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?
Robert White (I, At-Large): Oversight will be one of my top Council priorities. Government oversight is an area in which I have significant experience having performed this as Counsel to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. In fact, I will borrow a Congressional practice of conducting periodic Waste, Fraud and Abuse hearings to ensure agency efficiency and accountability. As a member of the Council, I will exercise great prudence in obligating and overseeing the use of public money. My spending decisions will prioritize social needs and investments for the long-term health of our city and 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?
White: Throughout my campaign, I have been clear about my goals to prioritize improving our schools, creating housing that people can afford, and creating jobs, and my core values of integrity, stewardship and compassion. Because many of the people priced out of our city include my family, I cannot stray from my purpose or principles. To the extent that the incoming mayor and other members of the Council are serious about addressing core issues in our city, I will be an ally. To the extent they are not, I will be a strong, opposing voice.
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?
White: I continue to be heartbroken at the prevalence of homeless LGBT people. Its roots include youth who are kicked out of their homes by non-affirming families, adults whose families have disassociated from them, high school dropouts resulting from bullying, and housing discrimination, including at senior and assisted living facilities, among other causes. We have to address all of these issues at their sources, including family counseling, sensitivity training for teachers and senior housing staff, amending the Fair Housing Act to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and stronger enforcement of existing laws to protect against discrimination. On the Council, I will be a champion for these issues.
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?
White: With transgender people unemployed at a rate of ten times the national average, we have to take affirmative steps to ensure that we are both employing transgender people and setting the appropriate example for other employers. The DC government must set the example by hiring transgender applicants, but we must also fund career-training programs. To better protect against employment discrimination within DC government, we must exercise stronger oversight from the Council and through the Office of the Inspector General. I also will work with our newly elected Attorney General to decrease employment discrimination from private employers.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
White: We must elect an At-Large candidate who is committed to the LGBT community and who has a track record of hard work and results. That is what I bring to this race. As Legislative Counsel to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, I spent many years working to defend the rights and privileges of the LGBT community. Specifically, I worked directly with Congresswoman Norton and advocates to defend and protect the District’s Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 from being overturned by Congress. Before and during my campaign, I have worked to show leadership on issues affecting the LGBT community, and, with your vote, you will see this commitment on the Council as well.
For more information on Robert White’s campaign, visit robertwhiteatlarge.com.
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