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Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
Tuesday, January 4, 2005
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GLAA HAILS COUNCIL CREATION OF HEALTH COMMITTEEAction Caps 2-Year GLAA Campaign for Stronger Oversight of Health Department
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) has praised the D.C. Council’s decision to break up the former Committee on Human Services and to create a new Committee on Health.
The reorganization of the Council’s committee system marked a successful conclusion to a campaign that GLAA has spearheaded since December 2002, when President Kevin Davis first sent a letter to Council Chairman Linda Cropp urging this step. Unfortunately, the Council failed to act to GLAA’s recommendation at the start of the 2003-04 legislative session.
“The former Council Committee on Human Services was clearly overwhelmed by having jurisdiction over two mammoth agencies -- the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health -- that together account for one-quarter of the District’s annual budget,” noted GLAA spokesperson Rick Rosendall. “What got lost in the shuffle was effective oversight of the Health Department.”
From GLAA’s perspective, the lack of meaningful Council supervision was especially acute in the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA), where former Director Ron Lewis presided over a long series of miscues and blunders even while enjoying the unwavering support of the former Chair of the Human Services Committee, Sandy Allen, whose bid for re-election was decisively rejected in last September’s Democratic primary.
GLAA made the creation of a separate Committee on Health one of its high priority issues in the 2004 races for the City Council. GLAA’s comprehensive Agenda: 2004 devoted more attention to Health Department and HAA problems than to any other single subject. GLAA’s questionnaire specifically asked all Council candidates whether they would support the establishment of a Health Committee. Once the general election was over, GLAA sent another letter to Chairman Cropp reiterating its request.
“The Williams Administration has wisely brought in new leadership at both the Department of Health and HAA,” remarked Rosendall, referring to the Mayor’s recent appointments of Dr. Gregg A. Pane and Lydia L. Watts as chiefs of the Health Department and HAA, respectively. “The Council’s creation of a new Health Committee complements the Administration’s initiative. The fact that the new committee will be chaired by openly gay Councilmember David Catania, who has a well-earned reputation for aggressive oversight and who has long been critical of mismanagement in HAA and the Health Department, provides ample grounds for further encouragement.”
Rosendall noted that many private health agencies in the District offered GLAA moral support through the last two years for its campaign to create a separate Council Health Committee. However, few such agencies were willing to take that stance publicly for fear of antagonizing Councilmember Allen, who strongly opposed breaking up her Human Services Committee.
“We have to give a lot of credit to Council Chairman Linda Cropp,” Rosendall said. “As she realized that Health Department problems were allowed to fester for too long, in part because of a lack of strong Council oversight, she did the right thing and proposed the reorganization plan that the new Council formally approved Monday.”