METRO WEEKLY: How important do you think providing oversight is to performing your job as Councilmember, and what will your philosophy be when holding government agencies accountable for policy or spending decisions?
Courtney Snowden (I, At-Large): Oversight is critically important to ensuring that taxpayers are receiving a return on investment and that government is working for all of us. For too long, our city has conducted inadequate or politically motivated oversight that fails to hold DC agencies accountable.
As a member of the Council, my starting point will always begin with one basic question: is our government working efficiently and effectively for all of our city’s residents? I believe to answer that question, the Council must conduct the necessary oversight focused on ensuring the best return on investment for our city’s residents.
MW: The Council is often seen as fluctuating between two extremes: having an overly cozy or overly antagonistic relationship with the mayor. How can you assure voters that you will be an independent voice on the Council, and not beholden to either the mayor, other councilmembers or your political party?
Snowden: My first and most important priority as a member of the D.C. Council will be to serve the more than 645,000 residents who live in this city — not ideologues or a political party. I will be guided and grounded in reason, responsibility, and passion for all who call the District home. I look forward to working with the new mayor and other members of the Council, but I will be guided by my principles and the needs and desires of the voters of the District of Columbia.
MW: Please share your views on how best to address LGBT homelessness, not only for youth, but for adults, families, and senior citizens. What are your proposals for ensuring District shelters are adhering to the nondiscrimination protections in the D.C. Human Rights Act?
Snowden: I believe equality and fairness are core values that make our city great.
In my view, we have to develop a comprehensive approach that recognizes the need to keep communities across the District safe, while providing the services necessary to ensure access to adequate employment opportunities, transitional housing, substance abuse programs, health care, and job training.
As a former SMYAL board member, I have seen too many LGBT youth put out of their homes only to be placed in a foster situation that is rampant with homophobia and abuse. The Wanda Alston House serves an incredibly important role in meeting the housing needs of some, but sadly, the demand continues to be great. I will work tirelessly to expand services and treatment for LGBT homeless youth, seniors, and families, including working to increase transitional housing options and identifying ways to replicate and expand the programs and nonprofits that are doing the work in the community and impacting lives in a positive and transformative way.
In too many instances, the D.C. Council passes legislation with inadequate enforcement. As a member of the Council, oversight and accountability will be one of my top priorities. When elected, I will lead an effort with DOH and DCRA to complete an inventory of shelters not in compliance, and put pressure on those management companies to move swiftly to ensure compliance.
I take great pride in the fact that our city has come so far on issues of equality for the LGBT community, and I am eager to ensure those values are reflected at every level – be it our health insurance, gender neutral bathrooms, relationship recognition, the tax code, or shelters around the city.
Oversight is the one responsibility of the Council that is done very poorly. Not only will I support legislation to ensure nondiscrimination in shelters around the city, but I will also provide the oversight to ensure that the shelters’ management/operators are adhering to the root and letter of the law. Discrimination cannot be tolerated in our city.
MW: What specific recommendations do you have to decrease unemployment among the District’s transgender community and enforce existing laws relating to employment discrimination, both by D.C. government and private businesses?
Snowden: LGBT people, particularly transgender people and transgender people of color, suffer pervasive discrimination and harassment in the workplace and beyond. Despite clear evidence, little has been done to ensure that there is adequate support for these communities. In my view, Project Empowerment has failed the transgender community and failed to provide long-term employment opportunities. It is imperative that it be expanded beyond six months and provide training that prepares trainees for long-term employment opportunities. Likewise, I believe we have to do more to provide better employment options, training, and educational opportunities to alleviate the hard choices that trans-people face. Once individuals find themselves in the criminal justice system, that stigma haunts them, as it relates to identifying employment opportunities. If we do more on the front end of providing access to better options, I believe we can help eradicate many of our communities’ social ills.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Snowden: Over the course of my professional life, I have learned an important lesson — if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu. Come January, the LGBT community may find itself being served up, with no one, who personally has been impacted by its struggle in the most personal way, there to prevent it. We need strong LGBT leaders to stand up and represent our views on the Council, and I’m asking for your vote on November 4th because as a proud member of our city’s LGBT community, I will always stand guard to protect and advance equality for all of us.
For more information on Courtney Snowden’s campaign, visit courtneysnowden.com.
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