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Mayor Nickels holds roundtable with LGBT community
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Mayor Nickels holds roundtable with LGBT community

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels met with Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities and executives from a number of LGBT organizations to discuss issues of importance for the Gay community on July 22.

The afternoon meeting at City Hall included representatives from PFLAG, Lambert House, LLAA, Gay City, and GSBA, to name a few. Major discussion took place in a roundtable format relating to the establishment of an LGBT Action Agenda, ensuring LGBT presence in the Chief of Police selection process, human services budget priorities, travel and tourism, and the mayor's influence in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which Nickels chairs.

"This is a good opportunity to learn what's going on in the LGBT community," Nickels said at the beginning of the meeting.

The mayor plays a vital role in the everyday lives of LGBT Seattleites. The executive office decides, among other things, budgets for vital human services funding, selects a police chief, and can assist with preserving nonprofits and neighborhoods. A close working relationship with the mayor's office is critical to ensure that LGBT citizens are served in the best possible manner.

Although anyone can contact the mayor and City Council members regarding issues affecting the LGBT community, meetings such as the July 22 one foster a focused effort.

A proposed community Action Agenda is a process where the city will bring stakeholders together to work on specific issues affecting the community. Some examples of issues might be infrastructure needs of LGBT service organizations - such as a new LGBT Community Center, a topic brought up time and again during the meeting - community safety plans, and specific mechanisms to support LGBT business.

"The concept works well and brings the community together," Nickels said. "We need to define goals and get people together to begin work."

According to Nickels, a similar effort is being done in South Park with the Latino community, and seems to be working well.

The mayor spoke at length to each organization about City of Seattle funding. He said funding would not be cut in regards to public safety and in most human services, such as HIV/AIDS funding for nutrition programs.

In particular, he seemed concerned about the absence of city funding for Lambert House, saying, "We aren't serving the youth as well as we should."

In 2008, the Seattle LGBT community lost three major organizations: the LGBT Community Center, Verbena and Seattle Black Pride. The commission said there is a need to increase the infrastructure of the organizations to ensure the community has the services it needs to stay strong and vital.

GSBA Executive Director Louise Chernin called for the need of city money to build a new LGBT Community Center that would serve the community with the typical services offered at traditional centers. She mentioned flourishing centers in a list of cities, but not in Seattle. Chernin also advocated an increase in efforts to bring LGBT tourists to Seattle.

The commission also asked the mayor to use his national platform as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to speak on Seattle's leadership on LGBT issues - a request Nickels seemed ready to grant.

The Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities advises the mayor, City Council, and other departments regarding issues, recommend policies and legislation that pertains to the LGBT community of Seattle. The commission consists of 15 representative citizens of Seattle appointed by mayor and City Council to serve in an advisory capacity. The mayor appoints seven commissioners, and seven appointments are made by the City Council. The commission appoints the 15th member. Commissioners are appointed to a two-year term of office and serve without pay.

Members of the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities were present at Wednesday's meeting along with representatives from other LGBT organizations.

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