Community Palette

A Serious Lapse in Personal Responsibility

June 7, 2012

My reaction was sadness and disappointment when I heard about the fraud charges brought against Council Chair Kwame Brown by the U.S. Attorney’s office yesterday. Even though he brought this on himself I felt a certain sadness for his family, but also strong disappointment that another public official had committed a crime that once again took away the focus from all the great things that are going on in the District of Columbia.

I am also constantly amazed that someone like Brown who knowingly committed such an illegal act, believed that he could become a public figure and no one would find out. There is an outsized ego involved in doing that which is hard to comprehend. From discussions I have had in the last twenty-four hours it seems that there may be millions of Americans who have done the same or similar things. But unless you open yourself up to public scrutiny by running for office or trying to get an appointed public position the chances are that you will never face charges regarding these acts.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think all illegal acts shouldn’t be punished. But the fact is that so many go unnoticed because no one is looking for them. In the case of Kwame Brown I have no problem with an example being made of him and he should face the full brunt of the law.

Public officials are and should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen. They make the decision to put themselves out there as role models and ask the public for their trust. When that trust is broken it has widespread repercussions. Think of all the people that supported Mr. Brown in his elections who may now lose faith in or question all future candidates who ask for their support. Think of all the school children that Mr. Brown has spoken to over the years that have had their faith in a public official shattered. They may never think of government in the same way again. Think of Mr. Brown’s staff that will lose their jobs and wonder how they could have been so wrong in believing in their boss’s integrity.

With all this I hope that the residents of the District don’t lose faith in a government that is actually doing really well. Despite the personal transgressions of any Councilmember or campaign staff that may yet be uncovered the District of Columbia is still the envy of so many other states and cities for the progress we have and continue to make in many areas. We are moving forward aggressively with school reform; expanding bicycle lanes; have a long term plan in place for improving the environment; have a restored rainy day fund and balanced budget; have some incredibly talented people working for government including appointees like the new ethics panel the Mayor has just recommended. The District is the number one place that college graduates in the nation would like to locate; MarketWatch again listed us as the best place in the nation to do business; we have billions of dollars being spent and in the pipeline for economic development; and the list goes on and on.

I applaud the U.S. Attorney for carrying out the investigations and hope they will result in rooting out corrupt officials. But let us not forget that these investigations are about elected officials and campaigns and we shouldn’t let them tar the hard working employees of the District who are honest and come to work each day to see that the services we need are provided in a timely, safe and efficient way.



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8 A Play by Dustin Lance Black

June 5, 2012

Monday night at the Woolly Mammoth Theater the play 8 by Dustin Lance Black was presented as a reading. Funding for the evening was provided by Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP. After the reading I was honored to participate in a town hall conversation that included among others Rae Carey (Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (Maryland State Senator and author of the bill that approved marriage-equality in Maryland) and David Catania (DC Councilmember). We talked about and answered questions from the audience on the issues surrounding marriage-equality

To set the scene one must know that this play is about the trial that followed the election in November 2008 when the people of California  approved Proposition 8, voting to re-write their constitution to ban marriage for gay and lesbian citizens. The Supreme Court then blocked plans to broadcast the trial live but they couldn’t stop the transcript from getting out.

The play centers on the 12 days of testimony in January 2010 that drew crowds to the California courtroom as well as millions who followed the trial online. What you see is the testimony, the witnesses, and hear the words that the proponents of Proposition 8 fought hard to keep from public view.

The Woolly Mammoth received permission to do the reading from the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact, In 2012 they will license and coordinate the staged readings of 8 on campuses, and in University, community and regional theaters across the nation. For anyone who has an interest in the issues surrounding marriage-equality and the issues that opponents raise, or as this trial shows, fail to raise, this is a must see event.

Woolly worked with other area theaters to stage the reading and asked Alan Paul of the Shakespeare Theatre to direct. Actors from their own company like Emily Townley (who played Maggie Gallagher from the National Organization for Marriage, (NOM) to perfection), and others like the brilliant Holly Twyford (who played Kris Perry one of the plaintiffs in the case), and Tom Story (who played Dr. Ilan Meyer) participated in the reading. The play is interspersed with the replaying of commercials that the proponents of Proposition 8 used to win. They focused on scaring parents about the impact that marriage-equality would have on children. What is so fascinating is that only one of the people who were the major proponents of passing Proposition 8 in the commercials was willing to testify at the trial because all their ‘facts’ couldn’t withstand the scrutiny of cross examination. They were all lies.

What makes this play so relevant now to people in the DC Metro area is that those commercials and the lies about what impact marriage-equality has on children and heterosexual marriage will be played out again this fall in Maryland. Maggie Gallagher and NOM will once again spread their lies and try to convince the people of Maryland to vote down marriage-equality. Those lies will be retold in millions of dollars of commercials and unless enough money is raised to get the truth out Maryland could be another state that rejects civil and human rights for gays and lesbians.

If you are interested in your theater group putting on a reading of 8 you can go online to Information on the fight for marriage-equality in Maryland and the chance to make a donation can be found online at

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Metro TeenAIDS 19th Annual Auction at The Embassy of Italy June 7th

May 14, 2012

Join Metro TeenAIDS for a fun evening on June 7th at the Embassy of Italy as they honor House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who will help raise funds to support the youth of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Metro TeenAIDS is the leading community health organization solely dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS. There is nothing more important that we can do than educate our young people about this terrible disease. Metro TeenAIDS does this through their programs of support and advocacy work to prevent the spread of HIV.

Some facts you may not know are that Washington, D.C. has one of the highest AIDS rates in the country but comparatively few of those infected are getting the treatment they need. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 infected young people live in the Washington, D.C. area and yet only about 100 of them are receiving medical care. Across the nation, half of all new HIV infections occur among people under the age of 25 and as many as one third of all HIV-infected young people do not know they carry the virus.

With so much ignorance, and such limited healthcare, young people face the highest risk of infection. They live in a culture that heightens those risks. We know that adolescents tend to distrust adults who could help them, yet face intense pressure to become sexually active at an early age.

All this is why the work of Metro TeenAIDS is so important. For 20 years they have provided education programs and prevention resources to well over 200,000 young people, family members, and youth workers. They work to responsibly provide innovative, science-based, effective education on HIV prevention, care, and related issues. They provide comprehensive, culturally competent, and age-appropriate counseling; positive youth development programming; and linkages to treatment services to youth who are either affected or infected by HIV.

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At the Embassy of Italy on June 7th you will meet some of the people working the hardest to care for the youth of the District of Columbia and support their work. You can bid on items including dinners at great restaurants; special wines provided by Estadio; and trips to Puerto Rico and the use of a great vacation home on the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres. Or bid on an invitation for you and three guests to a taping of Inside Washington hosted by Gordon Peterson.

Plan to join Nancy Pelosi and the Italian Ambassador, His Excellency Claudio Bisogniero, as he welcomes Metro TeenAIDS to the embassy. Your donations will help them expand their advocacy program and increase the capacity of young people to educate decision makers, policy makers, and funders about HIV and encourage their support for policies that promote HIV prevention and care services. Help Metro TeenAIDS continue their mission which is providing the highest level of service to the community to prevent future HIV/AIDS cases and care for those who are ill today.

To join Nancy Pelosi and Metro TeenAIDS on June 7th you can buy your tickets here or call 202.543.8246.


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