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City budget proposal for 2013 spares liaison, HIV funds
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2013 budget is likely to cause less of a stir among LGBT people than last year's.

The budget keeps HIV funding intact and funds the longstanding LGBT director/liaison position, despite growing fears the job would be cut.

The budget proposes cutting just $18,000 of HIV funds during hard economic times that have meant drastic budget cutting measures across the country. In total, it commits $4.3 million to AIDS funding.

"Given the environment, we're going to have to live with that cut," said John Peller, vice president of policy at AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "We think that's manageable."

HIV funding was flat-funded in 2012, meaning that the city did not make cuts.

AIDS advocates applauded that funding, put forth in a year when other services saw severe reductions.

Peller said the lack of significant HIV funding cuts in both the mayor's budgets to date sends a message that the Emanuel administration takes HIV prevention seriously.

"We are glad to see this continued investment and we think it's a really good thing," said Peller.

Other LGBT advocates have been less supportive of the mayor's past cuts. His 2012 budget replaced the city's eight identity-based advisory councils with just three, dismissing all the LGBT advisory council members and their paid director, Bill Greaves.

The 2012 budget replaced the Women's and LGBT councils with a new council on Gender and LGBT Issues, but the $86,796 director/liaison position was never filled and the council has yet to form. Consequently, some suspected that the volunteer council would be cut in 2013.

That director position remains funded, however, in next year's proposed budget.

According to Eve Rodriguez, assistant press secretary for the mayor, a search is underway for a new director.

"We are actively working to fill a number of positions," Rodriguez wrote in response to a Windy City Times inquiry. "Through all of them, we have ensured that City leadership includes a diversity of commissioners that represent the city."

Pressed on whether those positions working to be filled specifically included the Gender and LGBT director, Rodriguez said they did. She said the volunteer council formation is likely to follow the hiring of a director.

The LGBT director/mayoral liaison position has been a city job since 1984, when then-Mayor Harold Washington appointed Kit Duffy to the position, which was then unpaid. After Washington died and Duffy left that post, the position was revamped into a full-time job.

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