Councilmember Sharon Ambrose: responses to GLAA questionnaire

August 13, 1998

Attn: Craig Howell/Elections Coordinator
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013-5265

Dear Craig:

Enclosed please find my responses to the questions posed to candidates by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington.

I look forward to working with you in the future to discuss issues of concern to the community.


Sharon Ambrose
Councilmember Ward 6

Biographical Information

NAME: Sharon Ambrose TELEPHONE: 202-544-5605 (h)

202-724-8072 (w)

ADDRESS: Home: 333 5th Street, SE WARD: 6 PRECINCT: 89
Washington, DC 20003

Washington, DC 20003


Responses of Councilmember Ambrose to
GLAA 1998 Questionnaire for Council Candidates

1. If elected, what will you do to encourage the Council to exercise its powers more responsibly and thereby facilitate a speedy return of home rule powers to the District?

The statutory requirement for ending the active involvement of the Control Board in local government is that the city achieve 4 consecutive years of balance budgets. On September 30th we will have achieved a balanced budget for the second straight year. I made substantive contributions to the formulation of a balanced consensus budget for the coming fiscal year and I participated fully in the efforts to adjust and control spending over the past 16 months since I have been elected. I understand municipal finance and I carefully monitor city spending patterns and city grant activity. I believe that I have also presented a new and needed brand of legislative leadership which citizens and our Congressional overseers are seeking in local elected officials, a kind of leadership that will assist in changing the image of local government as one that is irresponsible and incapable of wise stewardship.

2. The Council has seldom aggressively exercised its oversight powers over the District government. Instead, too often it has been passive and reactive in addressing the mismanagement problems which routinely plague the District government's administration. What will you do to improve the Council's performance of its oversight responsibilities?

Serving as the Ward 6 Councilmember for the past 16 months, I have exercised aggressive oversight of city agencies in regard to the implementation of legislative initiatives and realistic budgets, and the development of professional performance standards. I have been a consistent and active participant in oversight, carefully preparing for hearings and asking tough questions.

I believe that we must demand accountability at every level of government. We can no longer tolerate incompetence, let alone reward it. I have spoken out strongly against bad managers - such as former MPD Chief Soulsby - and have voted against confirmation of managers who I judged to be poor performers.

When re-elected I will actively campaign for a position as a committee chair in order to have a more expansive forum in which to exercise legislative oversight and issue research. I will seek the support of the Gay and Lesbian community in that effort.

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

I voted for the new Office of Citizen Complaint Review Establishment Act, and conferred with GLAA representatives as the bill was being refined through the legislative process. While the new act is not perfect, I believe that it will provide a workable new structure.

The big problem is that there is no money in the FY99 budget to implement the establishment of the new system. I have publicly pledged to work with the community and my colleagues to identify a funding source as soon as possible. I am pleased that my colleague, Mr. Catania, was able to persuade members of Congress to add funding for the Board in the budget act. I will work with him and the community to encourage the retention of these funds. I will also let Chief Ramsey know that this new system has been established by the duly elected policy makers of the city and that as an agency head it is incumbent on him to implement it.

4. 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 porches without fear of arrest?

I voted for the "Chardonnay Lady" bill. I think, however, that it is unfortunate that the MPD is not better able to exercise common sense in respect to these issues. The fact is that in some neighborhoods in Ward 6 certain kinds of behavior --e.g. large crowds of people drinking and creating disturbances on their porches -- are a serious problem, and in those communities folks are unhappy about the new law. I intend to work with PSA officers in Ward 6 to ensure that they understand the difference between disorderly conduct, even on private property, and the activity the new law is designed to protect.

5. 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 revenue 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?

Video stores should not be singled out for business restrictions that are more restrictive than those imposed on other businesses. The only business licenses that should be carefully restricted are ABC licenses, and the reasons for those restrictions on the kinds of activities in and the locations of establishments having these licenses are obvious and have been treated in numerous court cases over decades. There are those of us who feel that certain kinds of cinematic depiction of gratuitous violence is both offensive and harmful, but there has been no public outcry for restrictions on the sale of that genre. To restrict the sale of certain film genres is to begin the slide down a very slippery Constitutional slope.

6. Will you support legislation to authorize and regulate the issuance of liquor licenses to establishments (in designated non-residential commercial districts) that want to offer nude dancing as entertainment?

We already have locations where nude dancing is allowed. I am willing to discuss with the community whether we need to make any adjustments in the Comprehensive Plan to expand those locations.

7. 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?

I did not sign the petition for Initiative 59 (which did not receive sufficient signatures to get on the ballot). I did not sign because in many parts of Ward 6 open air drug markets and the open trafficking in marijuana by very young people is a matter of grave concern. The understanding of the communities is that any remote attempt to legalize marijuana will exacerbate the problem. While that fear is unfounded in respect to the medical use of marijuana, I cannot, as their representative, actively support a measure the a large number of the citizens I represent actively oppose.

8. 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 of or drug-use partners and then must notify those partners of possible exposure. Such measures are invariable counter-productive and discourage those most at risk from being tested and treated for HIV. Will you oppose any such legislation in the District?

I will oppose any legislation which would violate the right of citizens to privacy in respect to health issues, which might deter folks from seeking HIV testing and subsequent treatment. I will work with the community to explore the use of "unique identifiers" in order to begin a process through which we can build a better data base from which to track the spread (and hopefully control) of the disease. Our epidemiological systems in the District are woefully lacking.

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

We have made significant progress in the past year in restructuring the Agency on HIV/AIDS, and I will work with the community and advocates in the medical community to ensure that this progress continues to build the professional organization we have lacked for so long.

We are still too tardy in drawing down and spending available federal dollars, and I intend to closely monitor the use of that funding source. I also intend to track spending on programs that should be developed to keep us ahead of the curve in those areas where the pandemic continues to spread - i.e. among teens and heterosexual women. I will continue to press for the inclusion of HIV positive persons in our local Medicaid eligibility expansion through the "1115 waiver" process. Providing HIV positive persons access to preventive pharmaceuticals is a cost-effective investment of health care dollars. I will explore additional local funding dollars after I am confident that we have fully drawn down from the federal well.

10. Do you support continued District government funding for the needle exchange program to combat the spread of AIDS?

Yes, and I will work with Ms. Norton to keep Congress from prohibiting such local funding for a program that is proved effective in reducing the spread of infection.

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

I support legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Marriage is a public sign of commitment to the building of a stable relationship within larger civil and, in some cases, faith communities.

12. Do you support the current District policy, sanctioned by a court rule, of allowing adoptions by unmarried couples?

Yes. I find the recent efforts in Congress in respect to adoption restrictions to be blatantly homophobic, offensive to both home rule prerogatives and civil rights, and an impediment to meeting the great need for caring, competent adoptive parents.

13. Do you support both an increased budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) so that its heavy case backlog can be eliminated, and the re-establishment of OHR as an independent, Cabinet-level agency whose Director has direct access to the Mayor?

Yes, and, after we have hired a swat team to clear the back-log, we need to actively recruit -- with the cooperative efforts of the community -- some assistance in hiring competent and committed managers and staff, and in developing better processes and tracking for complaint resolution. I will also support the reestablishment of the office as an independent agency with direct access to the Mayor.

14. Will you support legislation codifying OHR's current practice of granting top priority to discrimination complaints from those afflicted with AIDS or other life-shortening conditions?

Yes, I will be pleased to introduce legislation codifying the need to grant priority to persons with Aids and other clearly life threatening health conditions in respect tot he resolution of claims. In the case of terminally ill persons, justice delayed is obviously justice denied.

15. 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 fr3equently are aggressively homophobic. Will you oppose any legislation authorizing vouchers for religious schools?

I oppose vouchers for education. I believe that we need to develop a first class public education system that serves all our children in public schools.

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