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Why I support Muriel Bowser for mayor

From ethics to access, Democratic candidate is D.C.’s best bet



Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade
Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Muriel Bowser has said she is committed to hiring a cabinet that will function under strict ethics rules. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As an out and proud gay man, the choice to support someone other than the gay man running for D.C. mayor was not a decision made lightly. It was, however, made easier because of the many values shared with his Democratic opponent.

Not since 1994 has there been a real contested mayoral election in the District of Columbia. At that time, my support went to Carol Schwartz and I helped write her platform. This time after looking closely at the candidates my vote will go to Muriel Bowser on Nov. 4. She is the right person to be mayor at this time in the District’s history.

Many friends ask what difference it makes. Isn’t politics just a dirty business? My response to that is a resounding no. Because of the work of good public servants, and many deeply committed activists in our community, the District has continued to move forward and improve. We are headed in the right direction since Anthony Williams was elected mayor in 1998. Williams upgraded city services, bringing agency operations into the technological age. Adrian Fenty built on what Williams did and moved education reform to the front burner.

Mayor Gray built on what Williams and Fenty began and rebuilt our reserve fund to record levels. His administration, with Chancellor Kaya Henderson, has made good progress in continuing education reform and our students have shown marked progress. Gray focused on rebuilding local education opportunities for students with disabilities. Today the District is in the best financial condition it has seen. Services are being delivered on time and efficiently. Our streets are clean and business is booming. People continue to move into the District at the rate of about 1,000 a month and we are on everyone’s top-10 list — from ‘hippest’ city to the best place for college grads to move to healthiest city to best sustainable energy plans, to name just a few.

So what we need in our next mayor is someone who will work to continue the progress we have made, provide stability, have a commitment to running an ethical government and ensure that all our neighbors can share in the District’s progress. What we don’t need is someone who castigates people in public hearings or grabs a quick headline, often without follow through. We need someone who understands how to work with all people, whether or not they agree with her; someone who after four years in the mayor’s office will be able to say, “We have continued to build our city and now it works better for everyone.” That candidate is Muriel Bowser.

Muriel understands our city as only a fifth generation Washingtonian can. She knows it still doesn’t work for everyone and grabbing headlines with a public hearing isn’t always the best way to help. Sometimes it’s working behind the scenes and getting government to work the way it is supposed to for the people. There are parts of our city that have been left out of the economic boom and many people still feel marginalized. In our booming metropolis there are people who are starving and homeless; many are illiterate. We need a mayor who will do the hard work and get government to focus on them — a mayor who has lived her entire life in the District supporting the principles of sharing and community involvement and who understands we can make a difference by bringing people together. That is Muriel Bowser.

The principles of community involvement and participation she lives were ingrained in Muriel by parents who believed in them and the principles of the Democratic Party. Her parents taught her to believe in equality for all; that working people deserve a chance to get ahead and earn their way into the middle class. That everyone should have a chance for the American dream and to reach their full potential, whatever that is. They taught her unions were there to help protect workers’ rights and that we all owe something to the community for what we are given.

She understood early that the principles espoused by the Republican Party weren’t hers,  unlike her opponent, David Catania, who apparently only understood that when it became personal. As an adult and a Republican elected official he proudly called himself a ‘maverick’ and supported George W. Bush for president. The term didn’t describe someone being ‘independent,’ rather it meant he was in lock-step with the Republican Party raising more than $150,000 to help bring us the Bush/Cheney years.

I met Muriel when she first ran for Council and found out how smart, committed to public service and improving people’s lives she is. She has shown the depth of her understanding of government and our city. She knows how difficult it is to bring people together. She worked to pass the first real ethics bill in the Council when five of her colleagues introduced their own bills. It isn’t like passing a bill that most of your colleagues sign onto before hearings are even held as her opponent often did. She has the ability to work with communities across our city who don’t always agree on the right way to govern or even what they want from government. It means not working with developers on a plan and then bringing it to communities to endorse but rather doing what she is doing at the Walter Reed site in Ward 4 and setting up an advisory committee to see what neighbors want and then taking that to developers to see who could deliver it.

It is working from the bottom up, not the top down like David Catania likes to do. What he did with his recent education bills when he paid a law firm with money he raised from rich friends to write bills and then went to the community for comments. Chastising many in the process, including the chancellor, who suggested it would have been prudent to come to them before writing the legislation. But that wasn’t the way to grab a headline and not the way Catania likes to work.

When Muriel was elected to the Council she understood it was officially a part-time job but she took it as full time. Her achievements may not have had her author as many bills as her opponent but she achieved the goal of making government work more efficiently for her constituents and they rewarded her by re-electing her twice. Catania took the part-time part of his Council job seriously and has earned in the neighborhood of $2 million working for law firms and even a business that contracts with the District while serving as a Council member. He has always had more than one boss while working for the people of the District while Muriel’s only bosses are the people who elect her.

Recently, when workers from a local construction company, Baker D.C., approached the Council to ask it to sign a letter to their company asking them to meet and negotiate with workers, Catania was the only Council member who refused to sign. It was a stark reminder of where Catania really stands on issues. As reported in the Washington Post, “Catania has had a long relationship with the construction industry, most prominently by working as a vice president for non-union electrical contractor M.C. Dean until 2012. His political campaigns have enjoyed the support of firms active with Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group that has opposed ‘project labor agreements’ and other union-friendly measures.”

When questioned about not signing the letter Catania said, “I didn’t see the evidence of management frustrating the rights of workers.” So Catania took management’s side, which seems to be what his natural Republican tendencies dictate. He has also voted against sick leave for workers.

Many believe the two most important positions in the mayor’s cabinet are that of police chief and schools chancellor. Muriel has made a commitment to retain those currently in the jobs — Cathy Lanier at the MPD and Kaya Henderson at DCPS. She has spoken with them, asked them to stay and they have agreed to do so and work with her. If we are to continue to move forward on school reform, which is one of the main planks of Muriel’s platform, she understands that stability and continuity at DCPS are crucial. She also understands that people in different parts of the District view our police differently and is committed to working with Chief Lanier to have every resident in this city trust in the MPD. On the other hand, Catania has not said if he would reappoint either of them.

What we don’t need is a wholesale shake-up of government. The worst thing is leaving people and businesses with a feeling of instability. Whether it is the business community, parents, or those 1,000 people a month moving here, they want to know that the progress we have made will continue at a reliable and steady pace. Muriel has said she isn’t afraid to shake things up when that is the only way to make progress and in the case of Fire/EMS she is committed to doing that. But she has also spoken out about the progress we have made under Mayors Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray and is committed to continuing that progress in an orderly and efficient way.

With Muriel we get a mayor who is ethically beyond reproach even though Catania will try anything to get you to believe otherwise. After 16 years on the Council, Catania is as tied to the power structure in the District as anyone else in office.

An example of Catania being comfortable with businesses being involved in local politics and making contributions to impact voting outcomes occurred during the time he worked for an M.C. Dean subsidiary — the same M.C. Dean that paid him $240,000 a year until he left that job when considering a run for mayor. A letter in the Loudoun Times and a column in the Washington Post outlined the following, “From 2005 to 2011 he worked as in-house Counsel for their subsidiary OpenBand, LLC, which operates broadband communications networks. At the time his Chief of staff also took a job with OpenBand, LLC. Both were there when M.C. Dean, of which OpenBand, LLC is a subsidiary, and its executives gave more than $35,000 in contributions to candidates vying for seats on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors according to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) records. Records show that tens of thousands more have gone to General Assembly candidates and political action committees, supporting candidates who could vote on contracts for either M.C. Dean or OpenBand, LLC.”

Then the Washington City Paper in 2008 reported that while Catania was on the D.C. Council and working quietly to help Patrick Mara defeat fellow Council member Carol Schwartz, (full disclosure: I supported Mara), “his employer was also raising money for Patrick Mara and was one of the prime funders of the Citizens for Empowerment PAC that sent out Schwartz attack mailers.”

When Catania doubled his salary at M.C. Dean in 2011 one of the first things he had to do after taking that job was to recuse himself from the vote on the Electrician’s Equality Act of 2011 passed by the D.C. Council when he should have been able to speak out on the bill and cast a vote to represent the constituents that elected him. This is a clear example of why having an outside job, especially with a company that has a contract with the District, is wrong.

Muriel is committed to hiring a cabinet that will function under strict ethics rules and will issue an executive order to see that all city workers understand their roles and pledge to serve the people ethically.

With Muriel we get a mayor who can work with the people in every ward and who respects everyone. She won’t denigrate or talk down to those who may disagree with her. We need a mayor who understands both the old and new Washington and has the ability to bring them together. Muriel Bowser will be that mayor.

Then there are both the tangibles and intangibles that come with electing a Democrat. While it isn’t my main reason for supporting Muriel it definitely went into my decision process. At a recent fundraiser for John Tierney (D-Mass.) my good friend, former Congressman Barney Frank said it best, “Being a Democrat means standing for something.” It means working for and with people. It means working toward immigration reform; LGBT civil and human rights; and the right for women to have equal pay, full equality and control of their own bodies. It means supporting workers and unions and building the middle class. It means demanding that all people have the right to vote. While clearly not all these issues are directly related to running the District government, having a Democrat as the mayor of our nation’s capital says to people in no uncertain terms, these are the things the people of the District stand for. It also calls into question which principles of the Democratic Party David Catania is so uncomfortable with. A recent Washington Post column reported that when asked why he became an independent and not a Democrat after leaving the Republican Party, he responded, “I have been in one bad marriage and I’m not about to jump into another.”

There is another way in which electing Bowser could benefit our city and the nation. Many believe in 2016 we will elect our first woman president, a Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton. To the District it could mean that our next mayor, Bowser, can play a direct role in making that happen. She will be a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention and can cast her vote for Hillary. As a young woman she will be able to speak out not only for equality in our city, but for making the nation a place where everyone has an equal chance to get ahead. Muriel Bowser will have access to power and the better ability to make the case for the people of the District for independence. She will work closely with our champion on the Hill, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, to move the issues of the District forward. Muriel will have access that no Republican or independent could ever have.

For so many reasons I urge everyone to cast their ballot for Muriel Bowser for mayor on Nov. 4.



Veterans with substance use disorders need our help

Many return home to face a new battle with addiction, trauma



(Photo by SCPhotog/Bigstock)

On Memorial Day, millions of American families honored the memory of the men and women who lost their lives fighting in one of the nation’s wars. It can be challenging for families who have recently lost a loved one.

We must also never forget the countless veterans who made it home but are now fighting a new battle with substance use or mental health disorders. Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is all too common and fueled by drug addiction.

It can be a particularly challenging problem for U.S. military self-identified as LGBTQ. A health survey released by the RAND Corporation found 6.1% of people in the U.S. military identified as LGBTQ. Suicide risk within this community varies considerably depending on the intersection between sexual identity and other aspects of identity.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 3.9 million veterans nationally have a substance use disorder or mental illness. Unfortunately, substance use disorder significantly increases suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common among veterans ages 18 to 49.

“Early intervention is critical, and it saves lives. Yet, it is also important for families to know where to look and how to find help when needed,” said Michael Leach of

Numerous causative factors lead to substance use among veterans. For instance, many veterans struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may experience financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, or accessing benefits.

Many other veterans battle mental and emotional health problems. This can often be compounded with physical injury or chronic pain leading to pain medication use. Untreated trauma, for example, leads to drug and alcohol use to cope with unwanted feelings.

Outside of the usual resources provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA facility locator, other options may include:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides specific resources for LGBTQ veterans;
Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, option 1 and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443;

SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans can find specific treatment options.

Families also play a vital role in supporting a loved one struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s OK to express concern about their substance use. Speak to them openly and honestly about it and help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion for what they are experiencing. Remember, substance use disorders are treatable.

When families and communities come together, amazing things happen. Veterans with substance use disorders need our help; it’s never too late to offer a helping hand.

Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol and drug use.

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Non-alignment or hypocrisy: South Africa’s non-alignment costing Africa’s human rights discourse

Country must take stronger stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law



LGBTQ and intersex activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. South Africa must take a stronger stance against the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

In the past several months, South Africa’s foreign policy has been in the spotlight for essential and existential reasons that significantly impact geopolitics and the continent’s stability. 

The foreign policy for South Africa discussion document by the Department of International Relations highlights the “advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy” as the pillars on which South Africa’s foreign policy rests. This document emphasizes the role that South Africa is expected to play in the “promotion of human rights and democracy.”

Minister Pandor echoed this document in her 2022 end-of-year remarks

“We will continue with our unwavering position to advocate for a balanced Sustainable Development Program within the human rights framework as underlined in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA). In this regard, South Africa will be one of the chief proponents of a balanced agenda of the HRC, which reflects, among others, the primacy of achieving the realization of the right to development as well as moral human rights issues such as the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.” 

South Africa has long been known for its commitment to human rights and its leadership in the fight against apartheid. However, its foreign policy continues to be viewed as ambiguous and nonresponsive to developments in African affecting the growth of the continent.

In 2021, President Ramaphosa — as chair of the SADC Organ Troika — committed to a national political dialogue in Eswatini to resolve the political killings in that country. However, the South African government has never followed up or called on the Eswatini government to adhere to its commitment, even as renowned human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was mercilessly assassinated in January 2023. At the very least, this has not been seen publicly, which would be comforting to those political activists and citizens constantly living in fear in Eswatini. 

On May 29, the president of Uganda enacted the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. The new law is a throwback to colonization, where religious fanatism was the basis for the persecution and killing of many Africans. While Africa seems to take the posture of “fighting against imperialism,” it is saddening that this law is the brainchild of American zealots funding hate across Africa, whether it is in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi or Namibia. These zealots, the Fellowship Foundation and many others, are well coordinated in their attacks on the judiciary and the African human rights framework, backed by the 75-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

In an era where Africa is seen to be taking a stance against imperialism, I shudder to contemplate that hate may be the only imperialist agenda Africa is not actively standing up against. We know the history of petty offences like homelessness and loitering, sedition laws, and anti-LGBTI laws. These are remnants of colonization to keep Africa inferior and the colonial masters superior. Today, the hate continues through repressive and backwards sentiment being paraded as religious values. Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law criminalizes what it calls “aggravated homosexuality” with the death penalty. It would be hard to imagine what “aggravated homosexuality” even means. 

This is another opportunity where South Africa’s posture and foreign policy must be spotlighted. With the growing conversation about the ICC arrest warrant of President Putin, South Africa has reiterated its foreign policy as non-alignment and non-interference. 

However, when the question of human rights and democracy is at play, all must take a stand. This law has been widely criticized by human rights organizations and the international community for violating the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals and hindering the fight against HIV. It further impedes what Minister Pandor called the “balanced agenda of the HRC,” which speaks to sustainable development within the human rights framework. 

It should be worrying if South Africa continues to maintain a policy of non-alignment and non-interference in the face of the new law in Uganda. While this policy may have its merits, it raises questions about South Africa’s commitment to human rights and its role as a leader in Africa. A foreign policy that neglects the promotion of human rights and democratic principles is hypocritical. On the one hand, South Africa is seen as a leader in promoting LGBTIQ+ rights and has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world regarding protecting the rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals. However, on the other hand, it has failed to take a strong stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law, which is a clear violation of human rights.

By maintaining this policy, South Africa is essentially condoning Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law and undermining the fight for human rights in Africa. This is particularly concerning given South Africa’s leadership role in the African Union and its commitment to promoting human rights and democracy.

South Africa’s foreign policy regarding Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law raises questions about its commitment to non-alignment and human rights in Africa. While non-interference may have its merits, it should not come at the expense of human rights and the fight for equality and justice. 

South Africa must take a stronger stance against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law and work towards promoting human rights and democracy in Africa.

Melusi Simelane is the Southern Africa Litigation Center’s Civic Rights Program Manager.

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Republicans prove how vile and frightening they can be

Attacks will continue if we don’t defeat right-wing figures everywhere



Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Day after day we see Republicans trying to outdo each other in how vile and frightening they can be. From the fight over the debt ceiling, to their presidential primary, they continue to try to take the nation backwards. 

In the debt ceiling fight, they clearly say, “We will protect the wealthy in our country at all costs, and instead will cut, or eliminate, programs to help the poor.” The far-right wing crazies like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), are threatening their own speaker, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), with the loss of his job if he doesn’t go along with what they want. Now that a deal has been cut, we will see how they, and left-leaning Democrats who have been putting pressure on President Biden to reject all Republican demands, will vote. These are facts of life in our nation today. Any person with a shred of decency should be embarrassed. I don’t envy President Biden for what he has to do to keep the nation from defaulting on its debts. The political reality is that he had to give in on some issues. Democrats should not fault him, but rather blame Republicans. 

It is scary when you see what Republicans are doing around the nation with regard to abortion rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights. One recent example being Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proudly signing the bill making abortion only legal until six weeks. There are women who don’t even know by then they are pregnant. Also, it’s time men start understanding how this impacts them. Women need to remind the fathers what their responsibility will be if they both aren’t ready for a child but are forced to have one.

One ignorant parent in Florida complained, and according to politico was able to have “A Miami-Dade elementary school limit some access to Amanda Gorman’s presidential inauguration poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ complaining that it contained indirect “hate messages.” This is insanity and the clear result of Trump’s impact on the culture of the nation. He made it OK to once again have hatred spewed from the public square, frightening decent people. 

Like the threats against Target. CNN reported the company was “removing some products that celebrate Pride month after the company and its employees became the focus of a “volatile” anti-LGBTQ campaign. The company told the Wall Street Journal that people have confronted workers in stores, knocked down Pride merchandise displays and put threatening posts on social media with video from inside stores. Some people have thrown Pride items on the floor, Target spokesperson Kayla Castaneda told Reuters. CNN went on to report “Prominent right-wing activists, Republican political leaders, and conservative media outlets, have focused their attention on a women’s swimsuit that was described as “tuck friendly” for its ability to conceal male genitalia. Misinformation spread on social media that it was marketed to children, which it was not.” Again, insanity, promoted by the right wing. The people doing this should be arrested and prosecuted.

It only gets worse as Republican candidates running for president try to outdo each other with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, trying to improve their poll numbers. DeSantis can tout his “don’t say gay legislation.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a Black man, who says the country is not racist, touts his opposition to marriage equality. Then there is Mike Pence who will quote the Bible to you, claiming it tells us how terrible it is to be gay. 

The Daily News recently reported “Following last year’s more than 220 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across the country, a poll by The Trevor Project found 71% of LGBTQ youth — and 86% trans and nonbinary youth — said they were negatively impacted by the flurry of proposals to restrict their rights.” They went on to report, “As of May 23, more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country, according to the Human Rights Campaign. More than 220 of those specifically restrict the rights of transgender and nonbinary people. These are all Republican bills.

This will continue unabated if we don’t defeat Republicans everywhere. In sharp contrast, Democrats in the Maryland legislature, led by Delegates David Moon (D-Montgomery County) and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore County) and State Senator Howard Lam (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties), managed to repeal the states sodomy law and pass gun-control measures.

Republicans will continue to carry out their agenda of hate across the nation unless we say with our votes, “We won’t take this anymore.” The United States is better than this and we will show the world we will not tolerate hate; we will fight it.  

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

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