Responses of Adrian Fenty to GLAA 2004 Questionnaire
for D.C. Council Candidates
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?
I support providing adequate funding to enable OCCR to conduct its work in a timely manner. It is essential that MPD be responsive to the community while gaining the public trust. I am on record as continually asking MPD to provide better policing in our neighborhoods, and OCCR is an important complement to that work. The vast majority of police officers in the District perform their jobs well and with real dedication. But when individual officers do not follow the rules, they harm the reputation of the entire force, and we must be able to effectively root out any individuals who break the law.
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?
I continue to support mandatory GLBT sensitivity and diversity training for MPD officers and Fire/EMS workers. This training has been in place for several years, but it is all too clear that this training must be strengthened. In 2003 there were several horrific crimes against members of the transgendered community, including one in which a murder victim might have lived with appropriate medical treatment. It is unacceptable for any emergency responder to refuse treatment to anyone, for any reason, including perceived race, creed, gender, color, sexual orientation, or sexual identity.
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?
I have long called for improved Council oversight of the Department of Health. There are a myriad of issues, including lead contamination of our drinking water, the crises surrounding Greater Southeast Community Hospital and DC General, the HIV/AIDS rates, children's immunizations for school attendance, and abysmal Medicaid reimbursement rates, that have challenged the District's Department of Health over the past several years. The Department of Health is undergoing a major revamping in staff, with several key personnel recently replaced. I am hopeful that these staff changes will make a difference, but better Council oversight would help determine solutions to several of these seemingly intractable problems. With stronger Council oversight we have spurred improvements in the performance of several District agencies over the past four years. these agencies include DDOT, DPW, and DMV. It is time to bring the remaining agencies -especially the social service providers-up to speed. Council oversight throughout this process would undoubtedly be improved in a separate committee.
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 I will work to ensure that the Council holds such oversight hearings annually at a minimum. The Council's oversight role is imperative to providing the services the citizens of the District deserve. Given the difficulties faced by the HAA, I would advocate for performance oversight hearings to be held far more often than once a year. For over 6 months in 2004 I attended multiple oversight hearings into the WASA lead contamination issue because the public health was potentially at risk. The District's HIV infection rate clearly calls for similar attention on the part of the Committee on Human Services and the need to focus on the issues which are continually coming to light at HAA.
5. Will you ask the D.C. Inspector General for a full audit of the HIV/AIDS Administration and its contractors?
Yes. I have successfully worked with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) when I called for independent investigations of WASA, the DCPS Watkins Security Contract, and the Video Lottery Terminal initiative. These independent investigations are important components in increasing public awareness of how government operates. The more information that we learn about any particular issue, the better informed citizens and the government are, and the more likely we are to be able to join together to improve the system.
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?
I would like to get more information about this issue. I support completely confidential HIV testing, and I am opposed to any type of harassment based on immigration status. HIV/AIDS is so potentially devastating to the District that we need to do whatever we can to help stop the spread of HIV among District residents.
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. Until the District legislates full marriage rights for all, domestic partner legislation is one step toward helping residents improve their lives by sharing resources with their life partners. Businesses of any size that want to step up and do the right thing by providing domestic partner coverage ought to be able to do so, and to have a choice among a variety of providers. If it takes Council action to get insurance companies to provide a service their customers want, I would certainly welcome a discussion of how to achieve this.
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 support maintaining funding levels and aggressive oversight to ensure that the OHR case backlog continues to drop. As a member of the Council committee that oversees OHR, I am proud of the oversight work we have accomplished to help improve the performance of the Office of Human Rights. Credit is due in large part to my colleague, Jim Graham, and to the improved staff work at OHR. I am confident that the Council's vigorous oversight will continue, rather than wane, as we work to raise the bar for performance among all District agencies. As a Councilmember, one of my goals is to build upon the progress that has been made in improving performance among several agencies, while bringing the rest of the agencies up to speed in providing the level of service the public expects and deserves. I firmly believe that rigorous oversight is the best way to do this.
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?
There is no place for any type of bigotry or discrimination in the District of Columbia.
Defending Our Families
10. Will you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
I am on record as supporting same-sex marriage. In March 2004 the entire Council co-introduced the "Sense of the Council on Opposing a Federal Marriage Amendment Resolution of 2004." That same month I was one of 10 Councilmembers to co-introduce the "Sense of the Council on Recognition of Same Sex Marriages Lawfully Performed in Other States Resolution of 2004." I see no reason to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation, whether the issue is legal status, employment, education, or any other life arena.
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?
Absolutely. The imbalance between rights accorded to legally married individuals as compared to those in legally recognized domestic partnerships is staggering. Although the Council continues to add to the benefits of domestic partnerships - most recently by unanimously enacting the "Deed Recordation Tax and Related Amendments Amendment Act of 2004," which ensures that domestic partners can inherit real property, and the "Health-Care Decisions Act of 2003" which allows domestic partners to make healthcare decisions for their incapacitated partners - it would be far easier to accord all the rights and responsibilities at once instead of the piecemeal approach that has been taken.
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?
I am on record as one of 10 Councilmembers who supported the Sense of the Council legislation to recognize same-sex marriages in March, 2004. District residents lack some of the basic rights afforded to other citizens of the United States - namely full votes in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and I see no reason to deny yet more rights to some of our residents.
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. My firm unwavering opposition to vouchers was well documented during the unfortunately unsuccessful 2003 battle to keep Congress from imposing a federal voucher program on the District. I introduced the "Sense of the Council Opposing a Private School Voucher Program in the District of Columbia Resolution of 2003." Not only would this legislation have announced the Council's opposition to vouchers, but it would have directed the funds in question to go to DC public schools and public charter schools. As I wrote in a letter published by the Washington Post on March 3, 2003 "the District and its schools are underfunded by the federal government and … vouchers would divert limited funds from public education while failing to help most students. Further, a voucher program would rob the public school system of some of its best and brightest pupils -- and some of its most committed parents." I am committed to improving DC Public Schools, and handing funds to private and parochial schools that are rightfully due the public schools is no way to improve achievement.
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?
I oppose the use of either federal or District taxpayer funds to promote "abstinence-only-until-marriage" sex education when these programs undermine broader safe sex programs. I support providing sex education to youth through a variety of programs that promote safer sexual practices. The diverse District population requires a diversity of programs that will help keep our children free of all sexually transmitted diseases. The importance of sex education in the schools is to educate our youth to make well-informed decisions, and when this is the goal, there is no such thing as only one form of education. If DCPS is not providing the level of comprehensiveness required by the Board of Education, the Board and the Council should investigate this matter to determine why rules are not being followed.
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?
I will vote to repeal any laws that are no longer necessary, as I did last year when the Council unanimously passed the "Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2003." However, I would caution my colleagues that we must carefully consider the wording of the legislation we consider so that we do not unintentionally repeal necessary laws, specifically those that outlaw sexual harassment. The question above refers to repealing "laws criminalizing verbal solicitations of legal sexual activity," and I would need to make sure that we do not repeal any laws that are still necessary to protect the rights of all people against unwanted verbal or physical sexual advances. Many activists fought long and hard to outlaw sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, and it is all too imperative that these laws remain on the books.
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.