Community Palette

A Glowing Tribute to Barney Frank

April 25, 2012

There isn’t much to say about Barney Frank (D-MA) that hasn’t already been said but once Barney announced that he is retiring there was an immediate line-up of people wanting to say it all over again and to honor him for his incredible service in Congress. Last night the Stonewall Democrats, the LGBT organization within the Democratic Party, took their turn to honor Barney. It was a memorable evening and the honor came from the organization that Barney helped found in 1998.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Barney will be remembered for many things including Dodd/Frank the bill that begins to set some controls and consumer protections in the financial world. But last night was a celebration of Barney for his leadership and incredible contribution to advancing LGBT rights. I am honored to call Barney a friend and a personal hero as so many others do. He had the key role in moving forward all the legislation that has been passed in recent years including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. For over 30 years he has been a beacon of light for those who have fought for full civil and human rights for the LGBT community. He stood strong and led the way when it wasn’t easy.

Last night celebrated Barney and recognized that not only was he often called the ‘smartest member of Congress’  but was often credited with having both the best and most biting sense of humor. There were video tributes from President Obama and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and personal tributes from a large number of Barney’s friends and colleagues on the Hill. Barney was given credit for leading the way and making it possible for other members of the LGBT community; Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to think of running and win. Tammy suggested that today, because of Barney’s leadership, she is running for Senate in Wisconsin and not being opposed in a Democratic primary. She is being given a better than 50% chance of winning that open Senate seat by all the pundits.  There were many in the crowd who have already reserved the date of January 3, 2013 to celebrate her swearing in as the first open member of the LGBT community to be elected to the Senate.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Barney has been known to not suffer fools gladly and many stories were told about that. Former Speaker Pelosi recently gave an interview and told how she learned to talk ‘Barney Speak’ as she called it. Get to the point and fast. Tammy talked of how she went to interview with Barney when she was first elected to get on the Finance Committee and how the interview was conducted with a newspaper in front of Barney’s face. He was as usual doing two things at once.

During the ceremonies Barney was seen wandering the room, something typical for him and often suggesting boredom with what was going on. When it was his turn to speak he assured the crowd that he wasn’t bored with the evening’s festivities because he felt the ‘topic was truly interesting’. He commented on his reputation for not suffering fools gladly and agreed that was true. But after the 2010 elections brought a bunch of new members to Congress he had made it part of his work to make fools suffer.

Barney will be missed in the halls of Congress but everyone knows he will continue to speak out and work for those who have yet to secure their full civil and human rights. Everyone wished him well and congratulated him on his upcoming 4th of July wedding to his partner Jim.

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Double Life - A Great Read

April 24, 2012

On Monday evening I had the pleasure of co-hosting a book party for Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine to celebrate their book Double Life. Alan and Norman are good friends and Connecticut neighbors of Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, who hosted the event in the Patron’s Lounge in beautiful Harman Hall.

(Photo by: )

The book is a celebration of their life of over 50 years together. Alan was an actor, casting director and then President of Warner Brothers Television. He cast such films as All the President’s Men, the story of Watergate, and was responsible for casting Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee. Robards won an Academy Award for the role. He is also a major force in the success of Linda Lavin having put her hit show Aliceon TV. Norman had a career as an advertising executive and is a successful artist and sculptor. A work of his hangs in Harman Hall. All those of a certain age will remember one of his most recognizable commercials BLACKGLAMA Mink, “What Becomes a Legend Most” which featured such stars as Elizabeth Taylor when people still wore real fur.

Bill McSweeny and Tom Sherwood (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Bill McSweeny and Tom Sherwood

Alan spoke of the reason he and Norman decided to write the book. At a holiday dinner party hosted by Joan Rivers, their neighbor in Connecticut, she went around the table asking each guest what they were most thankful for during the holiday season. Alan remembers one guest saying his new dog, another their good job, and then when it was his turn he just found himself saying he was most grateful for his 50 years with Norman.  He said everyone at the table then started doing the math as to how old they were. It was a time when gay teen suicides were front-page stories and someone suggested to him what an inspiration he and Norman could be to young members of the LGBT community who couldn’t ever see themselves falling in love no less having a 50 year relationship. So the long three year process of writing the book began.

Hillary Rosen and Dorothy McSweeny (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Hillary Rosen and Dorothy McSweeny

I can only say thank you for writing it. It is the story of a love affair and how difficult it was back when they first met, especially in Hollywood, where being gay was something you hid and never talked about. They managed to have successful careers and a wonderful life and are an inspiration to all those who sometimes still think that being part of the LGBT community means they won’t be successful or find love. The book is also catnip for anyone who enjoys some good Hollywood gossip.

Among the guests at the party were Sally Quinn Bradlee, her son Quinn and his beautiful wife, yoga instructor Pari Bradlee. Hillary Rosen, who has been involved in a small political skirmish in recent days looked great and all those like me who have admired the work she has done for many years know exactly what she meant when she spoke out and know that her political astuteness will continue to have a positive impact on the way Americans think. Other guests included Tom Sherwood, Bill and Dorothy McSweeny, and John Hill, retiring Executive Director of the Federal City Council.

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The Mayor vs. the Council Chair

April 22, 2012

A healthy dose of skepticism between the Council and the Mayor’s Office is good but the relationship doesn’t always have to be adversarial and acrimonious.

A big question is what role the Council Chair sees for himself? It often appears that he wants a more adversarial one. It seems that he and his staff are looking to grab headlines rather than working with the Administration to do what is right for the people of the District. Two years ago, the D.C. City Council had one of the highest positive ratings of any legislative body in the nation. That wouldn’t be the case today.

Recently the Council Chair introduced emergency legislation requiring the Mayor to notify council members of any capital budget reprogramming requests of less than $500,000 so they are aware of any funding they lose from projects in their wards and it would give the Council the opportunity to stop the action. The mayor sent a letter “strongly opposed” to the move because it could delay “the timely implementation of projects.” Councilmember Wells wisely warned that the Council was taking an “offensive act” and it may be prudent to take a step back on the action which ultimately the Chairman did and withdrew the proposal on the dais.

The entire dance played out over the supplemental budget was seen by most as a political game. Spending pressures calling for a supplemental budget are not unusual but what everyone needs to recognize is that under Mayor Gray these pressures are at the lowest they have been since the Control Board took over the City’s finances. We are in good financial shape in this City and political gamesmanship is not good government.

The mayor proposed that we pay city workers for the four days they were furloughed last year. He did so because the furloughs went into effect based on indications that the city needed money to balance the budget. Since this turned out not to be the case he wanted to give that money back to the workers. The premise being that is the fair thing to do and that workers will be more responsive to such requests in the future if it is really needed. Some Council members had other things they wanted to do with the money and some even suggested that because some city workers don’t live in the District they shouldn’t get this money. That is absurd. If you are eligible to be hired to work here you should be viewed like every other worker and judged on the job you do not where you live. As of now, this part of the Mayor’s supplemental budget, along with money for D.C. Public Schools and other needed funds has not been passed.

The Council should debate what the Mayor has suggested in his budget but can’t fault him on how he succeeded to bring balance to the District’s budget and ensure that the rainy day fund spent down by the last administration has been replenished.

It is time for the Council Chair to take a step back from the adversarial way he is working with the Administration and move forward rather with a skeptical eye to the future. The Council needs to debate and approve a budget, introduce legislation and continue strong oversight of city agencies. If they focus on those things without all the sturm and drang, they could again gain the public’s confidence and support.


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