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Meet 4 candidates vying for 2 Rehoboth commissioner seats

Clear Space Theatre permit flap roils race

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Four candidates are competing for two seats for City Commissioner in the Aug. 14 City of Rehoboth Beach election. The Blade interviewed each; below are their remarks and a preview of the key issues in the race.

Incumbent Richard Byrne 

Richard Byrne (Photo via Linkedin)

Byrne was elected a city commissioner in 2018, contributing to projects like the creation of Steve Elkins Way and adding city committees to improve Rehoboth.

“It’s been just an honor to serve these past three years, very inspiring, challenging and a very productive time,” Byrne said. “I feel that I have the energy, I have the know-how and I certainly have the experience to continue in this role working on behalf of the residents, and our voters all across the city.”

Byrne voted against reversing the approval for Clear Space Theatre’s site plan in June. The planning commission’s and inspectors’ effort toward its approval seemed neither arbitrary nor capricious, Byrne said.

“I’ve also been one of many who is advocating the need for our city to in the future, employ the services of a professional urban planner to help us and guide our work as we go forward,” Byrne said. “This is my community. It’s my only community. My only home. I just love this community, and I care deeply about it.”

Planning Commissioner Rachel Macha 

Rachel Macha (Photo via Linkedin)

Macha has been a member of the planning commission since 2019 and works through the comprehensive development plan alongside the other members and additionally reviews residential and commercial land use projects.

Macha is also involved in the plant, shade, and tree commission that approves the removal of trees in order to preserve the canopy. She has worked on projects such as Rehoboth’s Main Street and a campaign called Respect Rehoboth, a way to enforce social distancing and mask mandates. 

“Rehoboth is a hidden gem, I mean it has ‘the nation’s summer capital’ as its tagline. I think there are just a lot of people that have found this is kind of a slice of heaven,” Macha said. “I just have had a real love for Rehoboth all my life and my kids have now had that same love for it, and I just want that to continue for generations to come.”

The reversed approval of Clear Space Theatre’s construction plan was disappointing, according to Macha. 

“There were some commissioners and the mayor that were undermining the hours and effort that the planning commission not once, but twice worked through,” Macha said. “I just think it was unfair, and also just disrespectful, frankly, to really call out the planning commission on not doing a thorough job.”

Former Commissioner Toni Sharp

Toni Sharp (Photo via Facebook)

Sharp served as a city commissioner from 2013 to 2019 and, in her tenure, Sharp worked to budget a communications position within the commission and helped launch a platform to receive feedback from the community.

Sharp was involved in many other committees during her term and needed some time away, she said. 

“I am reinvigorated, I have much more perspective and I think, it may happen this way for a lot of people, that when you step away from something, you really get a clarity of exactly what you want to do,” Sharp said. “I know how to be a commissioner, I know how to get things done. And now it is just a matter of what are the most pressing things that I believe we need to get done here in Rehoboth.”

Like many residents in Rehoboth, Sharp wants to see Clear Space Theatre have a place in the city, despite Rehoboth’s restrictions for parking.

“Now, what’s the right process to get from point A, which is where we are now, to point B, to keep moving forward to get a mutually agreeable situation?” Sharp asked her then fellow commissioners at an April 2019 hearing. “Do we have to have a different discussion about parking in this particular area of town? It feels like a different discussion.”

Tim Bennett

Tim Bennett (Photo courtesy Bennett Campaign)

Bennett worked as the director of marketing and advertising programs at Subaru of America for 15 years, including his help to hire lesbian former tennis champion Martina Navratilova. He has worked to benefit the LGBTQ community through marketing. 

Bennett gained interest in working on city committees and offered his services wherever they were needed, he said.  

“I decided to come in as someone with no political history here, unencumbered,” Bennett told the Blade. “I’ve had no history here, I’m a new person, it’s time for getting some fresh ideas and new voices into the city.”

Bennett supports a full-time city planner position that would help in land redevelopment for the city, according to his website. Clear Space Theatre’s reversed approval was rushed and traffic, parking and the building size were the main problems, said Bennett.

“I think it’s such sloppy government, and I think it’s sad all around because if the plans exist, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Bennett said. “I understand that there are going to be traffic problems, there are going to be parking problems. It needs to be mitigated, of course, and we just have to follow the rules and do the right thing.”

Bennett attributes much of his passion to his time at Marietta College, a small school in Ohio.

“There was always this thing of being taught when you graduated to find a way to be of use and try to make things a little better than you found them, or in the importance of showing up,” Bennett said. “I’ve always remembered that and I’ve tried to always strive to do that with work. When you’re involved in something or you take on a project it’s, ‘Can I be of use, can I contribute something, and can I be of help?’”

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Biden recognizes 10th anniversary of end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Pete Buttigieg, Gina Ortiz Jones named in White House statement

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President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.

As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.

On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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HHS awards more than $48 million to HRSA centers in effort to beat HIV/AIDS

Biden campaigned on beating epidemic by 2025

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra hailed the contribution of more than $48 million to beat HIV/AIDS. (photo public domain)

The Biden administration has awarded more than $48 million to medical centers under Health Resources & Services Administration in localities with high incidents of HIV infection as part of the initiative to beat the disease, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

Xavier Becerra, secretary of health and human services, said in a statement the contributions are key component of the initiative, which is called “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” and seeks to reduce new infections by 90 percent by 2030.

“HHS-supported community health centers are often a key point of entry to HIV prevention and treatment services, especially for underserved populations,” Becerra said in a statement. “I am proud of the role they play in providing critical services to 1.2 million Americans living with HIV. Today’s awards will ensure equitable access to services free from stigma and discrimination, while advancing the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025.”

The $48 million contribution went to HRSA centers 271 HRSA-supported health centers across 26 states, Puerto Rico and D.C. — areas identified with the highest rates of HIV infections — to expand HIV prevention and treatment services, including access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as well as outreach and care coordination, according to HHS.

The Ending the HIV Epidemic was set up under the Trump administration, which made PrEP a generic drug after an accelerated effort and set a goal of beating HIV by 2030. Biden has continued the project, after campaigning on beating HIV a full five years earlier in 2025. Observers, however, are skeptical he can meet that goal.

Diana Espinosa, acting HRSA administrator, said in a statement the $48 million will go a long way in reaching goals to beat HIV/AIDS.

“We know our Health Center Program award recipients are well-positioned to advance the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, with a particular focus on facilitating access to PrEP, because of their integrated service delivery model,” Espinosa said. “By integrating HIV services into primary care, and providing essential enabling services like language access or case management, HRSA-supported health centers increase access to care and improve health outcomes for patients living with HIV.”

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Melania Trump announced as guest for Log Cabin Republicans’ annual dinner

Former first lady Melania Trump is set to be a special guest at the annual “Spirit of Lincoln” dinner hosted by Log Cabin Republicans.

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Former first lady Melania Trump is set to be a special guest at the annual “Spirit of Lincoln” dinner hosted by Log Cabin Republicans, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The event — which will take place Nov. 6 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., marking a change of tradition in holding the dinner in D.C. — will likely mark an attempt for Melania Trump to develop her image as an LGBTQ ally and tamp down the reputation the Trump administration was hostile to LGBTQ people.

Charles Moran, managing director for Log Cabin Republicans, hailed Melania Trump in a statement for her work as first lady and breaking barriers for the Republican Party.

“Melania Trump’s work as First Lady, from helping children reach their full potential to championing a more inclusive Republican Party, has been historic,” Moran said. “Her vocal support of Log Cabin Republicans has been a signal to Republicans everywhere that it is possible to simultaneously be conservative and support equality under the law for all Americans.”

According to the Log Cabin Republicans, Melania Trump at the dinner will be awarded with the 2021 Spirit of Lincoln Award. Other high-profile Republicans in the past who have appeared at the annual event are Carly Fiorina, Newt Gingrich, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Mary Cheney.

Moran, in response to an email inquiry from the Washington Blade, said Melania Trump will not only be an award recipient, but is set to deliver remarks at the event.

It won’t be the first time Melania Trump has collaborated with Log Cabin. During the 2020 election, she appeared in a video for Outspoken, the media arm for Log Cabin Republicans, saying “nothing could be further from the truth” her husband, former President Trump, is against LGBTQ people.

Among the anti-LGBTQ policies under Trump were a transgender military ban, religious freedom carve-out seen to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination and the U.S. Justice Department arguing against LGBTQ inclusion under civil rights law when the issue was before the U.S. Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Trump connected with a certain faction of LGBTQ people and his administration included high-profile LGBTQ appointees, such as Richard Grenell as the first openly gay person to serve in a Cabinet role.

As first reported by the Washington Blade, Melania Trump said in 2020 she wanted to light up the White House in rainbow colors similar to the display during the Obama years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage nationwide. However, the vision never came to pass at a time when White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had a role in quashing an symbolic support for LGBTQ people in Pride Month.

The Log Cabin announcement comes at a time when Melania Trump is facing new scrutiny over her response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and whether she erroneously believes, like her husband, he was the winner of the 2020 election.

According to a preview in Politico, former White House press secretary and Melania Trump aide Stephanie Grisham says in her upcoming book she texted the former first lady on Jan. 6 to ask: “Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness and violence?”

A minute later, Melania replied with a one-word answer: “No,” Grisham reportedly writes of her account. At that moment, Grisham writes she was at the White House preparing for a photo shoot of a rug she had selected, according to Politico.

The Blade has placed a request in with the office of former President Donald Trump to confirm her appearance at the dinner and comment on what went into the Melania Trump’s decision to appear at the event.

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