- The Magazine
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?
Brianne Nadeau (D, Ward 1): The District is known as a place that leads on progressive policy, but what we have not traditionally been good at is fully implementing these laws. That’s where oversight comes in. What interests me most about the role of councilmember is the opportunity to work closely with agencies to ensure they have the proper resources and that they are functioning effectively. That doesn’t require an adversarial relationship between the Council and the agencies it oversees. My approach is to build trust with those administering our many government programs and work closely with them to ensure they are serving the residents and businesses well. Being tough when holding people accountable for the work they do is an essential part of the job, but it needs to be balanced with being fair, fostering dialogue and providing the resources needed to get work done.
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?
Nadeau: I have strong relationships with the top mayoral candidates, as well as the current members of the Council, and I see that as an important starting point for the ability to exert my own opinions and rely on my own experiences serving the District. Because, when you have strong relationships, you can respectfully disagree without concern for your ability to accomplish things in the long term. From my time on the ANC I have a reputation as someone who works hard, listens well, says what needs to be said, and does what it takes to get things done. That won’t change on the Council.
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?
Nadeau: As a SMYAL ally, I have had the opportunity to better understand the distinct issues faced by LGBT youth. As councilmember, I would support more funding and organizational partnerships to serve this population with counseling services, health care, housing, educational resources, and job training and placement. We must fund counseling and transitional housing services for those who have been kicked out of their homes, or who cannot find work or make ends meet due to discrimination in the workplace. Those at risk may include youth, transgender people or even seniors who are not well-served by traditional low-income senior housing. We must tackle this issue for those of all ages and begin to think more creatively about long-term supportive housing for the LGBT community, as we simultaneously tackle bullying in the schools and employment discrimination as well as provide better access to education and employment.
LGBT couples should be eligible for the same Medicaid benefits as any other couple, while spousal impoverishment protections are essential in ensuring members re and more people in the District of Columbia are choosing to age in place, and ensuring that adequate support services, affordable housing, as well as accessible recreational space and programming, are availableof the LGBT community are not flung into poverty as they age. Mo allows more people to do that. This type of independence is especially important for the LGBT community as a way of preventing the phenomenon of LGBT seniors being forced back into the closet as they are placed in senior living communities that are not LGBT-friendly.
The Office of Human Rights must be provided with the proper resources to fully investigate any instances of discrimination in homeless shelters, which is all the more urgent now that winter is once again upon us and there are plans to reconfigure our shelters.
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?
Nadeau: The DC Government must reflect the diversity of its residents and provide equal opportunity for people of all backgrounds, and it should model diversity for other employers. Our hiring practices should take into consideration the most vulnerable or underemployed populations in our communities.
The current rate of Transgender employment in the DC government is abysmal, which is a reflection of the current hiring culture and the reason for the low placement rate of groups such as Project Empowerment grads. The DC government must be inclusive and model the District’s population at every level of government. As councilmember, my own office would model the diversity of Ward 1 and I would use my oversight and legislative roles to work with each agency and ensure that our government offices are striving for comprehensive workforce diversity -– not just symbolic hiring from diverse populations –- reflecting that of the District population.
Similar to my thoughts on OHR in the discussion about homeless shelters, the Department of Employment Services must also be given the proper resources, and perhaps even reconfigured in a way that better serves our transgender community.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Nadeau: I have been an ally from a young age, but as an elected official, being an ally is not enough. Our LGBT community, and in particular our transgender community, needs a champion. I will be there, fighting for full employment, access to healthcare and every other human right guaranteed by our laws. I have received support from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and many local leaders in the LGBT community, and I am proud to have that support. I hope to have the opportunity to serve.
For more information on Brianne Nadeau’s campaign, visit briannefordc.com.
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