Jack Evans: responses to GLAA questionnaire

Responses of Jack Evans 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 facilitate a speedy return of home rule powers if you are elected Mayor?

I have learned there are no simple solutions or panaceas to correct the myriad challenges facing the District. I have learned that, as a legislator, my role in the correction of a problem would not be fulfilled by simply passing a law. Given the weak administration and numerous oversight authorities, approval of a bill is only the first step -- the real obstacles to implementation often are not the legal authority but questions of funding or accountability. If I want to see legislation actually come to fruition, I must be willing to go beyond my position as a Councilmember and also play the role of agency director or city administrator or even mayor. Otherwise, problems such as abandoned houses or high unemployment or the re-establishment of a civilian complaint review system will continue to languish.

These experiences led me to establish several task forces which work to address particular problems in Ward 2 (such as crime in Shaw or sanitation enforcement in Dupont Circle) by bringing together the many entities which are involved with the issue and to have them work together, with citizens, to establish practical, achievable goals. This coordination of the numerous government agencies and oversight entities associated with a problem will accelerate the pace at which a problem is resolved. While it may seem elementary to unify efforts, this is something the District government often fails to do. As a result, problems are addressed in a piece-meal approach and citizens are left underserved and confused.

While I noted there are no silver bullets to correct the many shortcomings of our government, most solutions share a common theme of a need for management reform. I have written extensively about this issue and would invite those interested to visit my website, www.evansformayor.com, to learn more of my detailed plans for management reform.

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?

As Mayor, I will continue my current role as a government reformer. As noted in the previous answer, I have worked at length on management reform and budget oversight. As Chair of the Judiciary Committee, I have been instrumental in the efforts which have led to a 25 percent overall reduction in the District's crime rate and the redeployment of hundreds of officers from desk jobs to street patrols. From granting more authority to the Police Chief to redrawing police district boundaries to ensuring pay raises for our officers to instituting new codes of ethics and conduct, I have been involved in each step of these efforts -- even though I do not have direct control of this department. And, to those who counter there are still many problems within our police department, I agree. As such, I requested and oversaw the creation of a special Council investigative committee which I co-chair with Councilmember Patterson. This Committee has issued more than 100 subpoenas (a first in more than 20 years of Council history) and has unearthed countless stories of management abuse and neglect.

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?

As Mayor, I will continue my career-long practice of including lesbians and gay men in all areas of my administration -- including search committees for all agency directors. And, not only will I ensure lesbians and gay men are actively involved in the search process for agency heads, I plan to have openly lesbian and gay individuals filling some of these roles. One need only look at my Council record to confirm that I am firmly committed to this pledge. In fact, it was my efforts that led to the even greater inclusion of the lesbian and gay community in the recent search for the new Metropolitan Police Department Chief (specifically with the inclusion of GLOV's Executive Director).

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?

Some improvements have been made in relations between the public safety sector and the lesbian and gay community. However, one need only remember Tyra Hunter or Lt. Jeffrey Stowe to be painfully reminded of how much further we have to go toward ensuring ideal relations.

The first step toward improving relations between the public safety sector and the lesbian and gay community is to enhance the current sensitivity training and make it a standard part of every officer's continuing education. One class on sensitivity during an officer's training will not ensure an in-depth understanding of ,and care for, the lesbian and gay community. This requires continual and comprehensive training throughout an officer's career. As I have said previously, this training should be provided by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community and should be funded at an adequate rate.

As Mayor, I will convene regular meetings of the lesbian and gay community, the heads of the various public safety agencies and, more importantly, the various sub-directors. Too often, there is little or no communication between these parties until a crisis erupts that demands immediate attention. One topic which I want to highlight at each meeting is enforcement of the Bias Related Crimes Act of 1990. I know this law is not being fully enforced and will continue to be overlooked until there is a concentrated effort to address this issue.

Through my work with Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), I well know how valuable such meetings could be toward addressing the many complicated concerns the lesbian and gay community has in regard to public safety. For example, I worked with GLOV in expanding the D.C. Fire Department's investigation of the Tyra Hunter incident. After the repeated anti-lesbian and gay mistakes made by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) at the 1991 Halloween High Heel race on 17th Street, I worked at length with the community and GLOV to ensure a full investigation was undertaken and the MPD's police sensitivity training was enhanced. In light of a 1996 mishandling by the D.C. Fire Department of an incident involving two gay men attacked in Dupont circle, I sent a letter to the Mayor calling for a prompt investigation into the matter, and immediate implementation of sensitivity training. I am pleased to see this training is finally underway and, as Mayor, I will seek to expand this training and ensure it is provided on a regular basis. In each of these cases, my work would have been greatly assisted with the inclusion of more input from the lesbian and gay community.

As a member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (formerly known as the MOU partners), I have stressed the importance of improved relations between public safety agencies and the District's gay and lesbian community. I pledge to continue to insure this issue is addressed at meetings of this body. In addition, I have met individually with the Police and Fire Chiefs and the Director of the Department of Corrections to stress the need for awareness and sensitivity training for their employees. I intend to push for annual training so that employees do not loose sight of the need to treat the gay and lesbian community with the respect they deserve.

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?

As a founding member (along with GLAA) of the Condom Availability Coalition and the first (and most active) Councilmember to support this concept, I am well aware of the urgent need to ensure condoms are readily accessible to all inmates. Through my work with GLAA member Mindy Daniels, I have been disturbed to find the District's own condom availability program has fallen into disrepair.

As a result, in the past month I met with the Director of the Department of Corrections and urged her to reinstate the 1993 Departmental Order on HIV/AIDS Education and Barrier Availability. Director Moore responded favorably and I expect this order to be reissued in the near future. In the mean time, I am working with private individuals and the Agency for HIV/AIDS (AHA) at the D.C. Department of Public Health to identify funding to purchase condoms so that they can be ready for distribution when the order is reinstated. I see this as a first step toward persuading private contractors to adopt similar policies.

I have also encouraged the Director of Corrections to discuss the adoption of an education and barrier availability policy at the two Corrections Corporation of America facilities currently under contract with the District. These are the Youngstown, Ohio facility and the Correctional Treatment Facility in the District. Her staff is checking with the State of Ohio to determine if there is any legal impediment under Ohio law to such a policy. I understand that condom distribution is illegal under Virginia state law, but I will make every effort to ensure that the District's policy is made a contract requirement in all future privatization contracts.

As I will discuss later, I feel this issue clearly highlights the need for the Condom Availability Coalition to be reinstated. The condom availability program at the D.C. Public School system is also sorely in need of improvements. As Mayor, I would welcome the opportunity to work with a coalition of HIV/AIDS advocates and industry professionals to determine how to most effectively improve these efforts.

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"?

Yes. When I became Chair of the Judiciary Committee, I made a commitment to consider alternatives to the former Civilian Complaint Review Board. I kept this commitment by introducing Bill 12-521, sheparding it through the Committee hearing and mark-up process, and persuading my colleagues on the Council to vote for its passage in July. I anticipate its approval by Congress this fall.

I will also urge Chief Ramsey to publicly endorse the House Appropriations Committee to add $1.2 million in FY 1999 federal funds for the implementation of the new review system. The District definitely needs an independent civilian complaint system. Should the appropriation of new federal funds not come to pass, I will support a reprogramming of funds in the FY 1999 budget to ensure the implementation of this important legislation.

Finally, I stand ready to ensure my administration practices proper oversight so as to ensure this new entity operates efficiently. I will ensure any problems are addressed quickly so the system will not develop an unworkable backlog of cases as it previously did.

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?

As I wrote in my June 29, 1998 letter to Craig Howell, I thank GLAA for its leading role in the passage of this needed legislation and I was glad to vote in favor of the bill at the June 26, 1998 meeting of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

I did have initial concerns on this legislation since I felt we could achieve the same goal via improved training of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in their enforcement of public nuisance crimes. But, thanks in large part to the effective and helpful lobbying of GLAA, I soon realized the need to further refine the D.C. law in regard to this matter so as to make the officer's job easier and protect our citizens from unwarranted harassment.

I voted in favor of the bill when it passed on first reading at the July 7, 1998 Legislative Session. Second and final vote is scheduled for the next Legislative Session on September 22, 1998, and I will vote in favor of the bill at time.

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?

While I did support Bill 12-279, I have two concerns with this legislation: the definition of "quality of life" and ensuring "mere hearsay" is not abused. While I do not intend to revive Bill 12-279, if such legislation is raised again, I will work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community to ensure "quality of life" offenses could not be used to harass or entrap community members. The "mere hearsay" concern can only be alleviated by ensuring proper training of officers. I would not support adding warrantless arrest authority for any crime unless proper training will be administered prior to implementation. I would veto any warrantless arrest legislation that attempted to diminish the requirement of probable cause for an arrest.

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 a patient's doctor recommends it as a means to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, and other diseases.

Yes. Having watched many friends and family members suffer from AIDS and cancer, I well know how beneficial medical marijuana can be in alleviating the intense pain and combating loss of appetite. This is not an issue of promoting illegal behavior, it is an issue of promoting compassion.

I began work on this matter in 1993 when Steve Smith of the original ACT-UP approached me to solicit my support. My staff and I worked with Steve to garner support for an open letter signed by myself and other Councilmembers in favor of this effort. I sent a memo to each office asking them to meet with Steve and expressing my support for his efforts. Although Steve chose to not further pursue this issue at that time, I was successful in getting the staffs of Councilmembers Jarvis and Mason to have productive meetings with him.

I was again in support of this issue when it resurfaced as Initiative 57. Without hesitation both my wife and I signed the petition and I consistently spoke in favor of this issue when the press would call for comment. My unqualified support continued with Initiative 59.

Given the importance of this issue, we must not let it remain dormant. As Mayor, I will work with the GLBT and HIV/AIDS communities to determine how to best revive this issue. Whether it be through legislation I will introduce or another initiative petition drive, I will lend my support to whichever avenue the community feels best to advance this issue.

Finally, I am agreement with activists who contend that the petition drive for Initiative 57 would have succeeded if the District's voter registration lists had been up-to-date. I well know the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) has been severely underfunded in recent years. Compound this lack of resources with the recent surge in special elections and initiatives and it becomes clear as to why the District's voter rolls are out-of-date. As Mayor, I will provide greater funding and resources to BOEE.

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

As I discussed in my first answer, management reform via accountability standards and performance review of managers is key to resolving the continual fiscal crisis which cripples the District's HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Managers must be held accountable to spend the money for the targeted populations which it has been allocated and spend the money at a reasonable rate within the designated year.

As I mention in the next answer, I will meet regularly with the AHA Director to ensure accountability and performance review within this key agency. In addition to ensuring AHA funds are being expended, I will also ensure AHA funds connected with other agencies such as APRA and the DC Housing Authority, are being spent.

The Ryan White Planning Council and the Mayor's Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS should also receive this information and share with me their insights and concerns. As such, I will also move to have the Mayor's Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS meet on a more regular basis. Currently, meetings are held on a quarterly basis and this is simply not enough to keep up with the rapid changes in medication and life-expectancy rates. Finally, we must continue to increase the presence of people living with AIDS on these entities so as to ensure a balance to the perspectives of the providers and the government representatives.

I was one of the first proponents of the designation of a third party to act as a fiscal agent for federal AIDS money. My staff and I spent much time working with local activists to persuade officials, including the Chief Financial Officer, that this was a viable means to ensure timely payments to AIDS service providers. As Mayor, I will ensure we process 100% federally appropriated grants in a more expeditious process - we must start the process prior to the grant award actually being received so that once it is received, we can move forward and get the dollars in process.

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

A simple solution to increasing the District's HIV/AIDS efforts would be to elevate the position of the Agency for HIV/AIDS director to cabinet level. As I mentioned in my first answer, coordination and management are key to solving the District's more complex problems. From shutdowns of the ADAP program to loss of federal funding due to unfilled AHA positions to vendors left perilously close to failure due to non-payment from the government -- far too often we have seen disasters in the city's HIV/AIDS programs arise from the issue of poor management and oversight. Elevating the AHA Director to a position where she or he would have regular access to the Mayor and other cabinet officials would greatly assist efforts to solve this problem. In return, the AHA Director will be held accountable for spending the prevention funds in a timely and effective manner, as well as increasing funds and grants received from private sources.

As to how this management reform should translate into tangible prevention efforts, we must have a mass media campaign directed at specific target populations where percentages of infection are increasing. Women, youth, African-Americans and Hispanics are all populations experiencing increases in cases and should be aggressively targeted. I will also direct that a separate policy be established for individuals coming out of the correctional institutions, as well as their partners. A key component will be an expansion of the condom availability program within the D.C. Schools and correctional facilities. And, all areas of the government should undergo mandatory HIV/AIDS training so as to increase awareness of, and sensitivity toward, this issue.

Another vital step toward improving D.C.'s AIDS-related education and services is to increase funding and expansion of the clean needle exchange program. As Mayor, I will propose to at least double the funding for mobile outreach. And, since clean needles also serve as the gateway to treatment, I will oversee a better coordination of D.C.'s HIV/AIDS treatment efforts with the services provided by APRA.

I will continue to support the efforts to expand our Medicaid for HIV positive individuals at or below the poverty level via an 1115 waiver or an expansion of the Home and Community Bases Services waiver with the federal government. Once these waivers are achieved we should expand the waiver to include individuals with cancer and respiratory diseases so that those individuals would not have to wait until disability or near-death before they receive basic treatment.

In addition to HIV/AIDS related services, I would also like to note that, as Mayor, I will work with the community to initiate targeted primary health care for the GLBT community - particularly those who are in need, but can not afford, mental health, substance abuse and other non-HIV primary care. In particular, the District should work to promote women's health concerns since this is often an area which is overlooked by both public and private clinics.

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 and drug-use partner 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?

Yes, I will oppose any such legislation in the District and would, if necessary, veto such a measure. We must ensure HIV testing and counseling are 100% confidential and accessible to all residents. Testing is so critical to AIDS treatment efforts since early detection can lead to a significantly improved diagnosis. Measures such as the New York law send a chilling message to those who are hesitant to get tested. Even worse is that many of the populations where AIDS is growing the fastest may not have the resources to bypass the new law via a home testing kit.

Proponents of the New York legislation try to window-dress this onerous law by touting its benefits in helping to get a more accurate picture of the progression of HIV/AIDS. We all support increased HIV/AIDS surveillance which helps to plan our future care and research efforts. But, you don't need names for this - you simply need to report the cases of HIV/AIDS.

Measures such as the New York State legislation are simply variations on mandatory testing and seriously erode public trust of HIV/AIDS testing and treatment efforts. As a Board member of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, I was successful in preventing passage of language calling for mandatory testing of certain individuals. I also was successful in opposing similar legislative efforts at the D.C. Council that were proposed several times between 1994 and 1996. Having worked with GLAA members and the AIDS Action Council on both of these efforts, I well know the importance of this issue. As mayor I will continue to work with the advocates to ensure we expand our HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in ways which foster public support and participation.

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

Yes. While I often do not agree to fund projects, despite their worth, it is far more cost effective to aggressively invest in promotion and early treatment efforts than to simply allow the case numbers to increase. While we have been able to maintain the District's AIDS funding at a steady level throughout the recent fiscal crisis, we now must begin to look at increasing this budget for the first time since the 1990 budget cycle. As Mayor, I will work with the Ryan White Planning Council and my Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to determine a more equitable level of funding, but I do feel it should be proportionate with the increase in cases.

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?

Not only do I support continued District government funding for the needle exchange program, but I will propose for an increase in funding. And, I will lead efforts to resist Congressional efforts to end such funding, as well as work with HIV/AIDS advocates to reverse the Administration's non-support of needle exchange programs. An effective clean needle exchange program is one of the most effective ways to combat the District's continually skyrocketing rate of new infections. If we are prohibited by federal restriction of funding D.C.'s clean needle exchange, I will use all my powers as Mayor to solicit and secure private donations which could fund a new non-government sponsored program until the federal ban is reversed. No other mayoral candidate or elected official has invested as much time as I have into ensuring the existence and success of needle exchange. Before there was even legislation, I worked with the original ACT-UP to ensure their privately funded efforts were not disrupted by the police.

I worked aggressively to curtail then-Councilmember John Ray's opposition to the District's original needle-exchange program when it was proposed in 1992. Recognizing the woeful inadequacies of the original program, I swiftly moved to work with local HIV/AIDS activists (particularly Michael Singerman) to develop new clean needle exchange legislation. Our approach was simple - remove this operation from the government where it was endlessly fraught with red tape and allow a local community based organization to administer this program. After countless hours of consulting with government officials, local activists and wary Council colleagues, I was successful in the passage of the "Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission Prevention Amendment Act" which allowed the Commissioner of Public Health to designate community based organization to administer a clean needle exchange program.

However, I was not content to end my efforts with passage of the legislation. I continued working with advocates to ensure the speedy implementation of this law and the eventual awarding of the contract. As mayor, I will apply the same tenacity to ensuring the preservation and expansion of this program.

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 and 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?

Yes, DCRA went too far with the enforcement of its percentage of revenue restriction and there is not a need for further such behavior. Fifteen percent is unduly restrictive and negatively affects at least 25 small businesses throughout the District, not just those in Ward 3. There is no basis for a percentage of revenue restriction since mixed use stores, such as those being protested, have operated for years in D.C. meeting their customers' varied demands without complaints from the community.

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?

As we all know, it was my efforts that led to the current moratorium on the issuance of any new licenses to establishments. As I have said many times in the past, I know this was not an ideal solution to the problem which the residents of Logan Circle/Blagden Alley and the merchants of Franklin Square were trying to solve. And, since it was not my intention to rescind any licenses, I ensured the current applicants were grandfathered in the legislation. The key question in the effort to issue new licenses for establishments featuring nude dancing is the definition of designated nonresidential commercial districts. What would be required to reopen this issue would be an open dialogue between all interested parties to determine which districts would be suitable for such use. While I will not make any pretenses that this step will ensure a complete overturn of the current moratorium, it could lead to a solution acceptable to all parties. My track record shows that I will not shy away from engaging in lengthy involvement in issues where there is little common agreement.

Part V. Defending Our Families

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

Yes. I support legislation providing legal basis for same-sex unions and I have no problems telling this to every organization which I address - from the Ward 2 Democrats to GLAA to the Baptist Ministers Conference. As I said during my 1996 re-election campaign for the Council, marriage is an important component in providing gay men and lesbians with equality of opportunity. For those couples who deem that marriage is right for them, they should receive the City's blessing, recognition, and advantages, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the parties constituting the couple. Or, more simply put, this is a civil rights and human rights issue which must be addressed.

I would also like to comment on the position which the other major mayoral contenders have taken on this issue. Unfortunately, all of them have expressed their personal discomfort with the concept of same-sex marriage. One candidate has meekly proposed to sign legislation if it were to come to his desk. This is simply not good enough. Only a candidate with little knowledge of previous battles waged by the lesbian and gay community would suggest that it is sufficient for the mayor to merely agree to not veto a law if it reaches his desk. You must have an advocate for this issue. Just as I revived the decade-long struggle to overturn the District's antiquated sodomy laws and debated endlessly until we successfully passed the domestic partnership legislation, I will also be the advocate for this issue. If any candidate believes passing of same-sex legislation will merely require passive support, I urge them to talk with the membership of GLAA about some of the recent battles waged for gay and lesbian rights.

And, in response to those candidates who are naive enough to ask why hasn't this legislation already been introduced, I would like to simply remind them that organizations such as GLAA have, and will continue to be, working hand-in-hand with me and other locally elected supporters of this effort to ensure a timely introduction and successful promotion of this legislation.

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?

Of course. As many of you know, I was the co-author of the legislation which created the District's Domestic Partnership program. I worked extensively with the GLBT community to ensure passage of this legislation and, as recently as last week, continue to defend the validity of this program before less than receptive audiences. Since passage of the enabling legislation, I have worked with advocates in our unsuccessful attempts to prevent the annual Congressional defunding of this program. I have pledged to reintroduce the Domestic Partnership law if Congress repeals it.

Until full marital benefits are provided to all couples, we must work to expand those benefits offered under the Domestic Partnership program. With this in mind, I repeat my previous pledge to work with members of the GLBT community to draft a "Family Diversity Committee" which could further expand the foundation of this law.

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 do support allowing adoptions by unmarried couples and I will actively resist Congressional efforts to outlaw such adoptions in the District. There are nearly 3,000 children in the D.C. foster care system. It is wrong to keep at risk and hard to place children away from a loving environment, particularly when one considers the countless failures and problems which plague the D.C. foster care system. The best interest of the child should always be the overriding factor in these decisions. I am disturbed Congress once again put its nose into the District affairs and passed the Largent amendment which would prohibit adoptions by any unmarried couples. As Mayor, I will work with the community to ensure simultaneous adoption for same-sex couples, and would be willing to work with GLAA and the community on drafting such a bill.

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

20. Will you propose the reestablishment 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?

Yes. The Office of Human Rights is one of the most important mechanisms this city has to ensure proper enforcement of the Human Rights Act of 1977. I have always been opposed to the department sharing personnel with the Office of Minority Business Development, which I believe is the sole reason the back-log of complaints is sitting at three to four years. As Mayor, I will propose its reinstatement to the Control Board and, if necessary, the Council.

The problem with the current arrangement was highlighted when the Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Affairs accepted the Boy Scout's of America's claim that it was exempt from the Human Rights Act because it was a "private club". This ridiculous conclusion probably would not have been made if the office had been an independent Cabinet-level entity. Unfortunately, there have been several other recent cases where this Department failed to fully uphold the Human Rights Law. As Mayor, I will make certain the Director of this agency is headed by someone with a clear understanding and appreciation of the Human Rights Law.

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

Not only do I favor an increased budget, but I would like to establish a citizen task force to evaluate the current OHR operations. In addition to bringing in more investigators to reduce the backlog of anti-discrimination complaints and more support staff to assist their efforts, there are probably many simple adjustments and improvements which could be made that would significantly improve the operations of OHR. The Council's recent actions to mandate mediation before an investigation is launched should serve as a model for additional changes we could make to streamline operations. Since most cases before OHR are employment-related, I will direct this agency to more aggressively pursue federal EEO monies.

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?

Yes. As I have said in the past, it is important to give automatic prioirty to complaints involving allegations of HIV or AIDS related discrimination. However, as discussed in the previous question, it is important that OHR have the resources to ensure automatic priority means a swift remedy and not merely waiting at the front of the line.

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

Yes. I was pleased when Corporation Counsel John Ferren withdrew the damaging arguments previously made by his office that the District government is exempt from the coverage of the public accommodation section of the D.C. Human Rights Act when it provides services to the public. As Mayor, I will ensure my Corporation Counsel shares my broad interpretation of the Human Rights Act and my views that government agencies are subject to public accommodation.

Part VII. Education and 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?

I have been consistent in my opposition to vouchers for private schools and I agree that taxpayer dollars should not fund organizations which espouse discrimination. As such, I will use my office as a bully pulpit to rally against the nearly annual attempts by Congress to enforce vouchers on D.C.

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

For too long the District has overlooked two of its most valuable assets in addressing concerns of lesbian and gay youth: Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) and Metro TeenAIDS. Since my Chief of Staff served for me on the Board of Directors of SMYAL for two years and I am currently a member of Metro Teen AIDS' Board of Advisors, I well know the many wonderful and lifesaving services provided by these groups. I also know how much more productive these organizations could be if they were to receive government funding for some of their public projects. Equally important is the governments inclusion of SMYAL and Metro Teen AIDS in the government's outreach to gay and lesbian youth, particularly within the D.C. Public School System.

I previously discussed how my Mayoral administration will work, in conjunction with GLAA and other interested parties, to revive the Condom Availability Coalition. We must increase the D.C. Public School's condom availability program, as well as other AIDS education and prevention efforts.

I also would like to revive the long-delayed efforts to establish a lesbian and gay community center. Such a facility should have a strong youth component and provide lesbian and gay youth with a safe space.

Finally, I feel that my unabashed support for the lesbian and gay community will send a strong signal to all youth that homophobia is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. And, the openly lesbian and gay individuals who will work with me in leading the District will serve as proud role models for lesbian and gay youth who are in need of support and guidance.