December 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘We had a good run’
Jim Graham, gay news, Washington Blade

‘The experience of going through life’s issues with people infected with HIV forged what I am about,’ said Jim Graham, who leaves office Jan. 2 after 16 years on the Council. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The outer reception area of D.C. Council member Jim Graham’s office suite in the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as the District’s city hall, is packed with open boxes filled with papers and memorabilia accumulated during his 16 years in office.

As Graham, a Democrat and one of the Council’s two out gay members, prepares to leave office on Jan. 2 he reflected on his sometimes-controversial tenure as the Council’s Ward 1 representative in an interview with the Washington Blade.

“I’ve got two weeks and two days – 16 days left,” he said on Monday. “It’s 16 years, and then I kind of add to that the 15 years at Whitman-Walker. So it’s 31 years. And I think we had a good run.”

Graham was referring to the 15 years he served as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the city’s preeminent private medical clinic serving people with HIV/AIDS now and in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

An attorney, Graham points out that he served three years prior to becoming Whitman-Walker’s executive director in the volunteer post of president of the clinic’s board from 1981 to 1984. He won election to his first of four terms on the Council in 1998.

“I want to be very clear about this point,” he told the Blade. “What has forged my political philosophy, if you will, has been the experience with Whitman-Walker Clinic working with people who were desperately poor facing what was then considered really a death sentence in the ‘80s, but facing a life-threatening disease for sure, without a network of support, without money in the bank, without insurance policies,” Graham said.

“The experience of going through life’s issues with people infected with HIV forged what I am about,” he continued. “So when I came on the Council I saw it as a continuation in terms of my work for those who were at greatest risk and most vulnerable.”

Graham’s reputation on the Council as a champion for progressive causes, including the rights of LGBT people, tenants and the needs of the diverse immigrant populations in the ward, made Graham highly popular among his constituents.

He won re-election by wide margins and was considered to have a safe seat on the Council until a series of developments beginning in 2009 triggered a flurry of negative press reports and accusations by critics that he had become mired in allegations of corruption.

The problems began in September 2009 when Graham’s then-chief of staff, Ted Loza, was arrested by the FBI for a bribe in an alleged scheme in which he promised to push for legislation favorable to the taxi cab industry that was pending before a committee that Graham chaired.

Graham was never implicated in the scheme but became the subject of an FBI investigation that Graham called unfair and unjustified and which, as Graham says, “came to nothing – absolutely nothing.”

In a separate development, the city’s newly created Board of Ethics and Government Accountability last year determined that Graham breached city ethics rules by asking a developer to withdraw its bid for a real estate project on land associated with Metro so that another developer that Graham said was better qualified to carry out the project could win the bid.

In exchange, Graham allegedly offered to support the original developer’s bid for a city lottery contract.

At the initiative of City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), the Council voted to reprimand Graham for his actions concerning the two developers, calling them a breach of the Council’s ethics standards.

Graham again insisted he was never charged with breaking any law, taking any money, or benefiting in any way, saying his aim was to benefit Ward 1, where the development project was to take place, by ensuring that the contract went to the most qualified developer. He has called his actions a form of political horse trading rather than anything illegal or unethical.

But he acknowledged in his reflections this week that the combined effect of the Loza arrest and ethics allegations led to his defeat at the polls in the April 2014 Democratic primary in which political newcomer Brianne Nadeau defeated Graham. She went on to win the November general election and will be sworn in as Graham’s successor on Jan. 2.

Jim Graham, Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Outgoing Council member Jim Graham was ousted in the Democratic primary by newcomer Brianne Nadeau. (Washington Blade photo of Graham by Jeff Surprenant, Blade photo of Nadeau by Michael Key)

Graham said he has thought about irony in what seems like some similarities in his own campaign in 1998 in which he defeated then-incumbent Council member Frank Smith in the Democratic primary.

“There’s something to be said about that,” Graham said. “I’ve thought about that many times. And she ran a very hard campaign and I had run a very hard campaign against Smith,” he said.

“She used the ammunition that was given to her by the Washington Post and she used it to good advantage,” he said. “I have good feelings about Brianne Nadeau. I think she ran a skillful campaign, and there were parallels.”

Graham is also quick to point out how the Washington Post in his view played a key role in his defeat by, among other things, publishing 27 separate editorials critical of him over the ethics allegations.

“Twenty-seven – yes, 27 in under a year, which makes me a historical figure,” he said of being the target of a nationally known newspaper like the Post.

“But I really believe that with every door that closes another door opens,” he said. “I have been very comfortable with the ultimate result and very uncomfortable with the way in which it was done.”

Graham added, “I don’t want to be acting like a victim, even though I’ve been victimized through this. I have the option of doing something different. And I’ll be fine I hope. So that’s the end story to that.”

He declined to elaborate on his future plans.

In looking to his record on LGBT rights, Graham, among other things, points to his role as an advocate for the LGBT community both in legislation and private discussions with his fellow Council members.

The addition or protection for transgender people in the city’s Human Rights Act, the enactment into law of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs rather than leaving it as an option for a mayor to keep or disband, and funds for shelter beds for LGBT homeless youth are among some of his many pet projects on the Council, Graham said.

He said that against great odds and under strong opposition by some of his fellow Council members, he pushed through a bill that enabled some of the gay adult businesses displaced by the Washington Nationals stadium to relocate to other parts of the city.

He said he acknowledges that at least some of those who voted against him in the April primary were part of the city’s new residents who moved into Ward 1 due to the extensive revitalization and development projects, including upscale new condo buildings, that Graham says he played a key role in bringing about.

Political observers have said some of the new residents tend to be more conservative on issues of government spending and may have viewed Graham as being too liberal.

“I am a liberal,” he said. “I’m very liberal. I mean I’m very liberal in the sense that I care most about those who need government help at the greatest degree and I think there is a responsible role for government to play in all of that.”

A partial transcript of the Blade’s interview with Graham follows. (Dec. 16, 2014)

Blade: When does your term officially end?

Graham: I’ve got two weeks and two days – 16 days left. And it’s 16 years and then I kind of add to that the 15 years at Whitman-Walker. So it’s 31 years. And I think we had a good run.


Blade: When did you start at Whitman-Walker?

Graham: I became the director in 1984 – the full-time director in March 1984. But I became the president of Whitman-Walker on April Fool’s Day in 1981. But that was a volunteer position, but full-time from March of ’84 to December 2014 is more than 30 years – a long time.


Blade: Yes. Did you remain as executive director while you were a candidate for the Council seat?

Graham: Yes.


Blade: Did you continue as executive director at Whitman-Walker during your campaign for City Council?

Graham: Yes.


Blade: Was that in 1998?

Graham: 1998, that’s right. It seems like an eternity.


Blade: What do you see as the big changes that have happened in all those years?

Graham: Well Ward 1 has been transformed. And I think for the most part transformed for the better. It has neighborhoods that when I came into office were marked by chain linked fences, drug traffic, gang wars, which was the name of the game on U Street and certainly in Columbia Heights. That was what Columbia Heights was all about. Unless you had a reason to go there like going home you never went to Columbia Heights after dark – 14th and Irving.

And you look at it today and it’s obviously hugely different. U Street has become unbelievable. And a lot of people think U Street was the result of a lot of D.C. government actions. But it really wasn’t. It was Metro. Those were Metro parcels that were developed. And I was chairman of the Metro Real Estate Committee during that time.

So I think the revitalization of Ward 1 is certainly what I would count as one of my achievements – working with a lot of people. I don’t want to say I did it alone because obviously I didn’t. But I had critical input in all that.

And I want to be very clear about this point. What has forged my political philosophy, if you will, has been the experience with Whitman-Walker Clinic because working with people who were desperately poor facing what was then considered really a death sentence in the ‘80s, but facing a life-threatening disease for sure, without a network of support, without money in the bank, without insurance policies.

But the experience of going through life’s issues with people infected with HIV forged what I am about. So when I came on the Council I saw it as a continuation in terms of my work for those who were at greatest risk and most vulnerable. And it was a very natural alliance I had with Marion Barry in this regard. But I saw it as a continuum.

The Council gave me a different platform in order to do this. And I think ending with my chairmanship of the Human Services Committee and dealing with all of the issues of poverty in the District of Columbia was just fitting. It was a natural conclusion and continuation of what I had been doing. So I tend to view all of those kind of in the same trajectory if I can use that word. Others may see it differently but that’s the way I see it.

And of course I was privileged to have been elected and re-elected, re-elected, re-elected and then not re-elected by the people of Ward 1. And that’s a huge privilege. There are not too many people who have served 16 years as a Council member in D.C. And I’m very proud of the record that I have.


Blade: Concerning the outcome of the April Democratic primary in which your opponent Brianne Nadeau won, some have said that there was some irony in that she appeared to run the type of campaign that you ran back in 1998 when you beat incumbent Frank Smith. Is there anything to that?

Graham: There’s something to be said about that. I’ve thought about that many times. And she ran a very hard campaign and I had run a very hard campaign against Smith. She used the ammunition that was given to her by the Washington Post and she used it to good advantage. I have good feelings about Brianne Nadeau. I think she ran a skillful campaign, and there were parallels.

I ran across our direct mail pieces in 1998. They were very hard hitting.


Blade: Some may have lost track of how many Washington Post editorials came out against you.

Graham: Twenty-seven – yes, 27 in under a year, which makes me a historical figure. I don’t want to go on and on about this, but just to say that 27 editorials and I never had an opportunity to present my case [before the City Council]. I never had an opportunity to examine witnesses or present evidence – never. And so the Metro Board acted without a hearing. The Board of Ethics in Government, which had just been established and just come into existence, said they had no jurisdiction but we’ll give you our conclusions anyway – no hearing.

And then the Council – I begged Mendelson to propose a motion of censure rather than a reprimand for two reasons. Number one, most importantly if it had been a censure motion I would have been entitled to a hearing. And I had lawyers ready to act. And I could finally have had an opportunity to say look here’s my side of all this. But he said no, it would be too much of a distraction from the Council’s business and we need to get on with this and a reprimand would be enough. It’s a relatively minor matter.

Well I said it’s not going to be minor because I could spend the rest of my life trying to correct press reports that I was censured because nobody knows the difference between a censure and a reprimand. But the difference for me was there was no hearing. And so all of that happened without an opportunity for me to be heard in a formal way.

And so if anything that was alleged was true it would be a serious matter. But everything that was alleged along those lines was not true. And the one thing that was true was what everybody would say was minor at best. So the difference is if you could prove everything that was thrown out there – it was Graham wanted to substitute one developer or another developer. Graham wanted to have a campaign – all of this was balderdash. It wasn’t true. But if it were true then you would have a very serious matter.

But there was never any opportunity to refute it. So it all just got recycled over and over and over again. And of course Brianne Nadeau being the political person that she is and running in a political race she took advantage of all that. And so at every campaign stop it was Graham is corrupt. And as many times as I said how can I be corrupt without breaking any law, committing any crime or taking any money? How do you interpret that as corruption?

But, see, all of that is lost in the mist of history. Who cares? And I guess the Washington Post achieved what it wanted to achieve – to put me out of office. But I really believe that with every door that closes another door opens. I have been very comfortable with the ultimate result and very uncomfortable with the way in which it was done. But I don’t want to be acting like a victim, even though I’ve been victimized.

I’ve definitely been victimized but I don’t want to act like a victim through this. And I have the option of doing something different. And I’ll be fine I hope. So that’s the end story to that. But to say it was painful to have 27 editorials written against you and knowing they were going to appear on such and such a date and knowing what they were going say and they would be the worst possibly interpretation of anything that could ever happen – it was painful.

And very few people know that pain because how many people have had 27 editorials written against them by a major American newspaper? Even Mark Lee, with all his attacks on me — he didn’t use that number. And Jonetta Rose Barras didn’t use that number.


Blade: Some of the criticism appeared to be that you were too liberal.

Graham: I am liberal. I’m very liberal. I mean I’m very liberal in the sense that I care most about those who need government help at the greatest degree and I think there is a responsible role for government to play in all of that.

Mark Lee is just a very, very conservative business oriented columnist. And you have to understand that he is very pro bar. That’s the industry he comes from. And you always have to keep that in mind when you read what he has to say. But I’m just saying that kiddingly because even Jonetta Rose Barras didn’t write 27 columns negative about me.

But John Roe did.


Blade: Who is John Roe?

Graham: He was the voice at the Post editorial board…So then you have all of that happening. And then you have the massive effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to entrap me – massive effort. My phone was tapped for at least 90 days. I know that because I have the federal motions that were signed by the federal judges. My bank account was investigated. Everything about me was investigated. And they offered me a trip to Miami, which I rejected. They offered me – they gave me the painting. I’ll show you the painting – a full rights painting that they commissioned by an Ethiopian artist that was presented to me at a Christmas gala. We have the video. There are photos of this, and I was aghast when I saw this thing because who wants to be presented with a full-length portrait of themselves. But at the time I didn’t know it had been commissioned by the FBI.

And later on the artist contacted me. He’s Ethiopian and wanted my help because they stiffed him with 50 percent of the fee. They promised him $6,000. They only paid him $3,000. And he wanted to know if I can help him.  He didn’t know he was dealing with an FBI undercover agent. It just goes on and on and on.


Blade: Why did the FBI want to do that?

Graham: Well they had Teddy on the line and they wanted bigger game. They wanted bigger game. And so they thought they could get me too – but I had committed no crime. I had committed no – broken no law, taken no money. But they wanted to see what they can do to get me to do it. It’s called entrapment. It’s not legal entrapment under the current definitions.

I was offered as everyone knows $2,400 in cash which I rejected. And when I look back on that period of time and all of that I was completely in the dark. I was meeting these guys who were FBI agents and they were saying we want to invest in Ward 1. I said fine, what do you want to do? These mysterious meetings [that they invited me to attend] that I never quite understood – because they don’t need me to invest in Ward 1.


Blade: Were they posing as businessmen?

Graham: They were posing as investors. And that’s why they said they wanted me to come to Miami. I said why do you want me to come to Miami? They said because the investors are located there and it would be convenient for them. I said have them come to Washington if they’re so interested. Well we’ll take you out to dinner in a yacht.

This was a major nightmare that began in August 2009 and has lasted until this year. And some day the full story will be told, but the fact of the matter is – and meanwhile during all that while I was doing my job. I’m very proud of the fact that we have – I think we have the best constituent services on the Council. We’re known for our responsiveness. I’m known for my responsiveness. I was reading every email, responding to every email. Every phone call was dealt with effectively.

And then I had the chairmanship of the Human Services Committee and I was dealing with all the issues related to poverty. And we kept working. We were never deterred from that work. But at some point I learned that they were out to get me and I had to refocus and say what the hell is going on here?


Blade: When you say it all started in August 2009, was that when Teddy Loza, your former chief of staff, allegedly took a bribe?

Graham: That’s when Teddy told me he had been arrested and he had been detained actually at the Atlanta airport. And Teddy’s situation is an entirely separate matter that was also under close scrutiny because of what they did. The way it happened was this. Abdul Kamal was somebody we worked together with in the Ethiopian community. He offered a real bribe to the chairman of the Taxi Cab Commission. He offered the chairman of the Taxi Cab Commission $50,000. The chairman of the Taxi Cab Commission turned him into the FBI. At that point they said you’re guilty of a federal felony but can you help us with some other people. And he said what do you mean? Well he offered you could get Ted Loza? And he said maybe you could even get Jim Graham because we had lived together.

So first they got Teddy. They entrapped him. He took silly and stupid things like taking a $500 gift on Father’s Day. And then they came after me with these other things, meanwhile by tapping my phone and examining every part of my life and coming up with nothing – nothing. I mean am I indicted? Have they charged me with a crime? Has anybody ever suggested that I committed a crime? No.

So that’s the way it went. But I’m very proud of the fact that I continued to do my work. I was re-elected in 2010 after Teddy had been arrested – after Loza had been arrested. And that was a terrible moment I can assure you. But we continued to work. And I got 80 something percent of the vote in 2010. But then the editorials started in 2012 and 2013.

But I’m proud of my record because the fact of the matter is with all the investigations that they conducted they came up with nothing because there was nothing there. There was nothing there. And I don’t know how much money they spent trying to do all this. But the fact that I lost the election – gosh, somebody’s got 27 editorials against him by a national newspaper. Where there’s smoke there must be fire, right? But there wasn’t any fire. There was just smoke.


Blade: Did you sense that you still had support from your base supporters?

Graham: Well there were a lot of pragmatic things. You had the early April 1 primary and nobody knew it was Election Day. You had Vince Gray, who I expected to bring out the east side of the ward in voters. He didn’t because he had polls showing he would lose 60 percent of the vote from there. So he didn’t make any effort. So when the election came I said oh my God, there is no effort to bring these guys out. And I would have done it. But for good reason his campaign strategists said we’re not going to bring them out. We’re not going to make a special effort because we’ll lose that vote big time.

So there were all those pragmatic kinds of things going on. And my opponent was very good at what she did in carrying the message that I was corrupt.

…I ended up with strong support from African Americans and Latinos and Vietnamese and Asians and so forth. And it was the newcomer who is largely white and comparatively well off – comparatively well off – who voted against me.

But I don’t have any bitterness about this. Brianna reflects that constituency. She does. She reflects that constituency that voted for her and, you know, people like to feel that they’re represented by their own. Now she has a challenge in terms of communicating well with the so-called minorities in Ward 1. And I hope she is going to work hard at that in understanding their needs. She and I have had a very cordial relationship.


Blade: Since the election?

Graham: Since the final election. We didn’t have too much communication after the primary. I did congratulate her and I told her that if she won the final election I would do everything I could to help in the transition, and I have. I’ve been having these resolutions with various Ward 1 leaders. I invited her to the Council…I invited her to my Thanksgiving lunch for 500 seniors. She came for that – very cordial. She knows that I want to help her in any way. I want her to be a success.


Blade: Let’s talk a little about your role first as an openly gay candidate and then as an out gay Council member. When you first ran against Frank Smith did that surface at all?

Graham: It did. There were some very nasty materials put together on it, which were never really widely distributed but it did – the way it surfaced was people who had – and they were largely minorities, by the way – who had been helped by Whitman-Walker Clinic because of a child having AIDS or a brother having AIDS. And they very much appreciated the assistance they had gotten. See what I’m saying? And so it was a plus. It was a huge plus being associated with Whitman-Walker.

From the beginning I’ve ran as somebody who is white, gay, recovering addict and alcoholic and now clean and sober for 37 years.


Blade: You were open about that?

Graham: I was open about all of this. The Washington Post had done this 6,000-word profile on me in the magazine section in 1992. They had laid bare every aspect of my life. So I have been very straightforward about everything and there was nothing to cover up. It was all exposed.

And I think it says a lot about Ward 1. They were able to see the merits of my candidacy. I never had any problem being re-elected up until the last election.


Blade: During your years on the Council did your status as an openly gay Council member have any impact on your interaction with your colleagues?

Graham: I don’t think so. I think it was a neutral because this is a pretty enlightened crew here. It was a neutral. I don’t have any recollection of a blip along those lines.


Blade: No problems with your colleagues over that?

Graham: None.


Blade: Now some LGBT activists have expressed concern that there will be no out gay on the Council for the first time since 1997, when Council member David Catania won his seat in a special election.

Graham: I think that’s an important void because you’ve got these members here who are pretty enlightened and they’re anything but homophobic. They’re the exact opposite of that. But it always helps to have somebody at the table that has these issues in the forefront in their minds. And whatever the unique issue is if you have somebody at the table who is thinking about this issue he or she reminds his colleagues or her colleagues of the significance of this on every occasion. And when they’re not there – the difference between being presented with an issue and saying I’ll vote for that and having the issue raised at all. I think it’s going to be something we’ll miss. There are people who cater to the gay vote, which is good because they see it as a strong voting population, which it is. But it’s not the same as having somebody at the table.

Yet we’ve gone so far, haven’t we? I never, never imagined – never, never imagined – I imagined same-sex marriage, marriage equality. I imagined that. But I never imagined that there would come a day when a gay and lesbian person could go outside of the United States, marry somebody and bring them back under the immigration laws as a spouse. I remember talking to folks in the ‘90s who were working on this issue and I said oh, my God, this will be the last frontier. This will be the one thing that will never happen. Well it’s happened. It’s happened. And I think it’s a matter of time until the Supreme Court finally decides that it’s a violation of human rights and unlawful discrimination in so many different areas of gays being treated differently than anybody else. So it’s done. Maybe those frontiers have already been achieved. Maybe we’re by them…

Now are there gay people on the Council who are not saying they’re gay? Well that’s another matter, isn’t it? I don’t know how that will work out because there may be people in the future who are in that category and just not willing to admit it for political reasons.

The fact of the matter is there are a lot of people who won’t vote for a gay candidate. I don’t know to what extent that worked in Catania’s case in the recent election.


Blade: We’ve heard that may have hurt gay Ward 8 activist Phil Pannell in his races for a seat on the school board.

Graham: Word of mouth is very powerful in D.C. I’ve learned that. The word of mouth in political campaigns – what people say to each other and is passed on and passed on is a very important thing. So if you say the word of mouth on Catania was that he was difficult, over bearing, given to fits of anger – that was the word of mouth on Catania. I don’t think it played well.


Blade: Isn’t it hard to see how that played since we don’t have exit polls.

Graham: No, we don’t have exit polls.


Blade: The unions that supported Muriel Bowser for mayor brought up the issue of Catania’s temperament in mailings.

Graham: It was well communicated the personality issues…It’s hard to say just why people vote, but there is certainly homophobia. Homophobia is alive and well. And I’m sure it hurt Catania and I’m sure it hurt Pannell. But it never hurt me in any decisive way. Everybody knew who I was and they’ve elected me four times. That’s the same with Catania in the position he was in. Yet it’s hard to say because he never really had a majority of the vote.


Blade: Your referring to the at-large Council seat reserved for the non-majority party?

Graham: Yeah – it’s hard to describe, but he never really did have a majority vote of those who were voting?


Blade: When he ran for his Council seat?

Graham: Yes.


Blade: Do you feel he was also hurt because of voting trends in the city in that we’ve never had a white candidate win election to mayor since the home rule government began in 1974?

Graham: I think that’s likely to change in the next couple of elections because the city has so fundamentally changed. If you go to 14th and U, for example, 11th Street, for example; Sherman Avenue – streets that I know well – it’s just a different world. It’s a different world. I go to Georgia Avenue and I find white couple after white couple with baby strollers, gays holding hands that are white and mixed races. It’s another world.


Blade: Could that be a sign of gentrification, which some feel has harmed certain parts of the population in the city? Is Ward 1 encountering the brunt of gentrification?

Graham: I think it has. But we’ve done pretty well with big buildings. But we have major challenges ahead in terms of landlord tenant rights and so forth. And I was one of the champions in all of that. And I’m not going to be around for that. I know the D.C. Realtors put in about $70,000 to defeat me. So I hope that Council member Nadeau is able to resist playing to those donors. But increasingly we’re using buildings now because of the pressure from the real estate market.

…The more that rent control disappears and the more that other tenant related protections disappear will be the extent that affordable buildings disappear. This $100 million a year for affordable house [DC government program] is never going to make up for all of the buildings that are being lost. We have right now approximately 200,000 to 250,000 people who are in the District of Columbia in rent controlled apartments. It is huge. But that is slipping every single day. The numbers are going down every single day. In fact the number I’ve just given you is a year old. I don’t know what it is today.

And rent control is not as strong as it should be but it’s better than not having rent control, that’s for sure…


Blade: There’s an issue of the gay clubs. Another one in the city that is in your ward – MOVA – is closing at the end of the year.

Graham: They never really got off the ground.


Blade: The owner says it’s going to be taken over by one of the owners of Barcode, a popular straight bar located downtown.

Graham: I know him – Movahedi. He’s in Barcelona.


Blade: He announced on his Facebook page that MOVA will have a closing party on Jan. 3.

Graham: Is he coming?

Blade: He didn’t say in his message.

Graham: No, I don’t think he is. I spoke to him in Barcelona a few weeks ago and he’s a good friend because he had Halo. He was the second owner of Halo. And it did very well. But you know they had stairs at Halo and they have stairs at this other club. And the stairs killed them at this other club. Was it too long a staircase? But they ended up with a very small area downstairs.


Blade: They also had a protest filed against their license renewal by the ANC and nearby residents who said the roof deck was creating too much noise.

Graham: That could be. I didn’t know about that.


Blade: You were involved with some of when he chaired the Council committee overseeing liquor licenses, right?

Graham: I was chairman of that committee for eight years.


Blade: Now history seems to be repeating itself with the new soccer stadium, where it will likely displace a club that got displaced by the Washington Nationals Baseball stadium.

Graham: Ziegfeld’s/Secrets.


Blade: Right.

Graham: And they are going to have a hard time relocating.


Blade: Jack Evans has said the Council will try to help them relocate. But Could the Council do that?

Graham: Well they will have to ease up – I was the author as you remember of that new law on nude dancing. And the problem is we are under a lot of pressure to restrict the locations where it is so many feet from this, so many feet from that. So it virtually makes it impossible for a new club to be located anywhere in the west side of the city. Now on the east side of the city there are still locations in warehouse districts and so forth. But I know that Alan Carol who is the owner of Ziegfeld’s searched high and low before he found that. So there’s an irony that once again they’re facing this. But they’re not in the footprint of the stadium. So they’re going to be there until the owner of the building figures out if he wants a different use of the building.


Blade: The owner has said he will eventually sell to a developer and will offer Ziegfeld’s/Secrets the first right of refusal to buy the building.

Graham: I don’t know. But you know he’s got years left because the soccer stadium is not going to be built for years — I mean 2017 or 2018 before it’s opened. And so he’s got all that time and then of course he’s not in the path – he’s not in the footprint of the stadium.


Blade: The mayor’s office says they will not extend any use of eminent domain outside the footprint of the stadium, but there will likely be pressure from developers.

Graham: Yeah – there will be pressure to make money and etc., etc. And so this guy undoubtedly will say I can make more money doing something different here because there will be condos and all that stuff – the usual.


Blade: Did your bill allow two nude dance licenses per ward?

Graham: I don’t remember. It’s very strict. It was stricter than I wanted it to be because I would have made it far more liberal but there were such pressures, particularly from Ward 5, but also from people generally. The NIMPYism was very strong. So we didn’t get very far in terms of relaxing restrictions. In fact it’s much tougher.


Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • "The addition or protection for transgender people in the city’s Human Rights Act, the enactment into law of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs rather than leaving it as an option for a mayor to keep or disband, and funds for shelter beds for LGBT homeless youth are among some of his many pet projects on the Council, Graham said."
    Activists for DC's LGBTQ's public safety always had a strong, supportive advocate in Jim Graham.
    MPD's award-winning GLLU unit and its LGBT police officers have been under periodic assaults by Chief Lanier — since 2007 — to disband and/or dismantle GLLU's central office and its core group of experienced officers.

    Jim Graham was always there to defend the GLLU and the public safety of DC's LGBTQ community. It was good Graham kept OGLBTA mandated by law, too. Adrian Fenty's claimed support of DC's LGBTs was a sham and a lie. Fenty essentially ignored the Mayor's Office for GLBT Affairs for his entire term. What a spiteful and contemtuus act.

    Let's hope that gay Principal Peter Cahall's firing by Mayor-elect Bowser's pick for schools chancellor, Kaya Henderson, isn't a homophobic/ transphobic indicator of Fenty's history about to repeat itself.
    Even before the starting bell has rung, the Bowser Administration has a terrible, homophobic stain on its record, thanks to her DCPS pick.
    Today, once again, MPD's GLLU Office and its LGBT police officers are under assault by Chief Lanier and her secretive, stealthy appointment to replace a CAPTAIN as head of MPD's Special Liaison Division, with a LIEUTENANT.
    Once again, Lanier has DOWNGRADED SLD's importance with the appointment of a lower-ranking head of SLD.
    But Lt. Crawley's appointment, was also hidden for two weeks prior to the election by Chief Lanier. That represents yet another slap in the face of the LGBT community and demonstrates Chief Lanier's ongoing contempt for the community policing needs of LGBT residents and businesses.
    Secret Policing and news manipulation regarding personnel changes of a Community Policing department is highly UNETHICAL, and Council ought to make it illegal, if it is not already.
    ALL of us have a 'Right To Know' — especially just prior to an election — of a significant change in police leadership directly responsible for DC LGBTQ policing services.
    But Lanier kept that appointment hidden for some reason. Why? Why would any police chief want to keep secret and/or withhold news of a new director of a MPD division whose very mission is community LIAISON and communications.
    Could it be that Lt. Crawley's mission, whether known to her or not — that is, MPD-HQ's originals plan — was to have Lt. Crawley destroy rather than support GLLU's LGBT community policing mission?
    That would explain the strongly implied threat/intimidation, seemingly directed to GLLU's core officers, from SLD's Crawley, that GLLU's safe and convenient Dupont office might have to be moved way over to Petworth — some 3-1/2 miles from Dupont.
    Effective community policing is best achieved when a police chief's words, backed up by actions, are open, transparent and trustworthy. Feeling the trust yet?

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