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August 14, 2009

 

Lakewood’s first lesbian councilor seeks re-election

Lakewood--Nine candidates are running for three at-large council seats in this Cleveland suburb, and the city’s first openly gay official is among them.

Nickie J. Antonio, first elected in 2005, is seeking a second four year term.

“I bring [lesbian] sensitivity to whatever I do,” Antonio said, “So when we [council] talk about community, we’re truly talking about everyone in the community.”

Antonio, who has a masters of public administration degree, currently chairs the Health and Human Services Committee and is a member of the Public Works Committee.

She is also the council’s liaison to the Community Relations Advisory Commission, which she was instrumental in creating before becoming a member of council.

Outside of council, Antonio serves on the Lakewood Hospital board. Her governmental experience includes a position on the staff of former mayor Madeline Cain.

Antonio likes to talk about Lakewood’s diversity.

“More than 30 languages are spoken at Lakewood High School,” she said, “and it has an active LGBT group.”

In addition to sexual orientation, the community relations commission also works on immigrant issues and those of race and class.

“People need to feel they have equal standing with their neighbor,” Antonio said.

She also likes to talk about economic development. She got an ordinance passed that allows restaurants to serve on the sidewalk, which has increased traffic and visibility.

Antonio has been a strong advocate of community block clubs.

“When amending laws or making new ones, I like to encourage things to happen rather than try to prevent things from happening,” Antonio said, describing initiatives she spearheaded that promote solar energy, encourage people to turn idling vehicles off, and developing arts districts in the city that would allow artists to live in their studio space and sell out of their homes.

“Lakewood is a community where the 25-to-40 age group is growing,” Antonio said.

Antonio is a progressive who believes city government should “do good public service and make good public policy.”

During her first term, she helped defeat a proposal to privatize the city’s sanitation service and was able to keep money in the budget for senior citizen transportation.

Antonio sponsored Lakewood’s resolution supporting the LGBT Equal Housing and Employment Act currently before the Ohio House, and a city resolution to end the Iraq war and bring American troops home.

Lakewood council races are non-partisan, though Antonio is a Democrat. She is a past president of the Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus, and is a founder of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats Lakewood Caucus.

According to Lakewood’s charter, the top six vote-getters in the September 8 primary election square off on the November 3 ballot, with the top three getting seated.

The other eight in the race are Daniel Bartos, Anthony Davis, Edward McCartney, Dan Shields, Jared Shapiro, Monique Smith, former council member Ryan Demro, and incumbent Brian Powers.

Antonio believed the race will cost $20,000 through November to win, and she has been canvassing neighborhoods every weekend and working the phones.

She gives the example of a citizen who wanted council to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from the city’s ethnic intimidation law after an attack near West 117th Street.

“It was an educational moment if nothing else,” Antonio said.

Because they have an openly gay colleague, according to Antonio, “more on council recognize the richness diversity brings.”

“The whole community benefits from my being there,” Antonio said. “We acknowledge the LGBT community, and as we appoint people to boards and commissions, we make sure there is LGBT consideration.”

Antonio is endorsed by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the Lakewood Democratic Club, the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, State Sen. Dale Miller, State Rep. Mike Skindell, and Lakewood Mayor Edward FitzGerald.

Antonio’s campaign is on line at www.nickieantonio.com.  

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