Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Renton Reporter Strikes Back

I went out and grabbed the latest issue of the Renton Reporter from outside the post office last night, and WOW... who knew the Cheryl Haskins controversy was going to get so much ink? While I'm disappointed that Dean Radford (the editor) chose to portray Cheryl Haskins as a victim in his article and editorial piece, at least my research on her political background and funding has finally been validated by the media.

Where to begin?

I guess the biggest problem I have with the article, editorial, and the three pro-Haskins letters to the editor is that they completely trivialize the concerns of people such as myself, who feel that Cheryl Haskins needs to be held accountable for the divisiveness and hurt her political activities have fostered. She has devoted her recent career to fighting any attempts to provide gay people with even the most basic legal protections. She herself testified against our state's domestic partnership bill, which now provides such things as hospital visitation privileges to gay couples and unmarried seniors. Under her watch, a representative of her group testified against the bill that added sexual orientation to our state's anti-discrimination law, the one that finally made it illegal to fire someone just for being gay. Why in the world would a group devoted to "defending marriage" be so concerned with that particular issue?

What I'm hearing from Dean Radford and Cheryl's supporters is that all this "gay stuff" isn't an issue in this campaign, because gay issues aren't relevant to the city council (which, of course, is not necessarily the case, as the Reporter article even infers). In essence, what they're saying is that the questions raised about her divisive politics can be dismissed, because they're only important to a small number of people. To that I say, what if Cheryl Haskins had led an anti-illegal immigrant organization, or a group devoted to questioning the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses? Would the people she had spoken out against remain silent when she ran for city council? Would her activism not be relevant to the campaign?

It's easy to argue that many Americans hold the view that marriage should only be defined as the union between one man and one woman. I've never questioned that fact, and I've never made it one of my main concerns, either. What does concern me is that Cheryl Haskins doesn't just hold a particular viewpoint, she has politicized it and profited from it. Yes, even a "part time" Executive Director gets paid for her work. That says a lot about where her priorities lie, especially since she has demonstrated little interest in supporting community efforts within our city. She is a successful and articulate woman, but rather than focusing her talents on issues of great importance to our society, like poverty, health care, and crime, she chose to become a spokeswoman for the anti-gay lobby in Washington State. Rather than working to reduce the high divorce rate in our state, she chose to make the prospect of gay marriage the most serious threat to traditional families. Why is it unreasonable to question those choices?

As far as the supposed attacks on her religion are concerned, I challenge anyone to show how I (or anyone else) have denigrated Cheryl Haskins' personal faith. I respect and celebrate everyone's right to practice their religion. I have made it very clear that my problems with her candidacy are not about her personal religious views, but her public political activism. Were that not the case, wouldn't I have a problem with the other evangelical Christians running for Council? I do not, because they haven't chosen to make their personal faith a matter of public policy or a source of fundraising.

I think it's entirely appropriate to question why a great deal of Cheryl Haskins' money has come from members of a church where her husband is a pastor. We have very strict laws concerning politicking from the pulpit, and while I don't believe any such activities have occurred in this campaign, it's still an issue that people consider important. It is also appropriate to question whether Cheryl's candidacy is being supported by powerful outsiders with conservative political aims, which I believe to be the case. Why else would two leading figures of the state Republican Party be present at her campaign kick-off event, for a non-partisan office?

I'm very disappointed that Dean Radford tried to frame my concerns about Cheryl Haskins as representing "the politics of division." For some reason, it does not register with him that Cheryl herself is a perfect example of someone who has employed such politics, and is therefore unfit to serve on the city council. The only explanation I can think of is that Dean Radford has his own issues with gay people, or feels that his faith is somehow under attack. I can't really address those topics, but I will say that his editorial was far from unbiased, as was his article. He apparently didn't find it necessary to ask any gay voters in Renton to weigh in on Cheryl Haskins' candidacy, or ask people of faith who support gay rights for their opinions. I could have put him in touch with many such people.

If I only looked at what's in the current issue of the Renton Reporter, I could easily get the impression that I'm alone in my opposition to Cheryl Haskins's candidacy. I've never been in the public spotlight, and I'm really uncomfortable with the apparent hatred my efforts are resulting in. Of course, people have always hated what I am -- gay -- but they've never actually known me by name. But the fact is, if I hadn't drawn attention to Cheryl Haskins' background, no one would have. If I hadn't devoted the last several weeks of my life to informing people about her anti-gay career and her outside funding, a lot people would've unknowingly voted for someone whose views they strongly disagree with. I know, because I was once one of those people.

The good news is that I've also made a lot of new friends, who have provided immeasurable support and advice to me throughout this self-imposed ordeal. From city council members, to teachers, to city workers, to neighbors, I know that I've been speaking for a lot of you out there, gay and straight. In fact, straight men have been my most vocal supporters! I would've never in a million years guessed that one.

In less than a week's time, we'll see just what the people of Renton think of Cheryl Haskins. I have always feared that my public information campaign could backfire, but at this point, I hope that people will just want to avoid voting for such a controversial candidate. Of course, I'm sure many people will vote for her in reaction to the controversy, but what can you do? That's Democracy for you.

By the way, I've been told that there will be a big article in the Seattle Times about Cheryl Haskins tomorrow morning. After tonight's anti-Kevin Poole fest in the Renton Reporter, I'm curious to see how the Times spins the controversy. Either way, I'm no longer just "Renton Citizen"... I'm Kevin Poole, 35, of Renton. Oh, and don't forget: "gay." I'm told that fact will be in the article.

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Here are all the pro-Haskins items from Wednesday's edition of the Reporter... hope you have a barf bag handy!

(click on each image to enlarge)


8 comments:

JimW said...

Dear RC:

I am writing to express my appreciation for your ability to present unbiased facts and to provide analysis that requires truly objective thinking. I am grateful that you are able to distill so much information from the campaign and highlight the most important elements. I am also grateful that you are not allowing Cheryl Haskins (or the Renton Reporter) to hide their political activism under a cloak of piety.

Yes, Cheryl Haskins is entitled to her own personal and religious views, but she should be held accountable when she thrusts them onto the electorate. Yes, Cheryl can “Love the sinner, but Hate the sin” as long as she doesn’t try to pass laws based purely on her religious beliefs that adversely deny rights for some citizens.

From reading your Blog, I have gotten to know (and fear) the likes of Cheryl Haskins. I believe that (like her organization “Allies for Marriage and Children) she is not what she appears. Despite all our hopes of having our political offices filled by the most qualified individuals who will defend the human rights of our citizens, Cheryl Haskins is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who is willing to sacrifice some of the flock based on her own deepseated prejudices.

Regardless of the final count in the election, you have proven at least one thing beyond a doubt - - One person can make a difference. Thanks for all your efforts.

Ben said...

I second everything jimw said.

I think you have done a fine, fair (if opinionated) job of laying out the facts and shedding light on some previously hidden issues.

dbcooper70 said...

I can empathize that your efforts come from a deep place of hurt inside of you. One thing that should be addressed, however - if your research were complete and unbiased, you cannot lay the claim that Cheryl does not work for the poor, have community involvement, etc. From what I understand, the organization she worked for full-time for a number of years - The Coalition for Community Development and Renewal, has been a strong advocate for the poor and under-privileged. As I looked closer at that org's track record and Cheryl's involvement, it is pretty impressive in terms of community service. Also, she was very highly touted as a school teacher with a strong track record of working with troubled kids. So, I guess, taking the bigger picture into account, your blog does seem divisive and driven by special interest politics. Hope you can see that in spite of the hurt and fears that you are experiencing. Taking partial information to run down a special interest trail without getting the complete story usually does backfire - sorry Kevin.

JimW said...

I am disappointed that Cheryls Haskin's supporters continue to characterize this Blog as divisive. Exposing Cheryl Haskins for what she really is fulfills one of the basic tenets.

Whatever happened to "Seek and Ye Shall find?"

I suppose that only counts if what you find agrees with existing dogma and prejudices. God help the one who might shine the light on hypcrosy.

This Blog has been a fine example of objective investigative reporting. It has reported the FACTS. If anyone is divisive, then it's Cheryl and her "Allies"

Ben said...

This blog is biased. As in opinionated. As in "expressing a particular point of view."

This blog is also factual. And clear-headed. And it performs a valuable service.

Renton Citizen said...

Thanks for your comments, dbcooper70. You're actually the first and only supporter of Cheryl's who has acknowledged that her anti-gay efforts have resulted in hurt and pain. I thank you for that.

As far as her other activities are concerned, I have no doubt whatsoever that she's done a lot of good in the community. The CCDR's website hasn't been active in a while, and I'm not sure it really ever outlined specifically what's Cheryl's done there. However, now that you (and the Seattle Times article) have pointed out her other activities, they're getting more exposure. Based on what I know, I do think that the CCDR has more of a political and religious agenda, rather than a charitable one, but I'm not going to criticize their positive efforts in the community.

I am not challenging Cheryl's charity or humanity. I'm simply challenging the fact that she's been so publicly focused on this one particular issue for the past couple of years -- an issue that really doesn't affect *anyone* directly other than gay people. No one's been lifted out of homelessness by her anti-gay marriage activism, no one's been provided with new job skills, and no one's failing marriage has been saved. If Cheryl hadn't made it her mission to "defend marriage" from The Gays, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Rationale Person said...

Are you censoring opposing views?

Renton Citizen said...

I'm shutting off comments, and yours came in just as I did so. I'm about to post an entry that explains why.