RVA Mayoral candidate interview: Councilman Jon Baliles on LGBTQ issues
Instead of doing comprehensive backgrounds on 2016 Richmond Mayoral candidates, RVAMag and GayRVA will be running Q&A’s with candidates (that respond to our request for interviews) that deal with each publication’s specific issues.
This week’s interview is with Jon Baliles who is currently RVA’s 1st district City Councilman. He stopped by our office for a quick chat and provided some insight into his understanding of the local LGBTQ community.
You can read a more in-depth write up on the candidate via the Times-Dispatch here.
If you are running for mayor and haven’t scheduled an interview with us yet, feel free to contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org – and we’ll be glad to get that in the works.
But as for our interest, here’s what Baliles had to say about issues that we face:
Q: What role do you think the mayor plays in supporting the LGBTQ community here in Richmond?
I think the Mayor’s job is to represent all Richmonders, not just the business class, not just people in some neighborhood. They need to represent everybody, black, white, gay, straight, it doesn’t matter. I think that’s kind of what, sadly, when we were probably born, wasn’t the norm, but today it is. I don’t see any difference between myself and somebody that lives in Fairfield or somebody that’s gay or somebody that’s straight … it doesn’t make any difference to me.
Q: How have you worked with the LGBTQ community before?
Well I like to think I was raised right and you treat people like you want to be treated and you don’t look at them any different than you would anybody else. I’ve supported the Equality Virginia dinner, I’ve worked some of my friends, we passed a resolution on Council back in 2013 and that also led to the making sure that everybody has equal health benefits at the city whether they’re married or not whether they’re same sex marriage or whatever, so i think those are some good examples.
Q: How do you think the LGBTQ community could benefit from having you in office over other candidates?
Well I think one of the things that defines my leadership style and my work on council is that I listen. I can’t learn from this group or that group or this demographic or that demographic if you don’t pay attention and listen to what the problems are. You can’t assume a solution based on what you know because you don’t know everything.
It’s kind of like as a councilperson. People are worried because there are a bunch of break-ins in their street or in their neighborhood and we need and the police need them to tell us what’s going on even if it seems out of the ordinary because they’re on their street everyday. So different groups, different communities, need to be able to access the mayor and the council and let them know, ‘Hey this is an issue, this is a problem,’ or ‘This is an opportunity,’ it doesn’t always have to be a problem. ‘Here’s a way that we can make Richmond look good,’ or ‘Here’s a way that Richmond can take the lead,’ or ‘Here’s where Richmond is behind, we need to catch up.’ But if you’re not listening, it’s not gonna get done, but that’s where I start.
Q: Do you support same-sex marriage?
I do. Although I will offer this, as a 45-year old bachelor I’m against marriage actually of any kind, but I support same-sex marriage.
Q: What is your knowledge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in Richmond?
I’m not that aware. Is it an epidemic in Richmond?
Baliles: Wow, that is news to me. … Well I think all health issues across the spectrum — I know we’re listed as a more obese city than average — so there are lots of health issues that need to be addressed, malnutrition is one of them. All of those things need to be focused on and see what resources we can bring to bare because we gotta get kids more active, we gotta protect everybody from health issues as much as possible but a lot of that starts with awareness and not pretending it doesn’t exist.
Q: Where do you stand on transgender bathroom use in schools and in public spaces?
Well equal under the law is equal under the law, it’s that simple. So I wouldn’t have any issues with it. I know the Gloucester thing is winding its way through the courts and that may affect what anybody at the local level and any local municipality can do so we just have to wait and see but equal under the law is equal under the law.
Q: Some cities have programs called Human Rights Commissions and groups of them, government bodies that’ll work with LGBTQ communities of citizens. Would this be something that you’re interested seeing Richmond have?
Yeah, I don’t know much about it but it sounds like if it’s being done elsewhere it’s probably worth taking a look and seeing if it can be helpful to Richmond.
Q: Do you know people who personally identify with each part of the spectrum, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender?
Q: Similar to how Richmond Police has an LGBTQ liaison, do you think a similar liaison program might be something worthwhile putting in City Hall?
Yeah, I think so. But that could be something as simple as, for instance, some people have talked about ‘Well we need a deputy mayor of education.’ Do we? I mean, we need a mayor who cares about education, we don’t need a deputy mayor for education. So I’m not sure if it would be a stand-alone position or if it’s just something that the mayor stands up and says, ‘I’m open to working and talking with this group or that group.’
Q: Do you have any suggestions for how the LGBTQ community can increase awareness here in Richmond and be able to make more impacts [politically]?
Well I think what you all are doing and what Equality Virginia has done is great I just think continued outreach and building upon that foundation is a good start. But also looking towards a generation of leadership for the city that is a bit more modern in their thinking is also a good way. To look at people that are raised in our generation, eventually you have to turn the keys over and it’s just a question of when.
“The mayor needs to set the tone for inclusion, diversity and acceptance. “August 17, 2016
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