Connect with us

Opinions

Orange an embarrassment to statehood effort

New role at chamber raises conflict of interest concerns

Published

on

Vincent Orange, gay news, Washington Blade
Vincent Orange, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Vincent Orange just accepted the job as president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. It is understandable he needs work since he lost his reelection campaign in June. But his intent to do both jobs, fill out his remaining term on the Council and begin his job as chamber president at the same time, is the kind of thing that turns people off to politics.

Orange chairs the Council Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and if he can’t see the conflict then it’s a good thing people voted him out of office. Taking on both positions at the same time and trying to convince anyone that it’s not a conflict is the height of arrogance, it’s downright offensive, and an embarrassment to the District as we try to convince people we should have statehood.

The Washington Post said in his remaining time in office Orange will earn $56,188 of taxpayer money. The honorable thing to do would have been for him to step down the moment he found out he got his new job. His excuse that he is protecting his staff is nonsense. He was voted out of office and political staff know what to expect. I am sure they have all had their resumes on the street since he lost his reelection in June.

The reactions of Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd are also outrageous. They defended Orange, saying his actions are legal. Mendelson said, “There’s a significant difference between what the public might see as a conflict and what the law prohibits.”

Where is their call for changing the law to prohibit such behavior in the future? Just because something is technically legal doesn’t necessarily make it right and the Council has the ability to change this. I expect to see the same outrage from these two as we have heard from Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau and Charles Allen.

This is the kind of behavior from our Council members we need to end. If we are to become a state we need to ensure our elected legislators are not allowed to hold other jobs. We need to pay them a living wage and end the conflicts of interest that occur when they have bosses other than the people who elected them. We also need to end the ability for members of the Council to raise money for their constituent service funds, which are simply inappropriate slush funds for them to use at will.

D.C. residents face many challenges and one of the greatest is that we have no representation in Congress. We are often used as a petri dish for congressional experiments like school vouchers, which members of Congress could never foist on their own constituents. If we are to control our own destiny one of the first things Congress must grant us while we fight for statehood is full legislative and budget autonomy.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has reinvigorated the drive for statehood. At the recent Democratic convention, she worked hard to let Democrats across the nation know the more than 630,000 residents of the District are disenfranchised.

Our hard-working Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss hosted an impressive luncheon with the Creative Coalition (an advocacy group formed of members of the American entertainment industry) to generate publicity for statehood. He is working to build on Hillary Clinton’s strong support of statehood. At the luncheon, Bowser spoke as did statehood supporter Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County commissioner, who is now running for attorney general of Pennsylvania. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton was there and has been lending her voice and national reputation to this fight since she was elected our congressional representative in 1990. Strauss shared commercials being shown during the convention in Philadelphia made by stars from the Creative Coalition speaking out for statehood. Members of the coalition attending the luncheon included actors David Schwimmer and Ashley Judd.

In retrospect, the only sour note of the day was Vincent Orange speaking as we now know he is more of an embarrassment to the cause than a help.

It is my hope the City Council leadership and all its members who take seriously the effort to gain statehood understand avoiding blatant conflicts of interest is one way to do that. They should collectively call on Orange to step down immediately and if he doesn’t, Chairman Mendelson should strip him of his committee chairmanship, which he has the authority to do.

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement
4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Craig Howell

    August 4, 2016 at 11:48 am

    CM Orange has already asked Chairman Mendelson to abolish his committee and absorb its responsibilities into the Committee of the Whole. Not nearly enough. Don’t go away mad, Mr. Orange, just go away.

  2. Im Just Sayin

    August 4, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I seldom agree with Peter’s perspectives, but this one is spot on… a huge obstacle to DC statehood has been and continues to be the behavior of the people that are elected to the city council and Mayor’s office. Until we eliminate the culture of self-dealing, self-promotion and self-aggrandisement there is going to be little support in Congress for self-rule.

    • THEBEARCUB

      August 8, 2016 at 2:44 am

      iN OTHER WORDS…A White or a republican Mayor?…LOL!

  3. allamericanguy

    August 5, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Vincent Orange is one of the most irresponsible and unprincipled individuals to have ever served in DC. Considering some of the others who have served, that is saying something! The city would have been so blessed to have him fade away. However, he craves the spotlight and will do anything to stay in it. He has proven over and over that he is self serving and self promoting.

    Please never return him to an elected position. Let’s hope his namesake doesn’t follow in his footsteps.

Leave a Reply

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

Opinions

Opinion | Most people are transphobic

Nearly half of Americans oppose inclusive military service

Published

on

Most people are transphobic.

Start with the fact that in 2020, 45 trans people were killed in the United States, most of them Black trans women. Worldwide, that number jumped to above 350 people. 

Seventy percent of Republican parents say they’d be unhappy if their child’s spouse identified as transgender. That’s a mild statistic, so let’s jump to the fact that at least 28 Republican state legislatures pushed bills this year that would ban trans athletes from competing in high school sports, and ban trans children from receiving medical care.

But Republicans are the obvious culprits in American society’s hatred toward trans people. Let’s turn to the less obvious culprits. 

If you think Democrats were angels, think again. About 30 percent of parents who identify as Democrats state they would be unhappy if their child’s spouse married a trans person. That poll was conducted by PRRI-Atlantic in February 2019, not 10 years ago, or five years ago, but just two years ago. 

Migrate to Hillary Clinton’s offhanded remarks to Britain’s The Sunday Times that for trans people, “it’s going to take a lot more time and effort to understand what it means to be defining yourself differently.”

Move on to corporate CEOs, mainly white guys with a lot of ambition and agendas to push. Elon Musk tweeted “pronouns suck.” Even if there was not that much thought behind the tweet (at best), Musk still alienated all of the trans employees who actually work at Tesla or SpaceX. 

And, of course, how could I write a piece about transphobia without mentioning JK Rowling, who famously stuck up for Donald Trump’s bigoted policies tweet after tweet, only to essentially state that trans women are not real women, and outline “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

Take a look at corporate America: big companies, with billions in revenue and company outings to Europe, love to post rainbow flags come June, but seemingly would never hire a trans woman in 1,000 years. If that trans woman doesn’t pass well, you can forget about her job prospects at a Fortune 500 company. 

Certain statistics that are used to signal growing support for trans people, are actually quite dismal. Some like to tout the fact that 63 percent of the United States population wants trans people to serve in the military, as a positive statistic On the flip side, this still means that almost 4 out of 10 Americans don’t want trans people to serve in the armed forces, just because of their gender orientation. 

That’s dangerously close to half of the American population that would deny a well meaning soldier from potentially sacrificing their life to serve this country. Why would you ever not want someone to give their life for your homeland when you wouldn’t give your life to begin with? 

But what is most shocking, is the seamlessness in which almost half of all Americans would be uncomfortable with their own child being trans. According to PRRI, around 48 percent of Americans would be “uncomfortable” with their own child being trans. In the same poll, only 60 percent of Democrats would be “somewhat or very comfortable” with their child being trans. This means that 40 percent of polled Democrats would be overtly uncomfortable with their own child living their truth. 

Then take a step back, and evaluate all of the day-to-day, quotidian occurrences that highlight how weird and transphobic the public is. I’m talking about small gestures, like when your boss would rather have you not use pronouns in email correspondence to clients. Or when That Guy You Went To High School With just loves tearing Caitlyn Jenner apart, uncontrollably, ferociously. 

Or when your favorite buddy just loves Joe Rogan, who happens to go on regular tirades against trans athletes in his podcast. Or when you pray to God that a consulting firm you’re applying to actually doesn’t learn you are trans, so you can get the job. Or when you can’t find a priest for your Indian wedding. 

I repeat: most people are transphobic. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Opinion | Anti-vaxxers screw themselves and us

Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

Published

on

Some say that if the current Republican Party and today’s Fox News were around when vaccinations for smallpox and polio were developed, we would still be fighting those diseases.  There have always been anti-vaxxers and you can read about them in The American Historian.  The column suggests vaccine resistance over the years was rooted in social movements more than anti-vaccine movements. Yet government took control; an example being demanding all children get vaccinated in order to attend school. 

President Biden is finally moving in that direction, announcing a vaccine mandate for federal workers. The Washington Post in a column by Eli Rosenberg reported some unions object and want to bargain over it and one, The Federal Law Enforcement Association, attacked the mandate saying, “requiring vaccinations represents an infringement on ‘civil rights.’” 

Not taking the vaccine represents an infringement on my right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.’ Your members not taking the vaccine puts my life and other lives in danger. Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

Proclaiming your ‘individuality’ is fine if it doesn’t threaten the lives of everyone around you. Anyone with COVID impacts everyone in the community. A person who gets ill when they could have prevented that with a safe, free vaccination, then passes it on to others, must be held responsible. 

Government should do more and follow our European allies and develop a national vaccine passport so responsible people can easily prove they have been vaccinated. In this way when businesses mandate vaccinations for their employees, and they are, people will have an easy way to prove their compliance. California and New York have begun to demand this of their employees. Bars and restaurants in San Francisco and some LGBTQ bars in D.C. now ask for proof of vaccination to enter. The same should happen everywhere and include sports venues, concert venues, airlines, and cruise ships. All should require proof of vaccination for entrance. If that doesn’t happen we will find ourselves back to wearing masks and more. If you choose not to be vaccinated, then stay home. 

All healthcare facilities — doctors’ offices, urgent care facilities, and hospitals — are beginning to  demand employees be vaccinated. No one should have to be seen by a provider who could have COVID. Healthcare costs should not go up because some people think they have the right to not take a fully tested vaccine to prevent their own and other people’s illness. 

It’s time to throw out politicians like Ron DeSantis, the incredibly stupid governor of Florida, who believes it’s appropriate to force cruise ships to accept unvaccinated passengers. 

Countries around the world are now requiring visitors from the United States to show proof of vaccination to enter. This supports the need for President Biden to act now and have the government develop a national vaccine document. It’s not about politics, it’s not a Democratic or Republican thing; it is about protecting people’s health.

If you continue to believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ or want to proclaim your individuality or ‘freedom,’ then you are a moron. Stay home and only associate with others who are as dumb as you are. If you get sick or die from what you believe is a ‘hoax’ don’t expect others to pay for your healthcare or show compassion. What the rest of us ask of you is simple: Don’t put our lives in danger because of your stupidity. 

Recently there has been a slight change in tone from Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity and Republican members of Congress like anti-LGBTQ Steve Scalise (R-La.) and ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who are now suggesting vaccination. Apparently they woke up and realized it’s their own viewers and voters getting sick and dying after listening to months of their lies and stupidity. 

I am aware there are those who cannot yet get the vaccine — children under 12, those with certain health conditions, and those in poor countries who don’t have access to it. We must all do everything we can to make it available around the world for those who can take it. 

It is past time to tell all those who would put the rest of us at risk for serious illness and even death we will no longer cater to their shallowness. We will not be held hostage to a disease because they are either dumb, inconsiderate, or worse.

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

Continue Reading

Opinions

Opinion | Lovitz for Pennsylvania state representative

Accomplished gay candidate is longtime equality advocate

Published

on

Jonathan Lovitz, gay news, Washington Blade
Jonathan Lovitz (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It’s an embarrassment of riches for residents of center city Philadelphia, which includes the “gayborhood,” as they prepare to vote for their next state representative. 

The post has been held by Rep. Brian Sims, who’s gay, since 2013. Sims is giving up the seat to run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. More on that later.

Two out LGBTQ candidates are among those competing in the 182nd District’s Democratic primary to replace Sims — Jonathan Lovitz and Deja Alvarez. Lovitz, who’s gay, has served as senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce for five years. If elected, it would be the first time a seat held by an LGBTQ state representative transitioned to another LGBTQ official and he would be the first LGBTQ Jewish elected official in Pennsylvania.

Alvarez, who’s transgender, is director of community engagement at World Healthcare Infrastructures and serves as chair of the Philadelphia Police LGBT Liaison Committee. She would become the first out trans person to serve in the Pennsylvania Legislature if elected.

Both are excellent candidates who would make their own bit of history if elected, but Lovitz stands out as the strongest choice to replace Sims in the legislature, a change that local residents desperately need.

To paraphrase Oprah in her famous endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton: Just because I am for Lovitz, doesn’t mean I am against Alvarez. I am acquainted with Lovitz and know him to be an ethical, smart, hard-working professional who is deeply dedicated to his work and to the residents of Philadelphia. He would make a fearless and tireless advocate for Philly and for equality issues in Harrisburg.

At NGLCC, Lovitz has helped write and pass more than 25 state and local laws, including in Pennsylvania, extending economic opportunity to LGBTQ-owned businesses around the country. As the country struggles to emerge from pandemic restrictions, we need more legislators at all levels of government who understand the importance of small business. Lovitz has the experience in business and in his work on equality issues to deliver tangible results for Philadelphia. 

Contrast his record with that of Sims and it’s a no-brainer that the people of the 182nd District have nowhere to go but up. Sims has sponsored or introduced scores of bills in the past year, but only one has been enacted, according to BillTrack50. Sims has been criticized in the district for his endless media tour and social media self-promotion. He is more interested in thirst-trap selfies than in constituent service. He lacks the professionalism and temperament for elected office, favoring profane outbursts and juvenile insults over diplomatic compromise and legislative achievement. As Christopher Pinto wrote in the Philadelphia Gay News, “Almost a decade in the State House, and he has no legislative victories that he can claim as his own. He spent more time out of the district than inside it, flying from one speaking engagement to the next, while abusing his state issued travel budget and being shrouded in a lengthy ethics investigation.”

Lovitz will not succumb to such vanities. He is a grounded professional who understands how to craft legislation and, more importantly, how to get it passed. He won’t alienate colleagues as Sims has done. 

On equality issues, Lovitz has worked on behalf of marginalized communities at NGLCC and last year he organized PhillyVoting.org, which works to boost turnout among Black and LGBTQ voters. 

“The ongoing violence against our communities, especially against our trans siblings, is a stunning reminder that our work together continues,” Lovitz wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Gay News. “Once again the movement for long-overdue social change in America is being led by communities of color, especially right here in Philly,” he wrote. “And the LGBTQ community must continue to stand in solidarity with them.”

Lovitz understands the moment. He has a passion for business and for helping entrepreneurs to succeed, something cities desperately need after more than 200,000 small businesses have shuttered due to COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal; more than 1,000 Philly businesses closed in just the first five months of the pandemic, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Voters, donors, and our national advocacy organizations should support his bold campaign and help retain an out LGBTQ voice in Harrisburg while improving constituent service for residents of the district. 

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular