Arlington City Council unanimously approved a first reading to amend an anti-discrimination housing ordinance and created a new anti-discrimination ordinance during its Tuesday evening meeting.
The amended Fair Housing Code added sexual orientation and gender identity alongside existing categories of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status, recognizing the rights of every person to have access to adequate housing of their own choices. The new anti-discrimination ordinance also extends its protection to individuals when seeking employment or public accommodations.
DeeJay Johannessen, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Education Learning Project — a center supporting the LGBT community and those at risk for and living with HIV/AIDS in North Texas — supported the ordinances and addressed the city council.
“Passage of this ordinance is not going to magically make discrimination disappear in Arlington,” Johannessen said. “What it will do is for the very first time in our city history: put down in writing that in Arlington, Texas — the American Dream City — that discrimination is not OK.”
Johannessen shared an experience he and his then partner faced when they came to Arlington in 1998 and were unable to rent a one bedroom apartment due to a policy the apartment complex had that prevented same sex partners from renting.
“I urge your passage in this ordinance so that the ‘American Dream’ can be a reality for all residents and guests in Arlington,” he said.
During the meeting, the council also approved a first reading to amend the city’s operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
The 2021 fiscal year operating budget amendment approval will allocate funding available from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for additional spendings to support city council priorities.
City Manager Trey Yelverton said last year the city did what small businesses had done, which included cutting budgets, freezing positions and reducing expenditures. This year, the city took the same approach and has a lower budget.
“But since Congress took action on the relief funds for local governments, this is able to allow us to turn the system back on,” Yelverton said.
$6,100,000 will be added to the general fund’s appropriations to remove the hiring freeze that was implemented because of the pandemic in spring 2020. The money will also be spent on adding four new full-time positions to expand the city’s diversity initiatives and public health services, including one chief equity officer, one registered nurse in the fire department and two minority- and women-owned business enterprise positions.
$4,227,684 will be added to the convention and event services fund’s appropriations, $1,647,248 will be added to the street maintenance fund’s appropriations and $63,446 will be added to the storm water utility fund’s appropriations.
The final hearings will take place in the next city council meeting on June 29.