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?
Kenyan McDuffie (D, Ward 5): Providing oversight is one of the most important responsibilities of a councilmember. Through public hearings and roundtables, agencies need to be prepared to not only answer to the Council, but to residents of the District of Columbia as well. As Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, I have been responsible for holding 30 agencies and commissions with a budget of over $1 billion accountable. I am proud of the work our committee has accomplished in our oversight capacity, and my record demonstrates that agencies are held to the fire when it comes to both policy and spending decisions.
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?
McDuffie: I believe it is important to establish a cordial and respectful relationship with your colleagues on the Council, as well as the mayor, in order to improve the quality of life for every resident of the District of Columbia. Shortly after being sworn in, my colleagues voted for me to become Chairman Pro Tempore, the Vice Chair. In addition, I have had the privilege of working with the mayor on several important initiatives, including our Bloomingdale and Ward 5 Industrial Land Transformation Task Forces, increased funding for affordable housing, and paid family leave.
Make no mistake that, although I have enjoyed a good working relationship with the mayor and my colleagues on the Council, I remain beholden only to the residents of Ward 5 and the District of Columbia as a whole. Over the past 25 months, I have tackled challenging issues, which speak to my independence, such as campaign finance reform and government accountability.
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?
McDuffie: The needs of our LGBTQ homeless are unique, which is why I co-sponsored the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2013 (and 2012). I support offering a full spectrum of housing services, including services tailored to reach our LGBTQ homeless population. It is critical that we also put in place competency training for homeless service providers and collect data specifically on LGBTQ homelessness in order to address any discriminatory practices.
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?
McDuffie: Our trans population faces chronic underemployment and are often subject to employment discrimination. I was pleased to see that Project Empowerment was tailored to trans-individuals, but I believe there is more that can be done. I would be pleased to work with our trans community leaders and advocates on a plan to focus on hiring under-represented populations.
As Chair of the Committee, which has oversight of the Office of GLBT Affairs, I will continue to seek ways to improve our city’s response to suspected discriminatory claims. As a legislator, I will continue to make certain that our Office of Human Rights has the resources necessary to ensure that discriminatory practices are thoroughly investigated and suspects are held properly accountable.
MW: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
McDuffie: As a member of the Council, I have developed a strong voting record in support of the LGBTQ community. I publicly supported marriage equality as a candidate in 2010 and 2012. I am a member of the Human Rights Campaign and Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. One of the most important issues I faced at the Department Of Justice was protecting inmates from harm, particularly LGBT inmates who were being sexually assaulted. As a former advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, I worked with the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, MPD, and GLOV to address the violent attacks against transgender residents. I co-sponsored the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2013, and voted in favor of the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013. As Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, my committee has oversight over the Office of GLBT Affairs and the Advisory Committee to the Office of GLBT Affairs. I am honored to work side-by-side with members of the LGBT community to ensure that all of our residents’ concerns are voiced and represented.
For more information on Kenyan McDuffie’s campaign, visit kenyanmcduffie.com.
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