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?
Anita Bonds (D, At-Large): Through the oversight process, I believe the government can be held accountable to the laws passed by the council and regulations promulgated by the executive. Oversight is an important aspect of the legislative process. Once we put our signatures on a bill, agencies have the responsibility to implement and follow the law. Proper and continuous oversight confirms that agencies adhere to this process and is necessary to ensure that services are delivered as designed through legislation.
While it’s understood the agencies intend to perform in accordance with the law, I believe investigation and regular monitoring of agency operations are most valuable in assuring great service delivery to the residents of the District of Columbia.
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?
Bonds: My goal on the council is to represent the will of the people of D.C. Particularly, I am focused on results and removing barriers, to allow all D.C. residents public services, resolution of issues, and a quality of life. I have worked to eliminate waste and duplicative services in government, hold service providers accountable, and support efficiency in service delivery.
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?
Bonds: I have authored or co-introduced numerous affordable housing bills since joining the council in December 2012, of which the focus has been on housing for all in accordance to one’s income. Housing affordability needs stretch across the spectrum of populations. High rents and property values do not discriminate. The lack of affordable housing is the most important issue facing the District of Columbia — it has forced many working residents into homelessness. I fully supported spending over $100 million dollars in the budget to boost the Local Rent Supplement Fund and the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Also, I authored the recent law that eliminated property taxes for long-standing residents on fixed incomes. However, the bill’s funding was reduced in the FY 2015 cycle to allow for tax cuts to senior renters and residents across the board.
I recognize that housing specific for the LGBT population has worked in other jurisdictions and would like to replicate that success, especially for older individuals interested in LGBT retirement homes or villages.
Concerning homeless LGBTQ youth, I was proud to co-sponsor the “LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2013,” which mandates the counting of homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ and directs additional funds to programs that assist the youth in obtaining housing, wrap-a-round social services, and employment. I also have an ongoing working relationship with the Wanda Alston House Foundation (named after my former employee in the Anthony Williams administration). Members of my staff and I are currently working with the foundation to open a second location for more space for our homeless LGBTQ youth.
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?
Bonds: Unemployment of transgender people and youth remains unacceptably high. We must redouble our efforts and build upon the successes of programs like Casa de Ruby and the DOES job training initiative to offer alternatives to those that have been marginalized from society or those who resort to sex work to survive.
Mayor Vincent Gray is to be commended for establishing the nation’s first job training and placement program for transgender residents. Not only does the program offer needed skills and training for employment but it sends a clear, affirming message to our trans population that we accept and value their participation in government and society. However, the District Government needs to build on this successful beginning and proactively seek and employ qualified transgender individuals. Every agency and the DC Council should commit to transgender affirmative action goals. I am committed to doing all I can towards enforcing the District’s laws against discrimination wherever they may appear.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Bonds: In the 1970s I joined progressives in fighting Anita Bryant to allow gay teachers to remain in their jobs. This was a big deal then. I attended my first Gertrude Stein Democrats meeting in 1978 and have remained committed to expanding LGBTQ equality since. As an ANC commissioner, I was an active proponent of the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” while it was under consideration of passage. As Chair of ANC5C, I led my commission in support of the Act through a resolution in favor of marriage equality. As Chair of the DC Democratic Party I established the LGBT Caucus on the DC Democratic State Committee, allowing greater diversity in ideas and engagement. I’ve fought my entire adult life to end discrimination as a civil rights and women’s right’s activist and naturally, I aligned this commitment to advancing Democratic principles and expanding LGBTQ equality. Love is Love.
For more information on Anita Bonds’s campaign, visit anitabonds.com.
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