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Prominent D.C. Realtor, avid traveler Kurt Rieschick dies at 50

McWilliams Ballard executive was longtime city resident

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Longtime D.C. resident Kurt Rieschick, who served as a vice president for the local real estate company McWilliams Ballard and who along with his husband traveled extensively to international destinations, including their favorite city of Paris, died at home on Jan. 16 of a heart attack. He was 50.

David Klimas, his husband and partner of 22 years, and Rieschick’s sister, Jacqueline Costell, said Rieschick appeared to be in excellent health and had no advanced signs of heart disease other than the fact that his father died of a heart attack at the age of 52 in 1998.

Klimas’s posting of the news of his husband’s passing on Facebook drew an immediate outpouring of messages of sympathy and admiration for Rieschick from dozens of people who knew him, including many friends and business associates.

“Today is my saddest day,” Klimas wrote in his Facebook post. “My beloved. My person. My number one. My best friend. My husband died early this morning from a massive heart attack,” Klimas wrote. “I will never be the same. I will never forget him. He was my life.”

Klimas said he and Rieschick had vowed to get married as soon as same-sex marriage became legal, and he said the couple did so when D.C.’s same-sex marriage law took effect in 2010. 

Rieschick was raised in Columbia, Md. His sister said he graduated from Columbia’s Hammond High School in 1988 shortly before he attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Prior to beginning his real estate career with McWilliams Ballard, Rieschick worked from 1996 to 2000 as a product training manager for the Bureau of National Affairs or BNA, the then D.C.-based company that published newsletters and research reports on business, government, and academic related topics.

Rieschick traveled throughout the U.S. selling and teaching BNA subscribers about various BNA electronic publications and services as part of his responsibilities with the company, his LinkedIn page says.

He began his affiliation with McWilliams Ballard in 2000, according to a career summary of Rieschick’s tenure with the real estate company published on its website. The write-up says Rieschick had experience “across most real estate product lines, selling condominiums, lofts, townhouses, and unique style row homes.”

It says Rieschick, who had the title of vice president, managed “all aspects of the sales process from hands-on sales, marketing, broker outreach, sales reporting” and other aspects of the sales process. The write-up says he sold properties in the price range of $200,000 to over $2.5 million.

Klimas, who also works as a vice president for McWilliams Ballard, said that at the time of his passing Rieschick was acting as the lead sales agent for a new high-rise condominium apartment project near the Washington Nationals baseball stadium called Kennedy on L at 37 L St., S.E.

“We did everything together,” Klimas told the Washington Blade. “We worked together at the same company for the last 21 years. We traveled together. We did French lessons. We went traveling throughout the world,” said Klimas, who noted that Rieschick was especially fond of traveling to Paris and France after the two became fluent in French.

According to Klimas, his husband was a “huge” fan of Madonna.

“We saw Madonna around the world,” Klimas said. “We followed her concerts, every last one of them. And we saw her in Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Miami. We loved to travel. We traveled extensively,” he said in recounting Rieschick’s love for travel and for attending Madonna concerts.

Costell said she and her family, including her and Kurt’s parents, were supportive of his being gay and she, her husband, and her two kids welcomed Klimas as part of the family.

“I personally became a huge advocate for gay rights,” she said. “And then when I got married and had children, I wanted my kids to grow up with that love that I gave to my brother and all of his friends,” she said.

Costell selected her brother and Klimas to be godfathers to both of her children. At her request, the two attended and participated in her daughter’s and son’s baptismal ceremonies on separate occasions at a Catholic church in Baltimore with the full approval of the priest in charge, Costell said. The two kids were about three months old at the time of their respective baptisms in 2005 and 2007, with her brother and Klimas holding the two babies during part of the ceremony.

As a dedicated uncle, Rieschick, with his partner and husband, Klimas, at his side, stopped by her home nearly every holiday, she said. “I mean every Christmas, every single birthday, Easter – every holiday,” she said, that Rieschick and Klimas came over for a visit.

Costell said her brother’s untimely death has prompted her to consider taking action to encourage all public buildings and residential apartment buildings to have on hand a defibrillator, a medical device used to administer an electric shock to the heart to resuscitate someone whose heart stops from a heart attack.

Klimas told the Blade he attempted to resuscitate Rieschick after calling 911. He said emergency medical workers arrived in about 10 minutes of his call, but they were unable to save his husband’s life.

He and Costell said a highly restricted funeral viewing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 22 or Jan. 23 at a Northwest D.C. funeral home. Costell said the downtown D.C. lockdown related to the presidential inauguration had as of Tuesday prevented her brother’s body from being transported from the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office to the funeral home.

Meanwhile, due to COVID-related restrictions, the funeral home has said it would not allow more than eight people to attend the viewing, which was to take place before Rieschick was to be cremated.

Klimas said he is planning a “huge” celebration of Rieschick’s life sometime this summer, with the hope that the COVID vaccine distribution will have lessened the epidemic to the point where a large in-person gathering can be held.

“It’s going to be a MadonnaRama party and it will be held at Number 9,” said Klimas in referring to the D.C. gay bar on P Street, N.W. near Logan Circle. Klimas said Number 9 co-owner John Guggenmos, a friend of his and Rieschick’s, has agreed to stage the MadonnaRama event like the ones Guggenmos has put on at his clubs in the past. Among other things, it includes playing audio and video recordings of Madonna’s performances, Klimas said.

“I’m going to have it catered and have a free bar and hire people to sing,” Klimas said. “It’s going to be a huge party for everybody in honor of Kurt.” 

Klimas and Costell, who said her family will participate in the memorial celebration, said they will announce the date and location for the event as soon as they determine it can be arranged.

Rieschick is survived by his husband, David Klimas; his mother, Carol Stvan; his sister, Jacqueline Costell; his niece and nephew, Carlin and Jackson; his father-in-law, James Klimas Sr.; his brother-in-law, Jimmy; and many friends in the D.C. area. He was preceded in death by his father, Kurt Walter Rieschick Sr.; and his mother-in-law, Gilda Klimas.

In lieu of flowers, which the funeral home will not accept due to COVID restrictions, Klimas and Costell are inviting friends and others who knew Rieschick to contribute in Rieschick’s name to the American Heart Association and Raising Malawi, a charitable organization founded by Madonna in 2006 to help orphan children and others facing severe poverty in the African nation of Malawi.

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District of Columbia

Bowser budget proposal calls for $5.25 million for 2025 World Pride

AIDS office among agencies facing cuts due to revenue shortfall

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed 2025 budget includes a request for $5.25 million in funding to support the 2025 World Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2025 budget includes a request for $5.25 million in funding to support the June 2025 World Pride celebration, which D.C. will host, and which is expected to bring three million or more visitors to the city.

The mayor’s proposed budget, which she presented to the D.C. Council for approval earlier this month, also calls for a 7.6 percent increase in funding for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which amounts to an increase of $132,000 and would bring the office’s total funding to $1.7 million. The office, among other things, provides grants to local organizations that provide  services to the LGBTQ community.

Among the other LGBTQ-related funding requests in the mayor’s proposed budget is a call to continue the annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents “experiencing homelessness and housing instability.” The budget proposal also calls for a separate allocation of $600,000 in new funding to support a new Advanced Technical Center at the Whitman-Walker Health’s Max Robinson Center in Ward 8.

Among the city agencies facing funding cuts under the mayor’s proposed budget is the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease, and Tuberculosis Administration, known as HAHSTA, which is an arm of the D.C. Department of Health. LGBTQ and AIDS activists have said HAHSTA plays an important role in the city’s HIV prevention and support services. Observers familiar with the agency have said it recently lost federal funding, which the city would have to decide whether to replace.

“We weren’t able to cover the loss of federal funds for HAHSTA with local funds,” Japer  Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, told the Washington Blade. “But we are working with partners to identify resources to fill those funding  gaps,” Bowles said.

The total proposed budget of $21 billion that Bowser submitted to the D.C. Council includes about $500 million in proposed cuts in various city programs that the mayor said was needed to offset a projected $700 million loss in revenue due, among other things, to an end in pandemic era federal funding and commercial office vacancies also brought about by the post pandemic commercial property and office changes.

Bowser’s budget proposal also includes some tax increases limited to sales and business-related taxes, including an additional fee on hotel bookings to offset the expected revenue losses. The mayor said she chose not to propose an increase in income tax or property taxes.

Earlier this year, the D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition, which consists of several local LGBTQ advocacy organizations, submitted its own fiscal year 2025 budget proposal to both Bowser and the D.C. Council. In a 14-page letter the coalition outlined in detail a wide range of funding proposals, including housing support for LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ seniors; support for LGBTQ youth homeless services; workforce and employment services for transgender and gender non-conforming residents; and harm reduction centers to address the rise in drug overdose deaths.

Another one of the coalition’s proposals is $1.5 million in city funding for the completion of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building, a former warehouse building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood that is undergoing a build out and renovation to accommodate the LGBTQ Center’s plans to move in later this year. The coalition’s budget proposal also calls for an additional $300,000 in “recurring” city funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.”

Bowles noted that Bowser authorized and approved a $1 million grant for the LGBTQ Center’s new building last year but was unable to provide additional funding requested by the budget coalition for the LGBTQ Center for fiscal year 2025.

“We’re still in this with them,” Bowles said. “We’re still looking and working with them to identify funding.”

The total amount of funding that the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition listed in its letter to the mayor and Council associated with its requests for specific LGBTQ programs comes to $43.1 million.

Heidi Ellis, who serves as coordinator of the coalition, said the coalition succeeded in getting some of its proposals included in the mayor’s budget but couldn’t immediately provide specific amounts.  

“There are a couple of areas I would argue we had wins,” Ellis told the Blade. “We were able to maintain funding across different housing services, specifically around youth services that affect folks like SMYAL and Wanda Alston.” She was referring to the LGBTQ youth services group SMYAL and the LGBTQ organization Wanda Alston Foundation, which provides housing for homeless LGBTQ youth.

“We were also able to secure funding for the transgender, gender non-conforming workforce program,” she said. “We also had funding for migrant services that we’ve been advocating for and some wins on language access,” said Ellis, referring to programs assisting LGBTQ people and others who are immigrants and aren’t fluent in speaking English.

Ellis said that although the coalition’s letter sent to the mayor and Council had funding proposals that totaled $43.1 million, she said the coalition used those numbers as examples for programs and policies that it believes would be highly beneficial to those in the LGBTQ community in need.

 “I would say to distill it down to just we ask for $43 million or whatever, that’s not an accurate picture of what we’re asking for,” she said. “We’re asking for major investments around a few areas – housing, healthcare, language access. And for capital investments to make sure the D.C. Center can open,” she said. “It’s not like a narrative about the dollar amounts. It’s more like where we’re trying to go.”

The Blade couldn’t’ immediately determine how much of the coalition’s funding proposals are included in the Bowser budget. The mayor’s press secretary, Daniel Gleick, told the Blade in an email that those funding levels may not have been determined by city agencies.

“As for specific funding levels for programs that may impact the LGBTQ community, such as individual health programs through the Department of Health, it is too soon in the budget process to determine potential adjustments on individual programs run though city agencies,” Gleick said.

But Bowles said several of the programs funded in the mayor’s budget proposal that are not LGBTQ specific will be supportive of LGBTQ programs. Among them, he said, is the budget’s proposal for an increase of $350,000 in funding for senior villages operated by local nonprofit organizations that help support seniors. Asked if that type of program could help LGBTQ seniors, Bowles said, “Absolutely – that’s definitely a vehicle for LGBTQ senior services.”

He said among the programs the increased funding for the mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs office will support is its ongoing cultural competency training for D.C. government employees. He said he and other office staff members conduct the trainings about LGBTQ-related issues at city departments and agencies.

Bowser herself suggested during an April 19 press conference that local businesses, including LGBTQ businesses and organizations, could benefit from a newly launched city “Pop-Up Permit Program” that greatly shortens the time it takes to open a business in vacant storefront buildings in the downtown area.

Bowser and Nina Albert, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, suggested the new expedited city program for approving permits to open shops and small businesses in vacant storefront spaces could come into play next year when D.C. hosts World Pride, one of the word’s largest LGBTQ events.

“While we know that all special events are important, there is an especially big one coming to Washington, D.C. next year,” Bowser said at the press conference. “And to that point, we proposed a $5.25 million investment to support World Pride 2025,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be pretty great. And so, we’re already thinking about how we can include D.C. entrepreneurs, how we’re going to include artists, how we’re going to celebrate across all eight wards of our city as well,” she said.

Among those attending the press conference were officials of D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance, which will play a lead role in organizing World Pride 2025 events.

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Maryland

Health care for Marylanders with HIV is facing huge cuts this summer

Providers poised to lose three-quarters of funding

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(Photo courtesy of NIH)

BY MEREDITH COHN | By the end of June, health care providers in Maryland will lose nearly three-quarters of the funding they use to find and treat thousands of people with HIV.

Advocates and providers say they had been warned there would be less money by the Maryland Department of Health, but were stunned at the size of the drop — from about $17.9 million this fiscal year to $5.3 million the next. The deep cuts are less than three months away.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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District of Columbia

Taste of Point returns at critical time for queer students

BIPOC scholar to speak at Room & Board event on May 2

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A scene from the 2022 Taste of Point. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Point Foundation will kick off May with its annual Taste of Point DC event. The event will be hosted at Room & Board on 14th Street and feature a silent auction, food tastings, a speech from a scholar, and more. 

Point’s chief of staff, Kevin Wright, said that at Taste of Point, the scholars are the star of the show.

“People never come to an event to hear Point staff speak, they come to hear from the people most impacted by the program,” he said. “At its core Taste of Point is designed to center and highlight our scholars’ voices and experiences.”

This year, a Point BIPOC Scholar, Katherine Guerrero Rivera will speak at the event. 

“It is a great opportunity to highlight the scholars out there on the front lines making impacts in almost every sector and job field,” Wright said. 

Wright pointed out that this year especially is a pivotal time for LGBTQ students. 

“In 2023, there were 20 states that passed anti-LGBTQ legislation,” he said. “By this point in [2024] we already have more.”

Wright said the impacts of those legislative attacks are far reaching and that Point is continuously monitoring the impact they have on students on the ground. 

Last month, The Washington Post reported that states with anti-LGBTQ laws in place saw school hate crimes quadruple. This report came a month after a non-binary student, Nex Bennedict, died after being attacked at school. 

“So, we see this as a critical moment to really step up and help students who are facing these challenges on their campus,” Wright said. “Our mission is to continue to empower our scholars to achieve their full academic and leadership potential.” 

This year Point awarded nearly 600 LGBTQ students with scholarships. These include the flagship scholarship, community college scholarship and the BIPOC scholarship. When the foundation started in 2002, there were only eight scholarships awarded. 

Dr. Harjant Gill is one of those scholars who said the scholarship was pivotal for him. Gill said he spent his undergraduate years creating films and doing activism for the LGBTQ community. 

As a result, his academic record wasn’t stellar and although he was admitted into American University’s graduate program he had no clue how he would fund it. 

Upon arrival to American he was told to apply for a Point scholarship and the rest was history.

“It ended up being the one thing that kept me going otherwise I would have dropped out,” he said. “Point was incredibly instrumental in my journey to becoming an academic and a professor.”

More than a decade later, Gill serves on the host committee for Taste of Point and is a mentor to young Point scholars. He said that he donates money yearly to Point and that when he is asked what he wants for a gift he will often tell his friends to donate too.

To attend the event on Wednesday, May 2, purchase tickets at the Point website. If you can’t attend this year’s Taste of Point DC event but would like to get involved, you can also donate online. 

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