Saturday, June 18, 2011

Carrollton City Council candidates asked about race, civil unions, immigration changes

Staff Writer
Published 13 June 2011 10:36 PM

CARROLLTON - The runoffs for two City Council seats feature both the expected and the unexpected. There's debate on the budget and the effects of the recession, but in this diverse city of 130,000, there are also questions rising on civil unions and immigration.

In Place 2, former council member and attorney Bonnie Kaplan faces software developer Anthony Wilder. Kaplan won 37 percent of the vote and Wilder 32 percent in the May 14 election.

In Place 4, Bob Garza, a retired telecommunications manager, faces Cathy Henesey, a hospital human resources manager. Garza had 37 percent of the vote and Henesey 30 percent last month.

Early voting for Saturday's runoffs ends Tuesday.

At a candidates' forum last week organized by resident Mike Ghouse, questions were asked about social issues. Ghouse is Muslim, an immigrant from India and an organizer of events centered on religious tolerance and cultural understanding.

Wilder missed the forum, citing scheduling conflicts.

Ghouse asked what the candidates thought of civil unions of gay or lesbian couples. Six years ago, the mayor at the time, Becky Miller, was criticized for participating in a gay pride parade. Gay groups moved quickly to defend her.

The city doesn't offer domestic partner benefits. Kaplan said couples "have the right to be in the kind of relationship they want." The day will come when civil unions are recognized more broadly, she said.

Garza noted that the issue is unresolved at the federal level. "One of my top goals is that I will represent everyone fairly and equally," he said.

Henesey noted that many companies offer domestic partner benefits. After the forum, she said she supports domestic partner benefits for city employees and added that civil unions can involve any two people who are committed but not married.

Issues of racial profiling and opposition to Islam merged into questions on immigration laws.

In 2010, the city was sued by a black businessman beaten by a Carrollton police officer as he prepared to sell a used vehicle to a customer and took off the license plate. The businessman had a concealed weapon, and a police video of the beating included his statement that he had a concealed weapons permit.

"Racial profiling is something that may be happening. . It certainly is something I won't tolerate," Garza said.

Kaplan said her home was painted with a swastika years ago when she moved to Carrollton.

"I am really Irish Catholic," Kaplan said. "My husband is Jewish."

But the incident deepened her sensitivity to discrimination, she said.

Asked if immigration law is a federal or state issue, the three candidates said it is a federal issue.

Henesey, though, said the city should adopt the federal government's volunteer program called E-Verify for its contractors to make sure only legal residents are hired.

Under the E-Verify program, Social Security numbers are checked to see if they are valid. In 2007, the state of Arizona  passed an immigration law that included mandatory use of E-Verify, and that 2007 law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court three weeks ago. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fought against E-Verify in the Supreme Court case.
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