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2018 PACE Shreveport Mayoral Forum Questions and Answers

PACE (People Acting for Change and Equality) conducted a Shreveport Mayoral Forum open to the public with the Shreveport mayoral candidates on Sunday, August 19th from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Deaf Action Center (601 Jordan Street).   An hour-long Q&A was followed by a reception hosted by PACE Social Chair Nicole Ortiz. PACE is a nonpartisan organization that works to advance equality in Northwest Louisiana so that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community can lead open, honest, responsible, and safe lives at home and in the workplace.  We believe that the most effective way to achieve these goals is to educate our communities and to constructively participate in the political process.  PACE conducted previous Shreveport Mayoral Forums in 2006, 2010, and 2014.  Approximately 150 people attended our standing-room-only 2018 forum with 7 of the 8 mayoral candidates attending: Anna Marie Arpino, Tremecius Dixon, Steven Jackson, Adrian Perkins, Jeron Rogers, Lee O. Savage, and Ollie S. Tyler. Jim Taliaferro did not attend.  

PACE conducts mayoral forums because public policy research shows that knowledge-based workers use a city’s attitude towards its LGBT community as a proxy to determine whether that city will provide a welcoming and stimulating environment for diverse perspectives which fire innovation and entrepreneurship.  PACE does not endorse any candidate, but simply makes the views of each candidate known to our members.  Thanks to Brad Campbell, Susan Clark, and David Jarrett for compiling the answers to the questions below.  Thanks to Sam Ortiz for the live stream of the forum that can be found on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2101063266574532/ 

Shreveport native and University of California Haas School of Business faculty member Dr. Clayton Critcher moderated the forum.  For each question, a different candidate was randomly selected to offer the first answer. We then continued down the row in alphabetical order.

Here are the answers to the questions from notes taken by PACE members attending the forum.  To hear exact, word for word, answers, please go to the live stream link above to listen to the entire forum which also includes words of introduction to the forum, opening and closing statements from each candidate, in addition to answers to the questions. 

Question 1:  In 2013, the “Shreveport Fairness Ordinance” extended the same nondiscrimination protections to LGBT Shreveporters that other vulnerable groups receive. Quite simply, it says you cannot fire someone for being LGBT, deny housing to someone for being LGBT, or deny business to someone for being LGBT. It’s a commonsense idea that 70% of Americans support, that both the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of Shreveport-Bossier endorsed, and that passed with a 6 to 1 vote in the City Council.  

Beyond ensuring equal rights for LGBT Shreveporters, the Fairness Ordinance presents Shreveport as a forward-thinking and equality-minded community. How do the values of the Fairness Ordinance relate to your vision for Shreveport? (Mr. Perkins begins) 

Adrian Perkins: The values of the Fairness Ordinance are completely in line with my vision.  It is economically and socially necessary.

Jeron Rogers:  I am in agreement with the ordinance. The ordinance…it should not be necessary to have such an ordinance. But I do understand that the times that we are living in this ordinance is necessary. And so, in order for us to have something like this and for it to be effective, we have to have someone who will stand up for you. You can have it on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody is going to abide by it. You will need someone, someone such as myself, that understands issues of diversity to stand up for you. I’m that person. Thank you.

Lee O. Savage:  His vision is growth, We don’t have a community without unity. When I say unity, I mean we must all work together as one.  In order to thrive we are not going to do it separated, its synergy, it is everybody coming together.  With everyone lending a hand we can achieve the greatness Shreveport deserves.

Ollie S. Tyler: My vision is a thriving city, where every citizen has opportunity, an education, a chance to thrive.  Being CEO of Shreveport, I have always seen equality and unity necessary to succeed.

Anna Marie Arpino:  My answer to this question is for the Shreveport Fairness Ordinance. I’m a past HR director for the hospital and in being the HR director and knowing the federal regulations to HR, which is human resources, I was surprised that we even have to go over this in our city because under human resources those are covered under the federal level. It’s a shame that on the city level we have to do this. I do agree with it. It’s just a shame we have to have it in particular. Every citizen is due fairness if our mayor --- I don’t know why she’s calling her CEO. I call it mayor. If she wants to make the city great for everyone in this regard, start with her crime. They gotta feel safe before they’ll ever want to do a business in this town. You don’t have…get rid of your crime to get that crime down and I have a 9-point system to do that designed from larger cities. It doesn’t matter what the business is, they don’t…a business… businesses won’t come to a crime-ridden city.

Tremecius Dixon:  My vision for Shreveport, is we should all come together, I don’t care if you are black white Latino LGBT, we should be together. We are better we should take a look at it and work on some things and not discriminate.

Steven Jackson:  Thank you. The fairness ordinance is very much in line with my vison for the City of Shreveport, which is a city of opportunity and within opportunity is unity, so it’s great to hear so many people adopt some of my priorities and platforms. I believe that to strengthen our fairness ordinance we must appoint a mayoral liaison full time to our HRC to insure the implementation of it. We must make sure that our contracting process includes non-discrimination clause for individuals in our LGBT community. Because there has to be an economic opportunity as well, I believe that we must look at what our housing authority is doing and when development come in that we’re talking about improving area zoning so that individuals feel like they aren’t being left out or feel like they are being left out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We must also look at make sure that our employees, city workers, firefighters, police officers feel comfortable that they can be comfortable about who they are. I want to make sure that as a mayor individuals are free and willing to express themselves free, open, and to the public.

Question 2:  In an op-ed in The Shreveport Times, U. S. Representative Mike Johnson compared being LGBT to being an adulterer. Johnson went on to write: “We should all acknowledge the strife of the homosexual lifestyle…our government can never provide its stamp of approval or special legal sanction for behavior patterns that are proven to be destructive to individuals, to families and to society at large. Your race, creed and sex are what you are, while homosexuality and cross-dressing are things you do. This is a free country, but we don’t give special protections for every person’s bizarre choices.” Although Johnson was elected to Congress, these attitudes helped him lose the Shreveport vote. 

When PACE representatives met with Johnson 3 years ago about anti-gay legislation he proposed as a state representative, he would not disavow his written statements on LGBT people.

Johnson has become well-known as the author of a “civility pledge” that he asked freshman members of Congress to sign. Do you think Mike Johnson’s statements and attitudes about LGBT people are civil? (Mr. Rogers begins)

Jeron Rogers: No, I do not. I will support your right to choose. You know for someone to go out and to propose legislation like that, it causes a problem. I will support your right to choose vigorously. You will not have to worry about where I stood on the issue so I’m not… (unintelligible)

Lee O. Savage:  Absolutely not, I have gay, lesbian and bisexual friends, anyone who knows me knows I like to live.  It is almost like somebody is denouncing the fact that because of anything…..if they are lesbian, gay, transsexual, —it doesn’t matter to mean, what matters to me, I don’t agree with that statement, it  [Johnson statement] is bogus and inconsiderate . We are going to stand beside your rights.

Ollie S. Tyler:  I'm not sure what Mr. Johnson’s civility code could accomplish.  Civility should include all ethnicities, groups of people.  Any civility code should include love, respect, and should value each other.

Anne Marie Arpino: I’m gonna be honest. I don’t know a lot about BLGT. What I’ve learned from the last six or seven years…uh, I’m gonna give you my honest opinion about what I think and how I feel and what I think because I will be representing you so you need to know it now. First off, it is “special protection against every bizarre choice.” I don’t think it was ever proven if it was by heredity or choice. I disagree with you there; I don’t think it was ever proven but more importantly my feelings on this are LGBT as well as everyone else are children of God, which makes them blessed and makes them important. Period. Now in CPA firms--which I own one--we don’t see a lot of sex talks in a CPA firm, which isn’t allowed by the way so I wouldn’t know who’s what and where. Don’t want to hear that kind of thing in an office atmosphere. Nor would I as mayor. But they’re children of god as we all are and they’re important. Thank you.

Tremecius Dixon:  Who are we to judge ?—that’s my thoughts on it.

Steven Jackson: No, I don’t believe Congressman Johnson’s definition of civility applies equitably to the LGBT community. I also don’t think that the civility pledge is a genuine pledge when you have a president who continues to spew racial bigotry and hatred that comes out of his mouth and refuses to condemn white supremacy and such heinous acts. And so I think the civility pledge is a joke. We have to be committed to loving one another. We have to be committed to cooperation as well as understanding. And that is what is often missing. We tend to talk to each other…we tend to talk at each other and not to one another. We tend to…we tend to have a conversation, not for understanding, and so I think that we have to more our civility pledge to a point of understanding, cooperation, and cultural sensitivity. Thank you.

Adrian Perkins: Yes. (In jest)  The Civility Pledge is in direct opposition to civility.  We should not judge any group of people.  I disagree with Rep. Johnson. 

Question 3:  One lesson from many civil rights movements is that labels matter. At one time, it was commonplace to call someone a “negro” or a “homosexual.” But given the loaded connotations that those words have, they have been replaced by terms like “African American” or “gay” or “lesbian.” Such terms signal respect.

a.     For transgender Americans, one way they can be analogously insulted is by addressing them with the wrong pronouns. For example, using pronouns like “he” or “him” would be quite insulting to a transgender woman. How would you show leadership in the Mayor’s Office if a member of your staff did not use the proper pronouns when addressing a trans coworker? (Commissioner Jackson begins)

Steven Jackson: Well, one of the things that I think that we have to be mindful of is that we are changing. The community is evolving, our society is evolving, and so we have to go back and retrain and we have to work on cultural sensitivity. We have to do this with our employees. We have to do this with our police. We have to do this with our firefighters. We have to make this a part of the culture of our workplace and our workforce, and we have to have zero tolerance for discrimination in the workplace and in the city departments and we have to stand up for discrimination with the Human Relations Commission for zero tolerance in private businesses as well and so I think as mayor one of the things that we can do is by appointing that liaison to the HRC to be an advocate from the mayor’s office in the LGBT community. We have to have a greater sensitivity towards these issues, and it is imperative that we have constant retraining as we focus on sensitivity to those issues because a lot of times individuals do things unconsciously. There is unconscious discrimination in America, and we have to work to eradicate it.

Adrian Perkins: Going back to the Fairness ordinance, we must make sure to enforce it.  Inclusivity to all people is expected.  The ordinance should promote action.  Use the ordinance as a basis to educate and retrain.  Inequality is not accepted but covered in the ordinance.

Jeron Rogers: Concerning this matter, what I would do I would ask that our people be educated because sometimes you may not know someone may use the wrong term, not knowing what’s the proper term to address. I would not fire someone for saying this out of ignorance; but if it continued to be a problem, we would address it because, you know, sometimes people do not know, and I don’t necessarily know all the time. Thank you.

Lee O. Savage:  It’s all about education.  I grew up never knowing a Jewish person before, I only heard the term “Jew someone down”  I didn’t know it meant anything to do with Jewish, … [he told a story about an instance when he used the phrase]  When was told it was offensive, he was embarrassed,  We need a better education to teach people what is appropriate to say.

Ollie S. Tyler: As leader and CEO of Shreveport, education is key.  Train to value and respect others.  We must insure there are consequences, after training, for those who refuse to abide by code of conduct.  Training is key.   

Anne Marie Arpino:  The question on here I do agree with it. I’m a little bit dis-centered right now because this last week I experienced a hate crime at my residence. And you have to go through a hate crime before you can understand why this is important. My HR background would alone keep the mayor’s office from doing these kind of things because it’s not allowed in the human resources world, but that doesn’t apply when somebody comes to your residence and threatens you bodily harm as I went through last week. And I saw all your training in the police department when I called them and they did absolutely nothing so we haven’t had good training with the police department since the HR director left. He was in there like 30 years. The standards for police officers was much higher. After he retired they lowered the standards, okay. We need training in some of the police officers who were hired since that point. I saw that training; nothing was done. And I will have to move it to higher levels--sheriffs, FBI--to have it taken care of. Thank you.

            Rita Grubbs Nelson interjected: Was it a transgender episode at your house?

AMA: it was a hate crime. Threatened my life, my bodily injury. Even came up on the sidewalk to approach me.

RGN: Was a transgender involved?

AMA: No. No. It was a hate crime. And against transgenders, that’s not that different from hate crimes. We need to deal with this.

Tremecius Dixon:  Everyone should be treated with respect, As me being a Black man who has experienced this in my time,     That would be an ordinance that I would definitely enforce, something I would take very seriously,  No one should be called out by other than their name, and we should respect one another especially as grown people

b.     The Williams Institute at UCLA found that:

·      Transgender workers report unemployment at 2 to 3 times the rate of the population as a whole

·      Transgender workers are nearly 4 times more likely to have a household income under $10,000.

It may be too much to ask you as mayor to address these broader systemic issues, but a first step would be to sit down with representatives of the Louisiana Trans Advocates Shreveport chapter—the primary trans advocacy group—to begin a dialog with them to address challenges facing your transgender constituents.

Just a question for the group…(with a show of hands)…is there anyone who would not be willing to take such a meeting? And if not, you can explain why. 

Answers: None of the candidates raised their hand.  Anna Marie Arpino commented: “Why are you labeling? We’re just people. People are people. Why all the labels? Not needed.”  All candidates indicated that they would be willing to meet with LTA; however, Steven Jackson was the only one who had already met with LTA.  

Question 4:  Louisiana has the second-highest incidence of new HIV diagnoses and the highest incidence of syphilis. Public health research is clear: Syringe or needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. These programs do not increase drug use, decrease the number of needles discarded in public places, and make it more likely that drug users enter treatment. They avoid economic waste: A dollar invested in syringe exchange saves more than six dollars just in costs associated with treating HIV.  

Syringe exchange reflects a classic case of harm reduction. Such programs are supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And in 2017, the Louisiana legislature passed a law to permit needle exchange programs. Both Baton Rouge and New Orleans have now acted to explicitly permit them. Given their benefits to public health, would you support clean needle exchanges in Shreveport? (Mr. Dixon begins)

Tremecius Dixon: Yes, clean needles, needle exchange, no matter how much it costs to keep people safe, I’m for it.

Steven Jackson:  Steven Jackson said he would work with the Office of Public Health to implement a needle exchange program, and he encouraged the use of public buildings to insure safe passage and discarding. He also advocated for continued funding for the HOFAR program to help with housing for people with AIDS. 

Adrian Perkins: Public safety is not just for civil servants.  I support a program to exchange needles.  The city of Ithaca, New York has had such a program that is very successful.  In order for our city to thrive, we should do the same.  It would be money well spent.

Jeron Rogers:  Yes.

Lee O. Savage:  Absolutely, As a business person, if you are talking about investing $1 and saving 6, it makes good sense, other things we need to do is benchmark with other cities and be willing open, listen and adopt those programs.

Ollie S. Tyler:  As a member of the Council of Mayors, which supports a program of needle exchange, I also support this program.  As the state of Louisiana has been looking into such programs to allow cities to oversee needle exchanges, and I have been an advocate for such as a member of the Council of Mayors.  I certainly support needle exchange for the city. 

Anna Marie Arpino:  My answer is yes. And in 1990s a German company came in for medical waste for the City of Shreveport. Owned out of Germany, all the revenues went back to Germany. I know. I was in-house as the controller. This is an excellent opportunity with all of our medical and hospitals Shreveport has now gained since 1991 for the city to have a medical waste program to put its people to work. Awesome! Thank you.

Question 5:  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said you can choose your own opinions, but not your own facts. We now live in a political climate in which people are indeed choosing their own facts—sometimes called “alternative facts.” LGBT people have long been victims of people and organizations that have spread vicious myths about them as facts. 

What is the most effective way to address constituents who approach you with myths about the LGBT community? (Mayor Tyler begins) 

Ollie S. Tyler:  I would ask constituents to look at facts and not myths.  We need to know facts, advocate for facts.  Educate yourself to know facts. 

Anna Marie Arpino:  I think it’s important for education in LGBT but also in all areas. We need to come together as a town, as a people. We need a more gentler city from language to behaviors to everything. Let’s be more gentler and civilized as a civil community. Yes, education’s wonderful but it’s wonderful for all cultures all through the city and all diverse groups across the country for a total understanding. Let’s come together, we as one people.  

Tremecius Dixon:  No one can tell me anything about the LGBT community, I attended the Philadelphia Center Auction, enjoyed myself, had a wonderful time, and it was great. 

Steven Jackson:  The mayor needs to be a leader and an advocate, and part of being an advocate is education but also understanding and cooperation. I am the only candidate on the stage who has issued a proclamation recognizing Pride month here in Caddo Parish…The mayor should never be afraid to be seen with organizations such as PACE and LTA. We have to stand up and lead and people have to see. One of the ways we could debunk myths is when people see your mayor standing there holding arms, side by side, issuing proclamations…

Adrian Perkins: This questions screams education.  My personal testimony, growing up in Shreveport, my knowledge of the LGBTQ community was minimal.  Going outside this community broadened my horizons.  Education from younger ages provides knowledge.  I visited the PACEY group to acquaint myself with their members and to introduce myself.  No one should live through bullying and trauma for being themselves.  Education is key.

Jeron Rogers:  Suggested that those people would speak with PACE since he’s not an expert on this topic.

Lee O. Savage:  I agree with everyone on the panel, we need education, We don’t know what we don’t know... we have to have education. Once we are educated we have to get out there, I don’t care at what age, we have to begin now, and be as good as we possibly can….  The speed of the leader determines the speed of the pack.  You will see me in good times, you will see me in bad times, the older we are the more awkward it is, we should start early with education.

Question 6:  For decades, Americans have been comfortable with and overwhelmingly support the idea that when businesses open their doors to the public, they open their doors to all people. The Supreme Court recently avoided ruling on a new legal challenge to antidiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people. A baker in Colorado indicated his religious beliefs prevented him from offering services to a same-sex couple. The Court decided the case on narrow grounds, meaning they did NOT address whether religious beliefs can be cited to legalize discrimination.

This question is about whether you think that people can cite their own religious beliefs to allow them to opt out of a city law, particularly one that relates to discrimination. This is not a new argument. Historically, people have cited their own sincerely held religious belief that God created the races to be separate and did not intend them to mix.  Such arguments were used to oppose non-discrimination laws that protect people based on their race.

a.     Do you think businesses should be able to refuse service to people on the basis of their race, or the race of their spouse, if a business owner claims that a sincerely held religious belief compels them to discriminate? (Ms. Arpino begins)

Anna Marie Arpino:  Since we’re dealing with the race issue of business, coming from a father who took care of two African-American families after he retired for 35 years simply because he had worked for him for almost 30 years and they didn’t have anything…in those days for them in retirement. I used to ask him as a little girl, “Father, why do they come here and you give them money for things that we could do very easily?” “You don’t understand. They worked for me and were with me 30 years throughout my employment life, and I told them then as I tell you now, if I have a piece of bread, you have half.” That’s the way I grew up so it’s hard for me to understand race issues growing up in that atmosphere. Now that’s my issue on the race standpoint. As far as the LGBT…

Tremecius Dixon:  No , businesses should reject anyone due to racism, We have seen some hard times,  to get better as people , need to get out of the old traditions….

Steven Jackson:  Absolutely not. I think the Supreme Court decision has set a very dangerous precedent, one where individuals will utilize religion as a way to reject and refuse to do business on multiple grounds, and I think they’ve opened up a box and set us back not only just decades but centuries in this country. One of the things I have stood up for is removing the Confederate monument in front of the courthouse because of the message it sends of supremacy and that racism is at the forefront of our justice system and we should not allow it in our businesses…in our justice systems…in our government. Businesses should not be allowed to opt out. That is why we have the Human Relations Commission who will investigate those things and make sure that the fines are levied and we are adequately enforcing and adhering to that ordinance. 

Adrian Perkins: Because of my background with the legal system, having read the decision of the justices, a lot of reading.  I feel the justices missed the mark in how they ruled, not addressing the heart of the issue.  We need to embrace fairness issues and ordinances, especially and starting at the local level.

Jeron Rogers:  No.

Lee O. Savage:  Here is the thing, it is 2018, 2018,  we are far, far past that, let’s embrace what we have, who we are, and lets remove the race, again we are all together, as a mayor you serve all people .  If own a business or you run a business you should want anyone that is willing to bring you money… Jokingly, I’m thinking—understand that what we have to do is embrace change, make sure anybody and everybody is welcome in their doors.

Ollie S. Tyler:  No business should be able to discriminate for race, etc.  I have been discriminated against.  It's embarrassing.  I stand against any business who would discriminate. 

b.    Just a show of hands: Would anyone support a business owner who wanted to deny services to Jews or Christians because of the owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs? (And if so, you can explain. 

Answers:  This question was skipped because all the candidates’ answers to part a indicated that they would not support such a business owner.

c.     My husband David and I got married last month in California, and we plan to have a wedding reception in Shreveport. (And before you ask, yes, if you win the Mayors race, you will be invited.) Imagine me walking into a local catering company, a local bakery, a local florist—would you support the business if they refused me services—in effect, a “Straights Only” policy—by citing their own religious beliefs? And if so, how would that be different from the earlier examples?   (Mr. Savage begins)

Lee O. Savage: I must say it all boils back to everyone has rights-I don’t care if you are straight, I don’t care if you are gay, we all have rights, first off, one of the rights a business owner has is the sign that says, no shirt no shoes, no service, I have never seen anything else  in my opinion we need to address that, make sure that whomever that business owner is, that would not allow a product purchase we have to look at every example, I don’t think you can go in and say it is one way or another, or we can be discriminatory-we have to get to the bottom of that.

Ollie S. Tyler:  Thank you, Dr. Critcher.  I look forward to that invitation also.  I do plan to be at that reception.  I will not support any business in our city or anywhere else that doesn’t honor and respect people just because they have a certain sexual orientation.  Everyone has value, everyone should be respected and every citizen should be given the same opportunities.  I’ll be there when you come home for the wedding reception and make sure we can stand with you and congratulate you.

Anna Marie Arpino:  Thank you, Dr. Critcher. I’ll also accept that invitation. Nobody can do a wedding like a northern Italian and Irish (undecipherable). We created fun at receptions and weddings. First off, I’m very business based. I always have been. From a young age, I owned a very, very large construction company in my twenties… Business do what businesses will do with their businesses but you do not do something based on that reason and I do not agree with it, but, on the other end of the scale, change comes about slow sometimes and I’m a Eucharistic minister of the Catholic faith and my religion does not have this opinion of LGBT’s and anybody else. I can’t relate to it ‘cause I’ve never been around it in my Catholic church. We accept all so it’s hard for me to understand that because I haven’t been around it. But yes, I believe that in business we need to respect all.

Tremecius Dixon: No I wouldn’t support that business, that tradition  ,it’s a curse, we are in 2018 ,,, we have to break that tradition, it’s time for a change 

Steven Jackson:  Clay, your classmate, Krystle Grindley would make sure I was there, but I want to make sure that I’m there as mayor. No, I would not support that business and here is how we as a mayor we should not support that business from discrimination if they’re receiving any local tax benefits. We need to work to remove those tax benefits. A lot of companies come for a local endorsement. When they’re receiving state tax benefits, they have to have a local endorsement. As mayor I would veto or stand up to work with our council to not pass legislation to endorse that particular company because we have to send a strong message that discrimination is not allowed here in the City of Shreveport and we are a city whose primary source of revenue is sales tax. We don’t have room to turn around and turn people away, and so I think that one of the ways that we can strengthen and do that is by making sure that whatever incentives or abatements they are getting, that we veto those. Thank you.

Adrian Perkins: I would not support this business either.  Attitudes like this are precisely why economies like North Carolina have lost millions of dollars.  But more important than an economic argument is the social argument.  We have to treat each other with dignity and respect and be kind to one another and be more inclusive.  The cities around the country that are growing have these policies so you need a mayor that will denounce these organizations, take away any benefits that they have, and make sure everyone in Shreveport knows that our growth is tied to one another.

Jeron Rogers:  No.