Jim Graham: responses to GLAA questionnaire

Responses of Jim Graham to
GLAA 1998 Questionnaire for Council Candidates

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?

Oversight. Oversight. Oversight. In fourteen years as Executive Director of the Whitman Walker Clinic, we have grown from an annual budget of $280,000.00 to $21 million. In those 14 years, I have never missed a payroll, bounced a check or submitted an unbalanced budget to my Board of Directors. With two more balanced budgets the Financial Authority

must, by law, cease to exist. This fall, the voters will elect a new Mayor and possibly three new councilmembers. Should I be fortunate enough to be elected as the Ward One councilmember, I feel that my background will speak volumes to my vision for the 21st century: i.e. a revitalized city where crime, poverty, and substance abuse are at record lows, where trust in our elected officials is at an all time high and where the city can regain its international allure as a warm and welcoming destination.

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 that routinely plague the District governmentís administration. What will you do to improve the Councilís performance of its oversight responsibilities?

For too many years, our elected officials have failed us miserably. Passing unbalanced budgets, protecting sacred COW programs, turning deaf ears on constituents and in general, inviting the Congress in to run the city since we refuse to do it ourselves. For six years, I served as a staff member to Sen Abe Ribicoffís Governmental Affairs Committee. I know what constitutes effective oversight and the endless cable TV hearings is not it! One of the most effective and viable tools for effective oversight is the broad use of supoena powers. Furthermore, I will have no compulsion to insist that witnesses will be sworn in, and thus be held liable for charges of perjury should they mislead or outright lie to the Council. Lastly, emboldened by this power, I would actively seek to prosecute anyone accused of perjury.

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"?

Yes. In 1996 the Council dismantled the CCRB. This was done for two reasonsóit was a budget item that a majority of the Council felt was easy to eliminate, but more importantly, the Council knew the Board, as structured, was ineffective. No one among us can deny the importance of effective civilian participation in the police review process nor can any among us deny the need that in this diverse city of ours, gays & lesbians must be included.

I am glad that Bill 12-521 passed this summer and I will continue to work with Councilman Catania, GLAA, the ACLU and others to identify sources of funding for the first year costs of this program and work with my colleagues on the Council to fund it in future years as well.

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?

Yes. Having been in recovery for 21 years, I know that the "Chardonnay Lady" case is not about drinking, but was a flagrant attempt for a failed Chief of Police to shore up his quickly dwindling support, at whatever cost, under the guise of "zero tolerance." Itís truly sad that the MPD employed an arcane law that was primarily designed for "eminent domain"along Massachusetts Avenue NW in the event of street widening to disrupt people who seek to enjoy their own property.

In an apparent effort to bolster his standing with some segments of the District community, the recently Ė 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?

Yes. When a city starts policing its small businesses with inane rules such as a proportion of sales, it might as well put up a sign on the DC side of Chevy Chase Circle that says, "Would the last person to leave the city, please turn off the lights." Living in the heart of Adams Morgan, I am all too aware of the pitfalls of being a small businessperson. The last thing this city needs is a "content police" to judge what is and what isnít adult material. Scarce tax dollars should be spent on pressing urban problemsónot ones that are the made up whims of self-important bureaucrats.

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

Yes. As long as such establishments are designated solely in nonresidential commercial areas.

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

Yes. I was truly disheartened last week when the Initiative failed to qualify for ballot access. Wayne Turner has my pledge of support when his case goes to trial. I strongly support legalizing marijuana for medical uses and was appalled at the attempts to defeat California Prop 209 in 1996. The use of our courts to block the enactment can only hurt thousands of people who suffer from AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other debilitative diseases. I regret that the realities of a Republican controlled Congress do not make it possible for the enactment of a National program.

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 for HIV. Will you oppose such legislation in the District?

Yes. There is a very legitimate need for good epidemiological data regarding the AIDS epidemic. I think that we achieve the same goals as this NY law by using a "unique identifier" system of identifying our caseloads. I also donít see the purpose of mandatory contract tracing of anyone unless we can guarantee that those very same people will have the health care and medications that they will invariably need.

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

Yes. With the help of many people, I have worked hard to build one of the finest AIDS responses in the United States. We can all take pride in that accomplishment. AIDS services and prevention will remain a high priority if the people of Ward One see fit to elect me to represent them on the Council. Indeed, this city, like most in the United States, has failed to muster the will to marshal the resources to do what could have been done to stop the spread of AIDS. I was involved when there were few cases. Now there are 20,000 in the Metro area. There would have been more if we had not done what we did. But we must develop and fund new, extensive and effective prevention efforts with particular emphasis on youth.

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

Yes. Civil marriage between partners of the same sex is one of the last barriers in our civil rights movement. I have long held that two people should have the right to declare their lifelong commitment to each other. In addition to the important benefits of mutual love, support and companionship, civil marriage has many very tangible economic and social benefits which will help promote stability in our society. All good things which lesbian & gay couples should certainly share in as equal citizens of our nation.

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

Yes. I have been a champion in fighting for District funding for the needle exchange program. Whitman Walker Clinic in fact has been at the forefront of providing information about clean needle exchange programs to Congresswoman Norton, Congressmen Moran and Wynn and others, in the fight against Congressional intervention on this issue. We must do all in our power to reduce the incidence of HIV transmission Ė yhis program is one important part of that.

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

Wholeheartedly, Yes. More support is needed for adoptions of children in and by our community. Should there be restrictions of any type they should, of course, apply equally across the board, without regard to the sexual orientation of the prospective parents, nor to the notion that a piece of paper, recognizing the "legality of the relationship. Unlike Newt Gingrich, I believe that children belong in a loving home, rather than languishing in foster care or in institutions. Many couples, both straight as well as gay are now proving every day how capable they are to the most important task of raising children. I will work with the community to fight Congressional interference on this issue.

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

Yes and Yes. OHR must be separated from the Office of Minority Business Development.

OHR must seek, especially in light of the Cityís financial condition all federal funds that are available to process cases. These funds would allow the City to hire needed investigators who can process back logged cases. I support mandatory mediation at OHR before an investigation is launched into a complaint and support the current policy of giving automatic priority is granted to complaints involving allegations of HIV/AIDS discrimination.

Will you support legislation codifying OHRís practice of granting top priority to discrimination complaints from those afflicted with AIDS or other life shortening conditions?

Yes. I am not about to turn my back on people with AIDS or other life threatening conditions should I be elected to represent the residents of Ward One as a member of the City Council. Not only will I support such legislation, I will introduce it.

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?

Yes. Our tax dollars should not go to hate academies run by Pat Robertson or Louis Farrakhan. Legislation to authorize vouchers for religious schools would almost certainly be a death knell for the public school system. I believe there is a real value to the commonality of experience that kids get in the public school system and learning about the diversity of the real world. I am a product of public schools and I know they can work. We have a system that is broken. It must Ė and can be fixed. Arlene Ackerman has been on the job (as Superintendent ) for less than a year. Recently, the Washington Post ran an extensive article that gave high praise for this yearsí summer school session. This should not have received the play that it did. We should not applaud that which is expected.

Lastly, as Eleanor Holmes Norton said of vouchers last week, " this is a bill that has become an excuse for indulging the controversial, social and financial whims of some members [of the House] that is unfair to you, unfair to me, and unfair to DC residents. Should any legislation be introduced during my term of office, I will not only oppose it, I will aggressively lobby against it.

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