Connect with us

Opinions

Elissa Silverman for Council-at-large

Re-elect the independent, progressive incumbent

Published

on

Elissa Silverman, tipped workers, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (D-At-Large) (Photo courtesy of Silverman)

The voters of the District of Columbia should make a statement with their vote Nov. 6 and tell lobbyists they won’t accept them trying to control the votes of our City Council. There has never been a Council member with whom I agree all the time and Elissa Silverman is no exception; she is independent and stands unabashedly for workers and their families. She understands the District has become a place where the average worker finds it hard to afford living and is willing to do everything she can to make it easier for them to support themselves and their families here.

According to the Washington Post, Anthony Williams, former mayor and highly paid executive director of the Federal City Council and David Catania, former Council member, losing mayoral candidate and now lobbyist are “teaming up in an effort to unseat Silverman in November.” They don’t like the bill providing family leave to workers Silverman co-introduced with David Grosso. The final bill with support from Council Chair Mendelson won overwhelming support on the Council. According to the Post it is “among the nation’s most generous and imposes a new tax on business.” Now Catania and Williams don’t like the bill or the tax it creates and figure Silverman is the easiest target to go after; she is standing strong. They aren’t going after the chair or any of the other Council members who voted for it thinking they could be convinced/bullied to make changes before it goes into effect. I recently wondered why Catania wrote an opinion piece in the Blade supporting Anita Bonds and from the Post got my answer; he opened a new lobbying firm in the District.

This kind of heavy handed political action is not what the people of the District should lend their support to. Elissa is the most liberal member of the D.C. Council. She can be counted on to support workers and economic fairness which is why she is supported by unions like SEIU and the D.C. Nurses Association, and other groups like Democracy for America, the D.C. Chapter of NOW, TENAC, Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund, and is also supported by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

There are others aside from Williams and Catania’s candidate who announced they were running for the independent seat Silverman holds. When Catania and Williams stepped in to push a businesswoman there was already another businesswoman in the race and she happens to be a lesbian and someone I admire. My assumption is she wasn’t willing to commit as much to those two lobbyists. Their candidate is now having problems with her petition signatures. Maybe karma, but one would think that was something Williams, who had problems with his petitions and got tossed from the ballot, could have helped her avoid.

Before the Post column I was not sure who I would endorse in this race. But after this self-styled dynamic duo got involved friends who read the column called asking what I thought. They told me how infuriated they were after reading it. These were lawyers and business people who were aghast at what Williams and Catania were doing.

They were people who have lived in the District for years and were strong Williams supporters in both his campaigns as was I. They tend to follow more national politics than local and this just caught their eye and made them mad and they didn’t even know Elissa.

So I sought a meeting with Elissa to talk about the campaign. She told me in the next four years she will continue to fight for workers. She intends to introduce a bill to mandate national chains like CVS and Safeway give their employees their work schedules at least two weeks in advance so they can realistically arrange everything from childcare to doctor’s appointments. Low-salaried employees in those stores don’t always get that now. She wants to work with the city to ensure the city’s Infrastructure Academy that trains D.C. residents for D.C. jobs is actually doing the job and training potential employees for the jobs that are coming to the District. If we build the new proposed hospital east of the river she wants to ensure local residents will be prepared to work there. For that to happen some may need training not only in the actual job responsibilities/skills, but may need training in what are often called the soft skills — including how to answer a phone, write a resume and handle an interview. She has also pledged to continue to fight for a minimum of at least $100 million each year for affordable housing.

The voters in the District of Columbia are some of the most progressive in the nation. They believe in fairness for all and it is important we have some people like Elissa, un-pledged to any particular lobbyists, on the Council to stand up for fairness and the little guy. There are more than enough Council members already responsive to the business community and at times too responsive to lobbyists like Catania and Williams. That is why I urge voters to cast their ballot on Nov. 6 for Elissa Silverman for Council-at-large.

 

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Opinions

Kenyan McDuffie for D.C. Council-at-Large

A voice of reason and progress in city government

Published

on

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5). (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Kenyan McDuffie is a voice of reason, and a voice for progress, on the D.C. Council. He has been a voice for those without one, and for minority communities across the District. 

Kenyan is a fourth-generation Washingtonian raised in a working-class family of six. He attended Shaed Elementary in Edgewood, St. Anthony Grade School in Brookland, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson Jackson-Reed high school, having played varsity basketball. He has been a union member working as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. His college career began at the University of the District of Columbia, which he continues to strongly support. He transferred and graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Community Development and then joined the staff of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. He left there to attend the University of Maryland School of Law, where he was an editor of the law school’s Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class. 

After law school he clerked for an associate judge on the 7th Judicial Circuit of Maryland and then became an Assistant State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County. He then joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where, as a trial attorney, he enforced key federal civil rights laws in cases throughout the country. His caseload at the DOJ included defending the civil rights of the mentally ill, nursing home residents, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations.

At that point in his career, Kenyan added community activist to his resume becoming president of his local civic association and taking a job as a policy adviser with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. In that position he worked with Council members to shape policy and legislation for the District of Columbia.

In 2012, with this wealth of experience, he was elected to the D.C. Council. At that time Lateefah Williams, president of the Stein Democratic Club, wrote in the Blade, “Kenyan McDuffie is the type of leader that Ward 5 needs. He is intelligent, he has key experience in diverse matters from public safety to public policy, and he is a staunch supporter of the LGBT community. These are some of the reasons the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest LGBT political organization, endorsed Kenyan McDuffie for Ward 5 Council.  … and why I personally support Kenyan McDuffie.” Her confidence in Kenyan was well placed. For 10 years he has worked to build coalitions and create solutions, tackling D.C.’s most significant challenges. In his first year on the Council, he was elected to serve as Chairman Pro Tempore (Vice Chair), a position he continues to hold. 

Kenyan is what those of us looking at legislators call a work-horse, not a show-horse. He has put in the work to bring consensus and pass legislation, which he did with sweeping updates to D.C.’s criminal justice laws when he became chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2017. With that committee he oversaw the implementation of D.C.’s police body-worn camera program, including ensuring the public has fair access to the video footage from encounters with officers. 

Kenyan has a view of public safety that includes both a strong MPD, with appropriate community oversight, and recognition of the need to fully fund community organizations working to reduce crime. Kenyan, like the mayor, believes we need to do both of these things, not one or the other. He recently said, “One of my proudest moments on the Council is passing the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act. The law takes a holistic approach to preventing crime in the first instance and floods communities disproportionately impacted by violence with resources – including violence interrupters and behavioral and mental health services – in addition to more innovative, data-driven policing.”

For the past five years, Kenyan has chaired the Council’s Business and Economic Development Committee. His focus has been on helping grow the local economy with a stronger focus on supporting small and minority-owned businesses. He fought to put millions of dollars in the Commercial Acquisition Fund to allow socially disadvantaged business owners to apply for grants to purchase commercial properties here in D.C. Kenyan spearheaded an emergency relief package of $100 million to help the hospitality, entertainment, and retail industries – some of D.C.’s largest employers of immigrants and minority workers – weather the pandemic and keep District employees on the payroll.

For these reasons, and many more, we cannot afford to lose Kenyan’s voice on the Council. I urge everyone to cast their vote for Kenyan McDuffie for Council-at-large. 

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

Continue Reading

Commentary

Bisexual activists cautiously excited after White House meeting

Sept. 20 gathering took place during Bisexual Visibility Week

Published

on

From left to right: Ellyn Ruthstrom, Tania Israel, Nicole Holmes, Mimi Hoang, Ezra Young, Lauren Beach, Belle Hagget Silverman, Diana Adams, Heron Greenesmith, and Khafre Abif. Kneeling: Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson and Blair Imani outside the White House on Sept. 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Heron Greenesmith)

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, just in time for Bisexual Visibility Week, a diverse group of 15 bisexual and pansexual activists met with officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Melanie Fontes Rainer, the director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. 

The 15 advocates comprised a wide cross-section of the bisexual community, including nonbinary, transgender, female, young, older, Black, Asian and Muslim advocates, people with disabilities and parents. We came from many walks of life: Academia, education, research, health care, advocacy, law, media and community activism. This isn’t unusual: Bisexual people comprise more than half of all LGBT people, totally approximately 12.5 million bisexual adults in the U.S. Strikingly, 15 percent of all GenZ adults — nearly 1 in 6 — identify as bisexual. People of color are more likely to identify as bisexual, as are cisegender women and transgender people in general. 

It has been a painful six years since the Executive Branch last met with bisexual activists (you do the math.) Those meetings, like this one, were the product of tireless advocacy from a population with zero paid organizational staff and less than one percent of all philanthropic dollars earmarked for the LGBT community. It was these stats and others that we shared at HHS on Sept. 20. 

Bisexual and pansexual people face specific disparities in mental and physical health, intimate partner violence and monkeypox prevention, treatment and care. Did you know, for example, that nearly half of bisexual women report having been raped? And did you know that federal reporting on monkeypox doesn’t disaggregate between gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men, despite evidence that bisexual men are uniquely vulnerable to MPX and other infectious diseases. 

Khafre Abif is a Black bisexual educator, father and person living with HIV. At the meeting with agency officials, Abif shared the story of how staff at his HIV-care clinic initially denied him the monkeypox vaccine, despite Abif being bisexual and thus in a population of special focus for the vaccine. 

“This meeting has been a long time coming for the bi+ community,” said Abif. “I’m looking forward to a dialogue with federal officials about solving some of the health issues we face.”

In order to begin remedying these disparities and more, we presented the administration with a set of benchmarks, including the creation of a Federal Interagency Bisexual Liaison and a Federal Interagency Bisexual Working Group. Other benchmarks included training for HHS staff on bisexual disparities and remedies thereof, funding streams for bisexual-specific funding and interventions, and the disaggregation of data on specific health disparities. 

Robyn Ochs is a pillar of bisexual and pansexual community organizing. At HHS, Ochs shared more about her specific expertise. “Research has made clear our health disparities and invisibility. It’s time for federal interventions to catch up with what we already know through research and lived experience.”

Frustrated by years of inaction by the federal government to release bisexual-specific data, target the bisexual and pansexual community with tailored interventions, or recognize the importance of bi+ health in general, we are cautiously excited by this opportunity to share critical data and remedies. 

Heron Greenesmith is the Senior Research Analyst for LGBTQI+ Justice at Political Research Associates, and the co-founder of BiLaw and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. Find Greenesmith on Twitter @herong.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Larry’s Lounge transformed pandemic into an opportunity

A vibrant neighborhood bar that reflects owner’s passion for animals

Published

on

A happy crowd enjoys the outdoor space at Larry’s Lounge. (Photo courtesy Larry Ray)

In a Blade article (9/2/22) Larry’s Lounge (LL) customer Brett Howard fondly called Larry’s Lounge “a dive bar.” Yes, it is and so much more.

D.C. native, veteran businessperson and LL owner Ron Robinson transformed the COVID lockdown and pandemic into an opportunity. When D.C. ordered all alcohol establishments to serve food, Ron did with popcorn and wings out of his kitchen. With the assistance of customers, Ron built outdoor structures with fans, heaters, lights, and even plastic walls (lovingly referred to as “shower curtains”).

This opportunistic spirit dates back to 1987 and the founding of LL by then owners and neighbors Larry Tan and Ken Megill. They dreamed of opening the first full-service Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant on the East Coast. Chef Lawrence Tan and Dr. Kenneth A. Megill (philosophy from Yale University) formed an excellent partnership.

Back then, the ANC Commissioner created the 18th Neighborhood and Business Association. The number of businesses along this busy 18th Street corridor between S Street and Florida Avenue, N.W., surprised the neighbors. These more than 100 businesses included accountants, attorneys, restaurants, and retail. Neighbors bonded around “community policing” to ensure safety. Chief of Police Robert Contee even served as this area’s community police.

Larry and Ken consulted with the neighbors and by the time they applied for their restaurant liquor license for Straits of Malaya, the neighbors cheered. The Dupont Circle ANC and D.C. Alcohol Board were shocked that there were no objections. Neighborhood involvement from the very beginning was the key to success. Several years later in 1993, they applied for their CT liquor license for Larry’s Lounge again to the delight of the neighbors. Straits closed in 1991 since Tan needed to return home to take care of an ailing family member. (He did reopen for a bit.) Sadly, Ken passed at age 82. Larry resides in D.C.

Today, Larry’s Lounge is a vibrant indoor/outdoor neighborhood bar. It reflects owner Ron’s passion for animals. Sometimes there are more dogs than people. Most neighborhood dogs pull over their guardians (aka owners) to take a drink from the bowls and receive love from LL staff and customers.

Larry Ray is former ANC 2B 01 Dupont Circle Commissioner. He is a mediator who teaches at The George Washington University School of Law.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular