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In defense of Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper

Longtime leader has preserved the best of Del. beach town

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Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
Fourth, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, Sam Cooper

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I read with interest the column written by Peter Rosenstein about the upcoming mayoral election in Rehoboth Beach (“Paul Kuhns for mayor of Rehoboth Beach,” July 3). The column is so full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and dangerous innuendo, it is necessary to respond with facts.

The first, and most frequent, inaccuracy is that the incumbent mayor made several decisions regarding the need for, and construction of, the new City Hall. This could not be further from the truth. A City Hall Task Force was formed to oversee its design and construction. The Task Force includes every city commissioner, including the candidate Rosenstein endorses, Paul Kuhns. This group met over five years and held dozens of meetings, all open to the public. The minutes and presentations from these meetings are published on the city’s website. The budget for the City Hall, including an increase due to higher than expected construction bids, was approved unanimously by the mayor and commissioners, again including Paul Kuhns. And funding for the City Hall was approved by a public vote of the citizens.

Rosenstein alleges that the incumbent mayor “does not understand nor want to acknowledge how the business community in the city drives tourism.” Let’s look at the facts. Some of the gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses patronized by tourists like Rosenstein and the readers of the Blade, are celebrating many decades in business, including the Blue Moon. Others are expanding, by buying existing businesses or opening new establishments. This only happens in a city in which businessmen and women find a vibrant, active business community, and an environment where the city leadership allows them to be profitable and flourish.

The column alleges that Mayor Cooper does not have adequate relationships with local, county and state peers. This is also untrue. The good relationships Mayor Cooper and the city have with federal, state and county elected officials and agencies have resulted in well over $35 million coming to the city for important projects like the Rehoboth Avenue Streetscape and boardwalk improvements, dollars the taxpayers of the city are not asked to pay through local taxes.

Throughout the column, accusations are made of fiscal mismanagement or “incompetent” decisions. On this point, Rosenstein does not even agree with the facts as characterized by the candidate he supports. At a public meeting in March of this year, Kuhns stated, “The fiscal management that’s been going on over the past 25-30 years has been spectacular.”

Finally, and perhaps most dangerously, Rosenstein implies that the incumbent mayor is homophobic. There is absolutely no evidence offered to support this, because the inference of homophobia is simply not true. Rosenstein simply states, without specificity, that the mayor “has made homophobic remarks” over the years. I suggest he talk to the many LGBT business people who have prospered in Rehoboth Beach, the LGBT officials who have served with Mayor Cooper on commissions and boards, LGBT members of the city staff, and many ordinary LGBT citizens with whom Mayor Cooper and his wife have business and personal relationships. He will find that there is simply no evidence of homophobic beliefs or behavior.

Rosenstein states that people like himself who have been coming to Rehoboth Beach for decades “love that it is still in some ways the town we first fell in love with.” No one is more responsible for that than Mayor Cooper. I do not doubt that he loves Rehoboth Beach. However, he is seriously misinformed. Perhaps this is because he does not live in Rehoboth Beach, does not pay taxes in Rehoboth Beach, and has almost never attended a meeting of the City Commission or any other city agency. I suggest that he do more research. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said, “’Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Let’s not follow the national political trend of repeating falsehoods about political opponents and hoping they stick. Let’s deal with the truth.

Frank Cooper is a resident of Rehoboth Beach, Del. He is not related to Mayor Sam Cooper.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Cole Carter

    July 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Wow…puts a different light on Mr. Rosenstein.

  2. Richard Perry

    July 16, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Frank Cooper’s defense of Mayor Sam Cooper came as no surprise to me. As a former candidate for the board of commissioners in the past two years and as someone who closely follows the issues and politics of Rehoboth Beach, I, like many others, know Frank Cooper to be an apologist for, and a proponent of, Mayor Sam Cooper and whatever policies the Mayor promotes. What is also no surprise to me is that Frank Cooper does not understand that his “half-truths” are no less “fake news” that he claims is now common place in the media. As to Mr. Rosenstein’s qualifications to comment on the issues affecting the citizens of Rehoboth Beach, one should know that Mr. Rosenstein spends as much time here, if not more time, than a lot of people who actually are property owners and even registered voters in Rehoboth Beach.

    Frank Cooper should do some fact checking. Contrary to his assertions that Mr. Rosenstein’s article is full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and dangerous innuendo, Mr. Cooper’s defense of Mayor Cooper suffers from exactly those deficiencies. For starters, Frank Cooper’s assertion that Paul Kuhns, the person running against Mayor Cooper, served on the City Hall Task Force is absolutely false. Mr. Kuhns has never served on the City Hall Task Force. While it is true that the new City Hall was the subject of numerous public hearings and discussion, Mayor Cooper has made numerous decisions on his own without the consent of the commissioners, including most recently approving and to paying for cost overruns amounting to millions of dollars – putting the cost of the City Hall project well over the $18 million approved by referendum of the property owners of Rehoboth Beach. Only when called out by certain commissioners has Mayor Cooper begun to involve our elected board of commissioners in these decisions. Moreover, the $18 million bond referendum, composed and orchestrated by Mayor Cooper, was clearly based on estimates of cost and contingencies that have proven to be erroneous and wholly inadequate. Today, many “budgeted” costs have been backed out to make it “appear” as though the project is closer to being on budget than it actually is. In fact, even using our limited reserves in the City’s treasury, the City doesn’t even have enough funding to pay for landscaping.

    As for Frank Cooper’s claims that businesses, including gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, thrive because “city leadership allows them to be profitable and flourish” could not be farther from the truth. If you talk to business owners and proprietors, you (and Mr. Cooper) would know that they survive in spite of the City leaderships’ attitude and lack of interest in helping the business community prosper and survive. While it is not unusual in a resort community for some businesses to come and go, our business community struggles with the lack of indifference and lack of support shown by the City’s leadership and, in particular, that of Mayor Cooper.

    I am shocked by Frank Cooper’s assertion that “homophobia” does not exist. To be sure, we have come a long way in overcoming the “homophobia” that existed for years – but it was not without constant struggle and the hard work and dedication of many who suffered persecution along the way. I found it ironic as I drove down Baltimore Avenue this past Saturday afternoon to see Frank Cooper sitting on the patio of the Aqua Grill, a gay-owned and gay-friendly establishment. Perhaps Frank Cooper has forgotten, conveniently, that the owner of that establishment, as well as two of the owners of the Blue Moon, were once hauled off in handcuffs — one of only many ways in which these establishments and their owners were harassed by Mayor Cooper’s administration policies. These kinds of actions against these businesses and their owners could not have occurred in a community unless they were sanctioned by those in control of its government. And, if Frank Cooper had a real understanding of how the business community feels, he would also know that they suffer in silence for fear of retribution and retaliation. Anyone who is honest will tell you that is a fact. Thankfully, it appears that the business community has had enough and will now stand up and make their voices heard.

    As for Frank Cooper’s allegation that Mr. Rosenstein’s claims that Mayor Cooper does not have adequate relationships with local, county and state peers, perhaps he should talk with officials of our county, state and federal governments — he will learn something different. While I am not sure what line items Frank Cooper has included in his $35 million of county, state and federal assistance – it is simply untrue that taxpayers are not asked to repay through local taxes some of the amounts which the City receives.

    Frank Cooper does not spend much time attempting to refute Mr. Rosenstein’s accusations of fiscal mismanagement or “incompetent” decision-making. Perhaps the reason for his inability to refute these claims is obvious. The financial mess our City faces, witness the mismanagement of the new City Hall complex, is ample evidence that our City’s finances suffer from lack of financial planning, sound decision-making and project management, and a lack of pure common sense. It is no wonder that Frank Cooper cannot find his own words to claim otherwise. Make no mistake, this is a crisis of financial mismanagement that has persisted for far too long and must be brought to an end. It is time for the taxpayers of Rehoboth Beach to recognize that they will soon be asked to pay the piper. The buck stops at Mayor Cooper.

    I suggest to Frank Cooper that he take his own advice and “deal with the truth” – the whole truth!

    Richard Perry, full-time Rehoboth Beach resident

  3. Richard Perry

    July 16, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Frank Cooper’s defense of Mayor Sam Cooper came as no surprise to me. As a former candidate for the board of commissioners in the past two years and as someone who closely follows the issues and politics of Rehoboth Beach, I, like many others, know Frank Cooper to be an apologist for, and a proponent of, Mayor Sam Cooper and whatever policies the Mayor promotes. What is also no surprise to me is that Frank Cooper does not understand that his “half-truths” are no less “fake news” that he claims is now common place in the media. As to Mr. Rosenstein’s qualifications to comment on the issues affecting the citizens of Rehoboth Beach, one should know that Mr. Rosenstein spends as much time here, if not more time, than a lot of people who actually are property owners and even registered voters in Rehoboth Beach.

    Frank Cooper should do some fact checking. Contrary to his assertions that Mr. Rosenstein’s article is full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and dangerous innuendo, Mr. Cooper’s defense of Mayor Cooper suffers from exactly those deficiencies. For starters, Frank Cooper’s assertion that Paul Kuhns, the person running against Mayor Cooper, served on the City Hall Task Force is absolutely false. Mr. Kuhns has never served on the City Hall Task Force. While it is true that the new City Hall was the subject of numerous public hearings and discussion, Mayor Cooper has made numerous decisions on his own without the consent of the commissioners, including most recently approving and to paying for cost overruns amounting to millions of dollars – putting the cost of the City Hall project well over the $18 million approved by referendum of the property owners of Rehoboth Beach. Only when called out by certain commissioners has Mayor Cooper begun to involve our elected board of commissioners in these decisions. Moreover, the $18 million bond referendum, composed and orchestrated by Mayor Cooper, was clearly based on estimates of cost and contingencies that have proven to be erroneous and wholly inadequate. Today, many “budgeted” costs have been backed out to make it “appear” as though the project is closer to being on budget than it actually is. In fact, even using our limited reserves in the City’s treasury, the City doesn’t even have enough funding to pay for landscaping.

    As for Frank Cooper’s claims that businesses, including gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, thrive because “city leadership allows them to be profitable and flourish” could not be farther from the truth. If you talk to business owners and proprietors, you (and Mr. Cooper) would know that they survive in spite of the City leaderships’ attitude and lack of interest in helping the business community prosper and survive. While it is not unusual in a resort community for some businesses to come and go, our business community struggles with the lack of indifference and lack of support shown by the City’s leadership and, in particular, that of Mayor Cooper.

    I am shocked by Frank Cooper’s assertion that “homophobia” does not exist. To be sure, we have come a long way in overcoming the “homophobia” that existed for years – but it was not without constant struggle and the hard work and dedication of many who suffered persecution along the way. I found it ironic as I drove down Baltimore Avenue this past Saturday afternoon to see Frank Cooper sitting on the patio of the Aqua Grill, a gay-owned and gay-friendly establishment. Perhaps Frank Cooper has forgotten, conveniently, that the owner of that establishment, as well as two of the owners of the Blue Moon, were once hauled off in handcuffs — one of only many ways in which these establishments and their owners were harassed by Mayor Cooper’s administration policies. These kinds of actions against these businesses and their owners could not have occurred in a community unless they were sanctioned by those in control of its government. And, if Frank Cooper had a real understanding of how the business community feels, he would also know that they suffer in silence for fear of retribution and retaliation. Anyone who is honest will tell you that is a fact. Thankfully, it appears that the business community has had enough and will now stand up and make their voices heard.

    As for Frank Cooper’s allegation that Mr. Rosenstein’s claims that Mayor Cooper does not have adequate relationships with local, county and state peers, perhaps he should talk with officials of our county, state and federal governments — he will learn something different. While I am not sure what line items Frank Cooper has included in his $35 million of county, state and federal assistance – it is simply untrue that taxpayers are not asked to repay through local taxes some of the amounts which the City receives.

    Frank Cooper does not spend much time attempting to refute Mr. Rosenstein’s accusations of fiscal mismanagement or “incompetent” decision-making. Perhaps the reason for his inability to refute these claims is obvious. The financial mess our City faces, witness the mismanagement of the new City Hall complex, is ample evidence that our City’s finances suffer from lack of financial planning, sound decision-making and project management, and a lack of pure common sense. It is no wonder that Frank Cooper cannot find his own words to claim otherwise. Make no mistake, this is a crisis of financial mismanagement that has persisted for far too long and must be brought to an end. It is time for the taxpayers of Rehoboth Beach to recognize that they will soon be asked to pay the piper. The buck stops at Mayor Cooper.

    I suggest to Frank Cooper that he take his own advice and “deal with the truth” – the whole truth!

  4. Washington Blade

    July 17, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Comment.

  5. MyAss

    July 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Hello Frank Cooper.
    I have been going to RB for 25 years every other week, and own property nearby, so I do have a say in the matter.
    I fully understand your local patriotism and your personal sympathy for the object of your defense.
    But let me tell you the obvious (since you have chosen to pretend it is not there).
    The last 10 years have been marked by:
    – unstoppable closures of gay businesses and their leaving Rehoboth;
    – continuous disappearance of gay venues;
    – regular undercover arrests of gay cruisers (although people like you are saintlier than thou, of course – those who cruise are human sh*t, right?);
    -very visible ageing of the gay contingent – both visiting and local;
    – very obvious “heteroization” of the place.

    Bottom line: today’s RB is a very pale shadow of what it used to be. The mayor has done a good job. And you know what? His toadies – like you – are to be profusely thanked. Yippee!!!

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Commentary

Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

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

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Opinions

Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

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.

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

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

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