Harold Brazil: responses to GLAA questionnaire

Responses of Harold Brazil to
GLAA 1998 Questionnaire for Mayoral Candidates

Part I. Conduct of Office

1. What lessons have you drawn from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others that will help you facilitate a speedy return of home rule powers if you are elected Mayor?

Perhaps the most grievous failure of our local government was its failure to understand and communicate the depth of our revenue problem. But it is not possible to cite the District’s revenue problem without also acknowledging that there was little stewardship of the scarce resources we had, or without acknowledging that some of the elected leadership was insensitive to the depth of Congress’s tolerance of anyone else’s deficit spending.

I spoke against, and voted against, unbalanced budgets that would only end up being paid for in higher and higher taxes. And those higher taxes drove families and businesses out to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and further eroded our fragile revenue base — driving us into a fiscal crisis that all but invited the Control Board’s presence in our city.

I fought to get control of our city’s contracting processes because I believe that the well-publicized fraud and waste and corruption were, in essence, a tax on those in our city who could least afford another tax. That waste and corruption diverted resources from AIDS treatment programs and tenant assistance programs and even Summer Youth programs to lucrative and non-competitive contracts, sometimes for things we didn’t need.

I fought for reform of our personnel system, in which it was obvious to everyone but our mayor that we had untrained, unmotivated, unresponsive people in positions that were supposed to SERVE the public rather than annoy it. I fought for stronger management of our pension funds and for a law that would demand accountability from our top government managers.

These problems were not invisible — on the contrary, they began to define our city in the eyes of the rest of the country and their representatives in Congress. We must now do the hard work of writing a new definition of Washington, D.C.

2. As Mayor, will you actively lobby the Control Board for reforms in management, oversight, and budgets, even for agencies and departments over which you will have no formal control for much of your term?

Your question presupposes a “territorial” approach to governing, which may represent our past but cannot serve our future. As Mayor, I would view my responsibilities in light of what will best revitalize and re-energize the residents of this wonderful city — and nothing re-energizes a city like success — success in schools and in business, in creating a safe and secure environment for people to live and work and play and learn. I an the Council will work with the Control Board and, where possible, with Congress, to achieve management reforms, personnel reforms, and high performance standards in District government, and I believe we will soon begin to BE successful.

I have not agreed with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants, but having spent the District’s money, let’s take the information they have provided and put it to use. I have not agreed with some of the Control Board’s decisions, but with new members coming onto the Board, I believe it is time to agree on our goals, roll up our sleeves, and get to work so that we receive real benefits from this period, and following that, the agencies will again report directly to the Mayor.

3. Gay and lesbian community leaders were heavily involved in the recent search process that led to the selection of a new Police Chief. Will you ensure that lesbians and gay men will be similarly involved in any search for new heads for the police department, health department, the Agency for HIV-AIDS, and other agencies of particular interest to our community?

Gay and lesbian community leaders have given generously of their time and energy to many of our community efforts, to the benefit of all of our city. Anyone who knows my record in the Council with respect to forming study groups and task forces knows that I call on a wide and diverse group to participate in these efforts, and can be assured that I will continue to do so. This kind of collaboration and partnership among a broad spectrum of groups brings to our community the very best minds and hearts to the solution of a problem.

Part II. Public Safety

4. What will you do to improve the often-strained relations between the various public safety agencies (police, fire department, corrections) and the District's gay and lesbian community?

Police work and firefighting is often a brutal business and our officers sometimes harden their attitudes in order to get the job done. I view training — especially diversity training — and the hiring of a diverse group of officers and trainees as essential to ensuring that all of our citizens receive appropriate treatment by our police officers.

5. The federalization and privatization of the functions of the Department of Corrections have often resulted in the placement of D.C. prisoners in facilities that have no condom availability programs. To the extent possible, do you favor requiring private contractors to provide condom availability programs similar to those that have been in effect in D.C. facilities, and will you lobby federal and state prison officials to adopt similar programs in facilities where D.C. prisoners are housed?

I do favor requiring all prisons to provide condom availability programs. The transfer of our criminal justice system to the federal government was one of the reasons I fought against signing onto the President’s revitalization plan in 1997. These are our sons and daughters in the system, and it was a great loss to home rule when we lost the ability to run that system.

6. Do you support passage and full funding for the new civilian complaint review system to be established by Bill 12-521, the "Office of Citizen Complaint Review Establishment Act of 1998"?

When we pass legislation, we are often trying to find the balance that will offer the public the most benefit in exchange for the impact on the other side of the equation. So it is with the recent passage of legislation re-instituting the civilian complaint review board, which I supported. We don’t want investigations to gloss over any wrongdoing, but we want to make sure that such a review board applies the “innocent until proven otherwise” standard, as well. Our goal must be to have a good and efficient police force whose mission is to PROTECT the public — all of the public. To the extent that our officers are aware that their actions are going to be reviewed by a civilian complaint review board, I believe that prevents abuses.

7. Do you support Bill 12-612, the "Opened Alcoholic Beverage Containers Amendment Act of 1998" (a.k.a. the "Chardonnay Lady Bill"), that would allow people to drink alcoholic beverages on their own porches without fear of arrest?

I supported Mrs. Schwartz’ bill and I worked hard to pass it out of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, of which I am chairman.

[Mr. Brazil provided no answers for questions 8 through 16.]

8. Will you veto any legislation similar to the recently-defeated Bill 12-279, the "Arrest Without Warrant by Law Enforcement Officers Amendment Act of 1997," that would expand the right of police officers to arrest people for "quality of life" offenses on mere hearsay and without warrants?

[Answer missing.]

Part III. AIDS and Other Public Health Issues

9. Do you support Initiative 59 (or similar legislation) to legalize the use of medical marijuana when patient's doctor recommends it as a means to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, and other diseases?

[Answer missing.]

10. What will you do to combat the persistent failure of District health agencies to spend their fully appropriated local funds to combat AIDS? Do you agree that these agencies should be required to monitor all their grant funding?

[Answer missing.]

11. What will you propose as strategies for promoting AIDS-related education and services for under served and high-risk populations?

[Answer missing.]

12. The New York State Legislature recently passed legislation saying that: (1) doctors must report the names of people who test positive for HIV to public health officials; and that (2) health workers must attempt to have infected patients identify their sex or drug-use partners and then must notify those partners of possible exposure. Such measures are invariably counter-productive and discourage those most at risk from being tested and treated for HIV. Will you oppose any such legislation in the District, vetoing it if necessary?

[Answer missing.]

13. Do you support an increase in District government funding to combat AIDS in line with the continuing increase in the caseload?

[Answer missing.]

14. Do you support continued District government funding for the needle exchange program to combat the spread of AIDS? Will you actively resist Congressional efforts to end such funding?

[Answer missing.]

Part IV. Curbing Regulatory Abuse

15. In an apparent effort to bolster his standing with some segments of the District community, the recently-ousted chief of the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, David Watts, instituted a zoning regulation earlier this year barring video stores from deriving more than 15% of their revenues from sexually-oriented videos. Do you agree that this attack on the rights of adult consumers is utterly unwarranted and that there should be no limits on the proportion of video store revenues derived from adult videos?

[Answer missing.]

16. Will you support legislation to reauthorize and regulate the issuance of liquor licenses to establishments (in designated nonresidential commercial districts) that want to offer nude dancing as entertainment?

[Answer missing.]

Part V. Defending Our Families

17. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?

I have felt unable to support same-sex marriages because of my religious beliefs, but I realize that the discussion surrounding domestic partnerships involves something distinct from the tenets of my church, and indeed, involves many rights that I support for every human being. I realize that I have a tendency to apply a lawyer’s filter on this issue — I am a lawyer, after all — but I realize that our society must find a way to safeguard families — which include partnerships — and the autonomy of their decisions and arrangements, and the Domestic Partnership is one way of doing that.

I supported registration of domestic partnerships and it is my view that Congress should respect the District’s choice in this matter.

18. Will you lobby Congress to overturn the current Congressional restrictions on the District's funding of the D.C. Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992?

Yes. It is the proper role of the Mayor and the Council to set policy regarding health care benefits for its government workers, and not a function that should concern members of Congress.

19. Do you support the current District policy, sanctioned by a court ruling, of allowing adoptions by unmarried couples? Will you actively resist Congressional efforts to outlaw such adoptions in the District?

Yes. I oppose generally any efforts by members of Congress to experiment on the District or otherwise second-guess D.C. citizens, elected officials or its courts.

Part VI. Upholding the D.C. Human Rights Law

20. Will you propose the re-establishment of the Office of Human Rights (OHR) as an independent, Cabinet-level agency whose Director has direct access to the Mayor? If the Control Board fails to act on this proposal, will you submit an appropriate reorganization plan for Council approval when your powers are restored?

As with almost every question I get as a candidate, this one seems to take us right back to the way we have protected and allocated our scarce resources.

21. Do you favor an increased budget for OHR so that its heavy case backlog can be eliminated?

The District has not properly funded enforcement of the Human Rights Act of 1977, as it has not funded many important functions and programs. To say that I support enforcement of our Human Rights Act is not an act of courage; but my record shows that I have fought for “good government” legislation that provides a framework for responsible conservation and allocation of our tax dollars and our human resources. As mayor, I will continue to build that framework and, as our management reforms begin to go to work, I will restore staff and investigators to the Office of Human Rights.

22. Will you propose legislation that would codify OHR's current practice of granting top priority to discrimination complaints from those afflicted with AIDS or other imminently life-shortening conditions?

I would consider proposing such legislation if I believed that OHR’s current practice was changing or that establishing such a priority was otherwise threatened.

23. Do you agree that District government agencies are indeed covered by the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977?

[Answer missing.]

Part VII. Education & Youth

24. Proposals for establishing a system of vouchers for private schools, whether here or elsewhere around the country, would funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools controlled by denominations that frequently are aggressively homophobic. Will you oppose any legislation authorizing vouchers for religious schools?

No such legislation is likely to come from D.C.’s elected leadership. It is the Republican-controlled Congress which is eager to toy with the District’s school system, and I will certainly be vocal in my opposition to any such allocation of the District’s tax dollars. I have great confidence that President Clinton is of the same view and would veto any such legislation.

Nevertheless, the District has given Congress an opening to meddle in this most local decision because of the poor performance of our schools and school system in the past ten years. There is nothing more important to this city than education. I have proposed a comprehensive six-point plan that focuses our attention on how well our children are doing rather than on how the system is doing.

My plan calls for tough new recertification and evaluation standards for teachers; an honest evaluation of how well each school performs; reducing class size for kindergarten through eighth grade; providing enrichment programs, including tutor/mentor programs and before- and after-school care, in partnership with the community; assuring that students who need them have access to alternative schools; and working towards smaller “smart schools” with state-of-the-art resources and enrollments of no more than 500 students.

The opportunities we create for our children are the keys to achieving all that we hope and dream for our city’s future; attracting families and businesses, lowering crime, lessening poverty, and preparing ourselves for the challenges of the 21st Century. I am confident that my plan represents a solid strategy for change, and I pledge to use the leadership of the mayor’s office to improve education every day I am in office.

25. How do you propose to improve District government services for gay and lesbian youth?

I propose to improve D.C. government services for all of our youth by first marshalling and managing the resources we have to maximize what we can accomplish in our schools, in health education, AIDS prevention, job opportunities, and recreation facilities and programs.