allow those personal life lessons to be cast aside for reasons of political expediency.
It also means that if we aren’t “at the table” as part of the decision making process, other politicians with other constituencies to serve are liable to be carving up our interests like a Thanksgiving turkey when the hard decisions (like funding for programs essential to our community) have to be made.
Earlier this year, the Advocate named D.C. the gayest city in America. It’s therefore difficult to imagine a D.C. Council without a single LGBT Council member — someone with whom we would be able to have open, honest discussions about our issues and concerns when they arise.
Before his election to the Council, Jim led the Whitman-Walker Clinic for more than 15 years, providing HIV/AIDS-related, STD, and other health services when few others would. On the Council, he has obviously been a leader on LGBTQ issues. His knowledge, understanding and support of our community’s concerns is not only unquestioned, it is unparalleled.
As a former Adams Morgan ANC member and chair, I can attest personally to Jim’s devotion to his Ward and his commitment to providing the best constituent service in the Wilson Building. By contrast, most of what we’ve heard from Jim’s opponent turns primarily on innuendo and negativity.
So let me confront the “ethics issue” head on, because I know it’s on some people’s minds, and let’s begin here: After more than two years of public discussion and Post editorializing, no prosecutor has ever charged Jim with any crime; the one civil lawsuit filed against him was dismissed; and not even his opponent has alleged that a penny of public or private money has found its way into his pockets.
If you’ve actually read the reports of the Ethics Board and the Cadwalader law firm hired by WMATA, you could well conclude, as I have, that Jim in fact had the best interests of his Ward One constituents at heart when he questioned a certain bidder’s interest in developing the Florida Avenue Metro property involved in the most serious allegations against him.
Cadwalader’s report said many of Jim’s objections to the bidder and one of its principals “appear to have been based on legitimate concerns with public safety and welfare. For example, Graham was concerned with [that principal’s] reputation as a landlord as well as his ownership of a club in Ward 1 that had lost its license to operate due to a fatal stabbing of a club patron. Moreover, Council member Graham appeared genuinely concerned throughout the joint development process with the development experience and expertise of [this bidder] – legitimate concerns that manifested themselves in the outcome of the process.”
Perhaps there were better ways to go about all this. Still, I don’t have any doubt that Jim’s intent was to protect his Ward. Did he do it to benefit himself personally? The Cadwalader report certainly found no evidence of that.
It’s time for us to move on. Let’s focus on what’s best for Ward One and D.C.’s LGBTQ community over the next four years. Keeping our strongest representative on the D.C. Council by re-electing Jim Graham certainly beats being listed “on the menu” by relying on the platitudes and innuendo of an ambitious wannabe.
Alan Roth is a former chair of the Adams Morgan ANC, a current member of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority board of directors, a member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and a member of Friends of Vernon Street.