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?
Graylan Scott Hagler (I, At-Large): The Council passes legislation and then uses oversight to ensure that the legislation is implemented as intended, and hence we can’t have one without the other. That being said, it is important for the Council to focus on the direction of the agency — i.e., the big picture — and not get bogged down in micromanagement.
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?
Hagler: I have been very much involved with issues before the Mayor and the Council for the 23 years I’ve lived in the District. Over that time, I have made no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, but I’ve have worked for the permanent goal of improving the life of all the residents of the District. I intend to keep it that way.
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?
Hagler: As I said in my platform, I will work for a safe, stable home for all DC residents by investing in preserving and renovating Public Housing, ensuring “affordable housing” policies provide opportunities for lowest income residents, and building low-barrier transitional housing to end homelessness in DC.
At present, LGBT people suffer discrimination in homeless shelters both by the staff and, often, by other clients as well. The DC Government and shelter providers must enforce LGBT nondiscrimination policies and ensure that all clients are protected. I plan to work with LGBT communities to ensure that there are people from those communities staffing shelters, so we have even more eyes and ears standing up for the rights of marginalized people. If this doesn’t work, the District should provide separate shelters for LGBT people.
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?
Hagler: President Obama signed an executive order banning LGBT discrimination among Federal workers and contractors, and the DC Council should pass a similar ban. Once it is in place, I will work hard to ensure that it is enforced.
First, it’s essential that we work to ensure that educational opportunities are available and welcoming across the spectrum for trans* residents. Whether it’s UDC-CC programs, or ensuring that LGBT students are getting their social and education needs met in high school, we need to make educational attainment as accessible as possible for all people in the District.
Additionally, I think that programs like DOES’s Project Empowerment are powerful tools — even if it didn’t generate the results that many hoped for, it is critical that we create trans* specific job-training and placement programming that take into consideration the specific needs faced by the trans community in the District.
Another core problem, however, is that there aren’t enough good jobs. It’s critical that we work to raise wages, and last year I led the movement that resulted in raising the DC minimum wage to $11.50/hour over a few years. This was a national breakthrough, and led to cities all over the country raising their own minimum wage. Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego are now the leaders, looking toward a $15 minimum a few years out. We should raise the minimum again, to $15 if not more (adjusted for inflation), with the minimum for tipped workers at least 70 percent as much. In addition, we should increase the number of jobs by vigorously enforcing the laws requiring the hiring of DC residents and require that public safety officers be DC residents.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
Hagler: Last year, my 92-year old father told me that he intended to vote in favor of gay marriage in Maryland. He explained “I’ve been discriminated against all my life and I’m not going to start discriminating against other people now.” I’m also against discrimination of all kinds, and will fight to eradicate discrimination against the LGBT community. I’ve been leading an LGBT affirming church for 23 years, and was performing same-sex marriages in the 1980s, before the vast majority of my colleagues had begun to consider it. I have been a committed ally in the LGBT struggle for justice.
For more information on Graylan Scott Hagler’s campaign, visit haglerfordc.net.
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