Carol Schwartz responds to GLAA 2004 questionnaire

Responses of Carol Schwartz to GLAA 2004 Questionnaire
for D.C. Council Candidates

GLAA 2004 Rating for Carol Schwartz (Possible range: +/- 10 points total)
(+/- 2)
(+/- 4)
(+/- 3)
(+/- 1)
(+/- 10)
1 ½ 4 3 1 9 ½

Public Safety

1. Will you support an annual budget for the Office of Citizen Complaint Review big enough to prevent the development of a backlog of citizen allegations of police misconduct?

Yes. On the Council, I was an original co-sponsor of legislation in 1998 that revived the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), and I have actively supported it since. In fact, in the past, some of the additional revenue I found in the Mayor's budget for agencies under the purview of the Committee I chair was allocated at my recommendation to the CCRB. A case backlog is not only unfair to those who file complaints, it also severely diminishes the effectiveness of the CCRB. I will continue to support funding for the Citizen Complaint Review Board and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review at levels that should help prevent the development of a case backlog.

2. Will you support funding for mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training including gay and transgender community representatives as a continuing part of the training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department?

Yes. I am supportive of training all city workers to be sensitive to the diversity in our city and to be professional and responsive to each and every citizen, regardless of who they are or how they live their lives.

I demanded that sensitivity and diversity training be mandatory for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department after the horrendous and appalling treatment of car crash victim Tyra Hunter by EMS personnel. Also, a year after the Tyra Hunter incident, the unhelpful and unprofessional response to Dupont Circle gay bashing victim Ken Ludden underscored the absolute necessity of ongoing, comprehensive and effective sensitivity and diversity training for Fire/EMS workers.

When Bob Summersgill of GLAA informed me in April of this year that Fire/EMS was refusing to make available copies of diversity training materials, I immediately contacted Fire Chief Adrian Thompson and urged him to ensure that the material would be released, as had been promised. Further, it is unfortunate that resistance to diversity and sensitivity training - and trainers - appears to be a continuing problem at Fire/EMS, as evidenced by the case of diversity trainer Kenda Kirby, who sued the Department after disparaging and anti-gay remarks were made about her because she is a Lesbian. In addition, I am troubled by the more recent situation involving Officer Hiram Rosario of the Metropolitan Police Department, and have written Chief Charles Ramsey asking that he respond to the concerns of myself and my constituents regarding this officer.

Public Health & AIDS

3. Will you lobby your colleagues and Council Chairman Linda Cropp to create a new Committee on Health, split out from the current Committee on Human Services, that will be chaired by someone committed to vigorous oversight of the Department of Health?

The Committee on Human Services has legislative oversight of agencies which collectively receive 25 percent of the District's budget. Furthermore, these agencies - the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Human Services, among others - have historically been amongst the District's most troubled departments. While I think that the current Chair of the Committee has done an admirable job of trying to stay on top of the enormous demands of this Committee, I am very open to looking at alternatives relating to its workload. A discussion regarding the organization of the Council and its standing committees will take place early in 2005, and I hope to be an active part of that discussion as a newly re-elected Councilmember.

4. The rate of HIV infections in DC is the highest in the United States, rivaling levels in sub-Saharan Africa. Problems of rampant corruption, illegal activities, and demoralized staff at the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) have been well documented. Yet there has not been an oversight hearing on HAA for more than a year. The previous oversight hearing was five years earlier. If elected or re-elected to the Council, will you ensure that the Council holds an annual performance oversight hearing on HAA?

Yes. My office was contacted at about the same time last year both by Building Futures, a community group which had experienced ongoing funding and other issues with HAA, and by Michael Snoddy, a HAA employee who alleges serious management problems and spending irregularities at the agency. Given HAA's tremendous importance in a city with the highest per capita HIV infection rate in the nation, and given its many apparent shortcomings, I did ask that an oversight hearing be held promptly on HAA and believe that regular performance oversight hearings are needed. I am pleased that the Mayor finally named a new Director, Lydia Watts, on August 4. I was present at the press conference when she was asked about her opposition to needle exchange, which is something that I have long supported both with my voice and my checkbook. She replied that she would be supportive of the city's position in favor of needle exchange, and for now I take her at her word. I am hopeful that Ms. Watts, if confirmed, will act swiftly and decisively to bring about needed changes to the agency.

Additionally, as a 15-year member of the Whitman-Walker Clinic Board of Directors, I have seen first-hand the impact of poor grants management and delayed payments to service providers. HAA must do a far better job in making sure that funds are provided expeditiously as well as efficiently to HIV/AIDS agencies and the people who need services.

5. Will you ask the D.C. Inspector General for a full audit of the HIV/AIDS Administration and its contractors?

Yes. It is my understanding that the Office of the Inspector General is looking into various aspects of HAA, but I would support a full audit of the agency and its contractors. With so many unmet needs in the District and given limited federal and District dollars, every dollar must be accounted for and we cannot tolerate any waste or irregularities.

6. The current HIV epidemiological surveillance system discourages people-especially immigrants-from getting tested by requiring both their partial Social Security Number and their country of origin. This potentially threatens their ability to stay in this country. Will you support and vote for legislation that will eliminate the partial Social Security Number from the unique identifier system?

Yes. As I have said in the past, our HIV reporting system should not compromise the trust of our citizens in our HIV testing and counseling programs, and confidentiality must be 100 percent assured. We need an HIV reporting system that will give us accurate information on the course of the epidemic, and any barriers in this system to testing and treatment must be addressed.

Not only is it vital to have the confidentiality in place, it is also important to have a good system that is up and running. The current lack of staffing and competency jeopardizes the city's ability to have much needed information, and puts us at a disadvantage in competing for funds.

7. Only one insurance company operating in D.C. offers domestic partner coverage to small businesses that wish to offer the benefit. Will you vote in favor of legislation requiring insurance carriers to make domestic partner coverage available for small businesses that want to offer this health care benefit to their employees?

Yes. Insurance companies doing business in the District should offer health coverage to domestic partners of employees of small businesses.

Human Rights

8. Despite significant improvements made in the operations of the Office of Human Rights (OHR) in the past several years, the OHR FY 2005 budget was not increased to hire additional investigators and other staff so that the case backlog will continue to drop. Will you support maintaining funding levels and aggressive oversight to ensure that the OHR case backlog continues to drop?

Yes. I commend the director and staff at the Office of Human Rights for the improvements made thus far, and I will continue to support adequate funding to clear the backlog of cases. Each case that remains in the backlog represents a problem that has not been rectified, and therefore more likely to be repeated. These cases need to be addressed, and OHR should receive an annual budget that will allow it to stay current once the backlog is cleared.

9. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry, including but not limited to the Salvation Army, Assemblies of God and the Boy Scouts of America?

I will consider each resolution based on its individual merits, and am open to hearing any concerns about specific resolutions as they come before the Council. I will not knowingly support resolutions honoring organizations or individuals whose views are not in sync with the values of our community.

Defending Our Families

10. Will you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?

I support civil unions with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage. I realize, of course, that for many in the Gay and Lesbian community, this is no longer the most desirable position for elected officials to hold. Nevertheless, I feel that in the District of Columbia, the most likely prospect for bringing about the granting of marital rights and responsibilities in the near future to Gay and Lesbian couples is through civil unions. Given the unique and oftentimes maddening structural relationship we have with the Congress of the United States, it is, I believe, simply the most pragmatic and expedient approach.

As I said in my response to a similar question in the 2000 GLAA questionnaire, in the District, with the many unfair obstacles we must overcome as a result of Congress's veto power over our laws, I feel fairly certain that any attempt we make to legally recognize marriages between partners of the same sex would be swiftly shot down and that the issue would be used by unsupportive members of Congress to bash the District and curry political favor at home. I worry that congressional interference in this area would create a hurdle that would significantly limit the District's ability to consider this issue.

I would be neither surprised nor displeased, however, if Gay and Lesbian couples are able to be married here and in many of the states in the not-too-distant future.

11. Will you support legislation in the District to expand the domestic partner program to include all of the relevant rights and responsibilities of marriage in D.C. law?

Yes. I support the granting under District of Columbia law the more than 200 local rights and responsibilities, as delineated by GLAA in the comprehensive report it published this spring. If an expansion in the domestic partnership program proves to be the best way to achieve this, then I will wholeheartedly support such an expansion.

12. Will you support the legislative and/or regulatory changes necessary to ensure that the District recognizes marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships established in other jurisdictions?

Yes. However, the District must be cautious in its approach on the issue of legal recognition of marriages performed elsewhere as well. It would be a shame if our efforts to recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions led to action by Congress which would impede progress toward providing greater equality to all our Gay and Lesbian couples as they seek to gain benefits. It is my hope that the loving, stable and committed relationships of any two people are valued, honored and respected under the law not only elsewhere, but here as well.

Public Education and Youth

13. Will you oppose both federally and locally funded voucher programs that place students in religious schools and outside the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act?

Yes. I oppose vouchers, which I believe undermine public education. I am concerned about the use of public dollars to support institutions that discriminate and reject sexual health education and sound science. I was vocal in my opposition to vouchers when the Congress considered them in 2003 and joined with Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton in lobbying members against them. Also, nearly 25 years ago while on the Board of Education in the 1970s, I voted for a successful policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the hiring of teachers. I continue to support policies prohibiting harassment in the public schools, including harassment based on sexual orientation or based on perceived sexual orientation.

14. Will you oppose the use of either federal or District taxpayer funds to promote so-called "abstinence-only-until-marriage" sex education that undermines safer-sex programs by discouraging the use of condoms and that tells gay and lesbian students that they must be celibate forever because they may not legally marry?

Yes. I oppose abstinence-only sex education. I believe encouraging abstinence is a useful element in comprehensive sex education programs, but it should never undermine the message of safer sex for teens or young adults who choose to be sexually active, nor should it be taught in such a way that discourages the use of condoms or denigrates Gay and Lesbian relationships.

Modernizing the Criminal Code

15. Will you vote to repeal the use of undefined and unspecified common law crimes and to repeal the laws criminalizing verbal solicitations of legal sexual activity?

Yes, absolutely, as long as legitimate rights of individuals are not infringed upon.


Your record is part of your rating. Please list any actions that you have taken that may help illustrate your record on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.


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