- 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?
Charles Allen (D, Ward 6): Oversight responsibility is a key function of the Council and something I have a great deal of experience with. As Policy Director of the DC Primary Care Association, I worked with agencies and health care providers to ensure the city was investing public dollars wisely and implementing smart policies to care for DC residents. As Council staff, I led efforts to hold agencies accountable for delivering quality services, and provided oversight of how they spend our public tax dollars. As a member of the Council, I will challenge agencies to lead with a strong vision, but also spend their budgets wisely.
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?
Allen: Throughout my career, I’ve demonstrated a strong and independent voice. To be successful, I will need to have a collaborative relationship with both the Mayor and my colleagues on the Council. But I will also be an independent voice to represent the residents of Ward 6. I haven’t shied away from the tough decisions or taking on my own political party. I believe that over the last few years, we have seen many of our elected leaders violate the public’s trust. A strong and independent voice is what Ward 6 expects and deserves.
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?
Allen: The District government must enforce the non-discrimination laws, including in shelters and transitional housing. The Office of Human Rights has the authority to investigate discrimination and should use it to ensure discriminatory practices end in shelters and transitional housing. I support the LBGTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2014, which requires homeless service providers to implement best practices for the care of this population and to provide cultural competency training for providers. I also support legislation to amend the Homeless Services Reform Act and District policy to ensure minors are treated as independent individuals and entitled to the right to shelter on cold nights. LGBT youth and minors are more at risk of homelessness, and our laws need to be updated to provide greater protections when those individuals present at a time of need.
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?
Allen: I support the development of employment initiatives aimed at all underemployed populations in the District, including the transgender population, returning citizens, and others who face systemic discrimination. The Department of Employment Services should give preferential treatment to groups that suffer from employment disparities and the District government should not be contributing to illegal discrimination. The Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative is a model for how the District can do better. In addition, I support the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, which requires the Director of the Office of Human Rights to have a demonstrated background in human rights law –- this will help the District better defend the rights of individuals against discrimination. Decreasing unemployment among the transgender community will require a holistic approach that includes transitional housing, job training opportunities, counseling and addiction recovery programs, and drop-in centers for this at-risk population.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Allen: I have stood time and again with the LGBT community not just as a partner, but as a true ally. I was one of only a handful of Ward Democratic presidents to both lead their organization through a successful endorsement vote for the District’s 2009 Marriage Equality effort, and testify in-person before the Council of the District of Columbia to support the legislation. As Council staff, I helped lead the successful effort to pass the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 to protect and defend LGBT youth. As Council staff, I helped lead the successful effort to pass the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, one of the nation’s most progressive laws to protect transgender individuals and remove discriminatory barriers and hurdles to employment, housing, and education. These experiences have put me in the fight alongside the LGBT community and taught me the importance and meaning of standing up as an ally.
For more information on Charles Allen’s campaign, visit charlesallenward6.com.
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