Are you a member of the Rainbow Democrats of Orange County? (Y/N)
Are you a member of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus? (Y/N)
Are you a member of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC)? (Y/N)
Please list any other LGBTQ+ organizations you are affiliated with and any donations you have given.
Please summarize your history of community involvement. This may include city boards, civic associations, non-profits, etc.
I am a member of the College Park Neighborhood Association and the Orwin Manor Neighborhood Association. I also became an Eagle Scout here in the district completing many service projects here in the area. I also interned with State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-47) where I witnessed firsthand the many issues affecting our community as well as how to best address them while maintaining a professional work environment.
Please summarize the work you have performed in the past five years to further LGBTQ+ rights.
Admittedly, I am still a young person. I just received a Master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA at the age of 21. Completing that task left time for little else. However, that time was spent preparing me for what I am doing today. I am running for office to advocate for the many issues impacting Orlando especially our LGBTQ+ community. Not only am I one of the only candidates in the race with a substantive platform page, but I specifically point out the need to help the LGBTQ+ community. As a city commissioner, I promise to always support efforts to improve the wellbeing of one of our most at-risk minority groups.
What motivated you to run for this position?
For decades we have understood there are flaws within our society that deserve reform. During that same time, moderate politicians have only made incremental changes towards progress while continuing to fundamentally preserve the status quo. The saying goes, after an earthquake, you see which buildings were up to code. The Pandemic and accompanying recession have been that preverbal earthquake. What we found was very few of our institutions were capable of handling such pressure. We are still in this global struggle. We need substantive rather than marginal change to see the material improvement of our citizen’s well-being to get us out of these rough times. That is why I am running unabashedly as a progressive. I am fighting for universal housing, higher wages, and benefits, LGBTQ+ and Women’s Rights, green jobs, ending food deserts, criminal justice reform, etc. It says so right on my website chambers4otown.com. I understand it is a 4-way race. I continue this campaign because I truly believe I am the most progressive candidate. I am willing to openly push for progressive reform rather than running on a campaign of meaningless platitudes that inevitably lead to the insulation of the status quo.
What does being an ally or advocate for the LGBTQ+ community mean to you?
Being an ally of the LGBTQ+ community means fighting to improve the material wellbeing of the community rather than giving symbolic support. Too often to governments or corporations fly a rainbow or intersectionality flag, but when it comes to addressing systemic problems, little is done. I appreciate the gesture, but substantive change is far more beneficial. I continue to educate myself on the issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community, and I am running for this office to make that change in the most effective way possible. Being a candidate is my form of advocacy.
Have you attended an LGBTQ+ Pride Month celebration or Orlando’s Come Out With Pride? (Y/N)
How would you ensure that your office celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride Month?
The point of pride month is not only to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and struggles for equality but to also educate the entire population of this. In addition to officially designating Pride Month and attending public events, my office would publish and host various educational media and events. As I mentioned, these would highlight lesser-known issues which impact the LGBTQ+ community, historical figures, and events, LGBTQ+ contributions to society, arts, etc. The goal of celebrating pride is not just to show our solidarity, rather it is to precipitate equality. Only when our collective is properly educated on the issues can we push our public and private leaders to implement change.
Will you ensure that you and your staff receive competency training on the LGBTQ+ community, emphasizing unconscious bias?(Y/N)
Would you condemn instances of hate speech in your organization and the community at large?(Y/N)
What steps will you take to increase your office’s visibility with the LGBTQ+ community, including encouraging voting participation?
In addition to celebrating pride and pushing for substantive reform, our office would directly engage with members and leaders of the LGBTQ+ community to understand what are the most pressing issues at the time and to receive feedback on our lawmaking efforts here in the city. Anytime an ordinance comes up that would impact the LGBTQ+ community I would directly communicate with organizers. I also believe in having an advisory board to give direct input during the legislative process. Most importantly, we need to get out the LGBTQ+ vote. That is why as I have gone door-to-door, I always encourage and help those I encounter to register to vote and vote in every election.
As an Orlando City Commissioner, how would you support creating an LGBTQ+ Advisory Board that would act as a direct link between the City of Orlando and the LGBTQ+ community?
Yes. It is necessary to have advisory boards made up of those from primarily disenfranchised communities to have a direct say on the laws which will overwhelmingly impact them. This is a great way to hear the major concerns from the LGBTQ+ and ensure their interests are adequately considered during the formation of various ordinances.
Research performed by True Colors United found that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+. Reasons for this include abuse and family rejection of a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity. What immediate actions would you take as an Orlando City Commissioner to reduce and prevent homelessness amongst LGBTQ+ youth?
Homelessness is one of the main issues I care about and that is why I specifically address it on my campaign website where I even mention its disproportional impact on LGBTQ+ youth. This is something that I haven’t heard anyone else who is running talk about or mention on their platforms. So yes, I support addressing our homelessness crisis. I would first look at repealing ordinances that criminalize the existence of the homeless. These laws create punishments for those who may sleep in a car or on the sidewalk, ask for a small amount of food, drink, or money, sit on the public sidewalk outside a business, and more. These laws do not address homelessness, rather they further stigmatization. This method seeks to use jails as a form of housing solution which is very costly. After repealing these ordinances, I would utilize public dollars to invest in permeant housing solutions to house the homeless. Dwellings would be basic, providing simple means for one to stay rested and maintain their hygiene. In addition, tenants would be given access to any necessary physical, mental, and addiction health services as well as job training and acquisition assistance. Where adopted elsewhere, this method of addressing homelessness has been shown to not only save private and public dollars, but be more effective.
Where do you believe the focus should be for Orlando in preparing for and preventing the damaging effects of climate change?
About 90% of Orlando’s energy is supplied from coal. Not only is coal one of the dirtiest forms of energy fuel in terms of air pollution and CO2 emissions, but Florida is not even a coal-rich state. So not only are we hurting our environment and harming the health of our citizens, but we are losing out on potential energy jobs. We should be investing in solar and other forms of renewables which will bring about green jobs as well as getting Orlando at the forefront of renewables as an industry. To do this, I believe in making all public buildings energy self-sufficient through forms of microgeneration while helping private properties do the same. I also believe in placing limits on the length of time vehicles may remain idle while parked and limiting our reliance on cars and commuting in general. This will be achieved through investments in public transportation and increased urban density rather than continued urban sprawl.
A recent study found that the Orlando metropolitan area has the 8th highest wage gap in the nation. The estimated hourly wage is $12.94, but the wage required to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Orlando is $23.60. What actions would you take as Orlando City Commissioner to decrease this wage gap and promote affordable living in Orlando?
I believe housing is a fundamental human right. Generally,I believe the State of Florida as a whole needs to do a better job at protecting our affordable housing trust fund. They need to stop raiding it each session to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy or fund conservative projects. One of the most important jobs of a city commissioner is to review development plans within the city. I believe we do need more housing in our urban core to reduce our deficit in available units. However, I will not be in favor of any development plan which primarily seeks to gentrify and raise the rent for some of our already underprivileged communities, or whose plan fails to have an adequate number of affordable housing units. I am in favor of keeping and expanding our rental assistance program to ensure renters in Orlando can make their payments and keep a roof over their heads. Lastly, we need to ensure our citizens earn a living wage or salary. So many Orlandoans work in low-wage service jobs. By raising wages and benefits, we can better guarantee those working a full-time job will have a decent place to stay with enough money to afford other necessities.
Building upon the previous question, single-parent households faces even higher costs of living due to childcare. This further exasperates the wage gap, making raising a family in Orlando nearly impossible. What actions would you take as Orlando City Commissioner to help struggling parents and make Orlando an affordable place for families?
In addition to the housing solutions I mentioned previously, there are several public services our city can do to ensure families can service and children are given an equal chance to succeed in life. We first need to ensure full-time workers are guaranteed at least a living wage or salary and receive benefits such as sick leave or paid vacations. One of the most important of these is paid maternity leave when it comes to the upbringing of a child. It is almost impossible for a single parent to work and take care of a child at the same time. That is why we also must ensure childcare is accessible to all regardless of their income level. Still, parents frequently take time off to rear their young children. Current hiring practices care more about consecutive employment rather than the total time of employment in a field. This process disproportionately impacts single parents and mothers in general who are less likely to obtain a job as a result. Public employment screenings should consider total time rather than consecutive time to overcome this inequality. I also firmly believe in universal free school meals. Most children in Florida belong to families who cannot afford the full price of a school meal. As a result, the child goes hungry, or the parents go into debt to feed their kids. All children must be given the option to access these meals while being protected from forms of bullying. Parents should also be forgiven of any debt held for unpaid public lunches.
Despite mental illness among adults and children being at an all-time high, Florida ranks next to last on per capita spending on mental health programs. Mental illness, if left untreated, can lead to suffering, homelessness, and death. What are both your immediate and long-term plans for addressing this epidemic in Orlando?
Not only am I one of the few candidates in this race to have a platform page complete with substantive policy solutions, but I am also the ONLY one who specifically talks about the need to improve mental healthcare. Seemingly, our current policy is to ignore various mental illnesses until someone undergoes a crisis at which the individual either goes into police custody, commits suicide, or goes to a temporary behavioral hospital that provides very minimal care. This is a costly, ineffective, and inhumane way of treating this epidemic. We need greater investment in proactive treatment. Mental healthcare, like other forms of healthcare, is a right, not a privilege. We as a society, through public funding, must provide quality and affordable consoling and psychiatric help to those who are physically, mentally, or financially incapable of receiving the care themselves. A lot of these issues begin to appear during one teenage and early adult life. We need better resources for school counselors to be able to identify and point wards proper treatment before it may be too late.
2021 has been a record year in terms of political attacks against transgender and non-binary communities. Ron DeSantis signed a trans youth sports ban in Florida, the most anti-LGBTQ+ law Florida has seen in over 20 years. Despite this, studies show that 62% of Americans are more supportive of transgender rights than they were five years ago. What programs do you envision for the City of Orlando that could educate residents about transgender and non-binary people, reduce incidents of hate and violence, and ultimately further transgender rights?
First off, I believe we need to do a better job in our schools educating students about the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, most sex education programs are entirely geared towards heterosexual cisgender youth. The system fails to properly inform these students about the LGBTQ+ community as well as preventing those who identify as LGBTQ+ from accessing necessary and quality education. As we continue to make public spaces more gender-inclusive, when it comes to access to sanitation products, restrooms, and language, and as people engage more with those who identify as LGBTQ+, people will be more understanding of them and less like to spread hate. Until then, we must prevent people or institutions from discriminating against members of the community through civil regulations and punishments. Lastly, whenever there are lacking resources in terms of housing, testing, or mental healthcare we as a city must come together to provide those resources so no one is left behind. I will work to ensure those assets are available to everyone who needs them.