Editorial, The Washington Blade 09/06/02
GLAA responds to Blade on candidate ratings
GLAA ratings: fair and nonpartisan
By Bob Summersgill
The editorial in the September 6 issue of the Washington Blade suggests that the ratings for Mayor Anthony Williams and Councilmember Jim Graham by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance were based on just a couple of issues.
In fact, our ratings flow from a careful, non-partisan process in which we evaluate candidates on their questionnaire answers and their records on a range of gay issues. We have been doing this for thirty years.
Our ratings are not on a scale of 0 to 10 as implied, but -10 to +10. On this scale, the Mayor's +3.5 rating, while mediocre, is far from the worst. In fact, the Mayor was rated higher than any other Democratic mayoral candidate. His rating was not based solely on his disagreements with us on domestic partnerships and the proposed Office of GLBT Affairs. The latter had little effect.
A big factor was his record on HIV and AIDS. Williams promoted Ron Lewis to Deputy Director of Health without hiring a replacement Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA). Williams denied that Lewis is effectively his own boss, leaving a 68 million-dollar agency with a part-time director. For over a year, the administration failed to respond fully to GLAA's Freedom of Information Act request on what funds are being used for what purposes and by which service providers.
HAA published a religious tract titled "The Christian Response to AIDS," clearly violating the First Amendment. DOH accepted a federal grant to provide abstinence-only education, which will teach that condoms are bad and that only sex within marriage is appropriate, which excludes gays.
After the Mayor agreed with GLAA in opposing names-based HIV reporting, Ron Lewis implemented a system that violates the purpose of the unique identifier approach by using part of the social security number -- and falsely inflated the cost of implementing corrective legislation proposed by Councilmember Mendelson.
Williams ignored GLAA's concerns after he nominated Ronnie Few as Fire/EMS chief two years ago, and stuck by Few long after his incompetence became clear. Few implemented a grooming policy that violates both the First Amendment and the "personal appearance" category of the Human Rights Act, which protects not only Muslims and Rastafarians but transgenders. The administration continues to defend the policy even after losing in court. Fire/EMS has also taken far too long to reinstitute sensitivity training.
We are generally pleased with Mayor Williams' police department, where Chief Charles Ramsey's regular meetings with our community and establishment of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (which needs more staff) have been a breath of fresh air. We oppose the administration-supported ban on officers moonlighting as security guards at clubs, and we are impatient at the delays in instituting sensitivity training for veteran officers. The need for this training was made clear in June when two sergeants did nothing in response to criminal threats that were made against a gay cop by another cop in their presence.
We were pleased with the efforts of former Office of Human Rights director Charles Holman in reducing the case backlog, but Williams recently fired Holman suddenly with no explanation. The Office of Corporation Counsel took over a year to settle the Tyra Hunter case after Williams told them to do so, and they have consistently tried to undermine the Human Rights Law.
Williams also submitted a lackluster questionnaire. Compare his weak responses with those of Statehood-Green candidate Steve Donkin, Councilmembers Ambrose and Catania, or with his own from 1998, when he earned an 8. (All questionnaires and our "Agenda: 2002" briefing paper are available online at www.glaa.org.)
With regard to Councilmember Graham, our rating reflects not "ire" but an assessment of his record and commitments on our issues. He earned almost the maximum record points, but failed to provide adequate substance to his questionnaire responses, answering nothing but "yes" to six questions. Mr. Graham is familiar with our essay requirement, having earned a +10 rating in 1998. If his proposed Office of GLBT Affairs were our only disagreement, and his questionnaire were more impressive, he could have received a +9.5. Still, his +7.5 is a very good rating.
Considering GLAA's ratings of +10 for David Catania and Sharon Ambrose, +9 for Kathy Patterson, +7.5 for Phil Mendelson, and +7.5 for mayoral candidate Steve Donkin, our non-partisan fairness should be clear.
Some may be satisfied with good intentions, proclamations and patronage, but GLAA looks at the details of laws and regulations and their implementation. If the results of our well-tested process are uninspiring, please do not blame the messenger.
Bob Summersgill is President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.