Pittsburgh’s Mayor Launches LGBT Advisory Council Amidst Unanswered Questions

FURTHER UPDATE:  If you wonder why campaign contributions matter, check out this PG article on the connection between contributions and City contracts.  Transparency, my friends.  Michael Lamb gets transparency.

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UPDATE:  In response to some community outrage (after 10 minutes), let me be clear that I am not suggesting any specific improprieties on the part of any individuals.  I'm merely pointing out that the formation of this Council has been unexamined by the larger community and calling for transparency in the current stages of the process precisely to avoid any allegations of impropriety. 

c/p Pam's House Blend  and DailyKOS

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As I reported yesterday, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, is launching a LGBT Advisory Council to provide an open line of communication between his office and Pittsburgh's LGBT community.  The planning meeting held on December 10 was chaired by Deputy Chief of Staff Kristen Baginski and the Mayor's personal liaison to the LGBT community, Gary Van Horn, a local businessman and President of the Delta Foundation.  25 people were in attendance, along with two members of the media. The room was fairly even between men and women, but almost entirely Caucasian and middle to upper middle class.  It was a pretty elite group and that didn't surprise me for a 5 PM meeting held downtown. 

Represented were PFLAG, Persad, PATF, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Gertrude Stein Club, the Steel City Softball League, TransPitt, and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center among others.  Several private citizens attended on their own behalf.

During the meeting, Van Horn and Baginski indicated that City residency would be preferred for Council members and described the nomination process.  Nominees must submit a resume and a cover letter outlining their interest in serving.  Everything is due by January 15, 2009. 

The conversation was fairly cordial if vague.  Attendees were interested in details on the Council's mission and structure, but the Mayor's representatives indicated that the Council would self-define these aspects along with the term of service, the meeting schedule and other details. 

I have asked the Mayor's office to clarify how they will make public any campaign donations made by the appointees to this committtee. I've also asked whether individuals who serve on the nominations review committee will be able to serve on the council. The Mayor's spokeswoman has declined comment. The Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff who is staffing this project has declined comment. 

We've been following this story for months.  I had a tip from Van Horn's co-organizer and former Steel City Stonewall co-chair, Tara Reynolds, that this was on the horizon.  Unfortunately, there was no further information forthcoming from Reynolds or the local advocacy community until Van Horn announced the meeting a few weeks ago. 

In case you were not aware, DailyKOS (600,000+ readers) is coming to Pittsburgh this summer with a sizeable LGBT contingent (Netroots Nation).  Pittsburgh has been prominent in the national LGBT blog/media with several big stories — the election of Bruce Kraus to City Council, the trial of Janet Edwards, Doug Shields' letter to Sally Kern, and the dissolution of the local Episcopal Church in part due to gay ordination. The eyes of the nation will be upon us (and so will their keyboards).

Now is a time for transparency. I think these are two fair questions and the answers are self-evident to myself at least. Our community should know of any campaign connections between our Mayor and the people we nominate to represent us to him. Those contributions don't preclude serving, but it is reasonable to want balance between donors and others. Our community should also know that the nomination process is as fair as possible.

Let us not forget how far we need to bring the Mayor along.  It was only a year ago that he publicly stated that he is opposed to “gay unions” during a public debate.  In spite of a follow up meeting with his advisors, he held steadfast to that position based on his Catholic beliefs.  The Mayor's only public appearances has been at social events such as OUTrageous Bingo and Pridefest, choosing not to attend public forums where he would be required to personally engage informed (and outspoken) members of the community.  The Mayor did sign the Domestic Registry into law, but has not been proactive in implementing this resource — only six couples have signed up and there is no indication that any company has added domestic partner benefits to their benefits.  My partner and I are registered with the City Department of Personnel and have never been contacted about the Registry.  There are no openly gay members of the Mayor's Administration.  His Deputy Chief of Staff did not know the title (Equal Employment Opportunity manager) or name (Tamiko Stanley) of the staff member responsible for cultivating a diverse base of employees.

There's a lot of room for improvement.

Other questions remain unanswered.  Will the entire list of nominees be made public?  Will the Mayor reach out to Councilman Bruce Kraus to recruit nominees from his network within the LGBT community?  Will the proceedings of the Council, including the nomination review process, be made available to the public? 

I urge you to contact the Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff at Kristen.Baginski@city.pittsburgh.pa.us  and ask her to make this information public.

We are not Illinois. Let us start this new chapter in local LGBT politics with transparency and fairness for the whole community.

The way you can best contribute to the process is to be proactive in nominating individuals from the LGBT community to serve on this Advisory Board.  The more diverse and more qualified the nominees, the better chance we have as a community to make this a meaningful resource for our community.  We need to take action to build a voice that represents the entire community and not just those who already have relationships with the Mayor because of their involvement in his campaign. 

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  • Negative before something even happens.
    I give KUDOS to the Mayor for trying to work FOR the community.
    We are trying to CRUCIFY him before it even begins. Why don't we just try to be supportive and make the most that we can out of this type of Council.
    Campaign contributions…Who cares? This is a NON PAYING council position. From what I hear they won't have a budget or spending decisions. This sure doesn't sound like a great position. More headaches and not just City Politics…buy GLBT Politics too YUCK! Thanks to those that want this position! We need people like you…you have much more patience then I will ever have!
    We all know how politics works. Yes there are community members that have given money to the Mayor's campain. I applaud them for being OPENLY GAY and give them money to the Mayor for his re-election. We all benefit by these folks!
    You need to think of the world with a little more optimism! Let's just be glad that the Community is going to have a voice with the Mayor.

  • Anonymous. Your timing is interesting — just missed a call on my cell phone with no message. Hmmm.
    Anyway, you are incorrect about being negative before something happened. Something happened last Spring when local advocates brought Stephen Glassman to meet with the Mayor. Something happened when the Mayor met with Gary Van Horn to get the ball rolling. Something happened when Gary gathered 25+ people in a room to talk about this Council. Those were very concrete “somethings” and your flip comment indicates a lack of appreciation for how much behind the scenes work does matter and is legitimate. Yet you are aware of the “budget and spending decision” details among others so clearly you've been chatting with one of the 27 people in that room.
    I gave up several hours of my day to attend the meeting (and stood in the rain to chat about it with several folks). I spent several hours attempting to get follow up information from the Mayor's team. I set up a Facebook Group to solicit nominations and have 44 people already, many of whom emailed me for more information on how to get involved. If anyone is being optimistic, it is me … I have faith this process can be meaningful if we avoid some recent missteps made by this Administration.

  • Isn't this information already publicly available, just not online yet? If one were interested, then, couldn't one see who donated to the Mayor?
    I mean, 2006 contributions were already available online:
    http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/page?oid=22566
    (link seems dead now).
    And Lamb is apparently working on getting all donors online by May anyway.
    So I guess I don't see the issue on the financing front. As for the transparency of the selection process, you might have a point. But ultimately, we won't necessarily know the entire extent of who Obama considered for, say, Sec. of State, and I'm not sure that's a terrible thing. In some sense, the final selections should be judged on their merits. The process may not be important.
    If it turns out that the mayor only selects major donors, though, you will certainly be proved to be right. But I'm not sure, aside from saying that we will raise a major shitstorm if that happens, that we can (or even really should) do anything to keep him from making a crap decision. In some senses, officials should kinda be allowed to pick their own advisors.
    You are certainly allowed (even encouraged!) to lobby to be sure that they make choices that you like.
    And like it or not, you're acting as the press on this issue, because I seriously doubt the P-G will even mention it (or at most once, when the mayor puts out a press-release, and they copy it down.) Well, C-P might cover it. So it may actually be down to you (us?, them?) to ask the hard questions, and be a little rude even to make sure that the Mayor's office realizes that there's interest in his decision, and that there would be a consequence for making a poor choice.
    Having said that, I'm not as worried as you seem to be that this will go wrong. But maybe that's because I don't see this as much more than a gesture to solidify his liberal support. I could be terribly off base on that last statement, because I know almost nothing about city politics. But it jibes with what little I do know.
    Anyway, glad to read about an issue I'd not previously thought about before.

  • Christopher — I think you are dead on accurate that this committtee is about the Mayor's “progressive/liberal” image. That's why it is incumbent upon the GLBT community to try and make this impactful — if we can help build a wise, thoughtful advisory group, perhaps we can help the Mayor make meaningful change,unlike the Domestic Registry. If we aren't active in the process, we are helpless to whatever unfairness is lacking in the process.
    The City Paper is covering the story as is Rustbelt Radio, but it won't be a blip on the PG until the Mayor announces the final selection and they lavish him with praise for being so progressive.
    I am worried about two things. First, the Mayor has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for transparency (see recent articles in the PG) and the information on campaign contributions is part of that. Even if Lamb gets the information on the City website, what good will that do if they Mayor is so unwilling to discuss the issue? Or the process issue? Does it seem fair that someone on the nominating committee gets to nominate herself? Wouldn't that put some awkward pressure on the rest of the committee? If you want to serve, you shouldn't be part of that decision and the Mayor's failure to identify the members of the committee is cause for suspicion — do you really think they don't know who will serve in that role with only four weeks to go? If not, that's a problem in itself.
    Second, I'm worried that our community will just sit back and let events unfold rather than take an active role in nominating the best and brightest of our own. This is the ONLY point at which we have real control. If we send in a list of people that are highly qualified and represent a diverse range of opinions, AND that list is fairly extensive, it would be hard for the Mayor's team to ignore that. Certainly, he has people he wants to serve and I agree that's fine, just that he consider the larger community in the final composition. So it is incumbent upon us to identify and promote those folks.
    That's why I would like a list of nominees. Not just merely to hold the Mayor accountable, but to hold the community accountable. If we nominate six people, we're doomed.
    I'm not sure I would characterize my worry that this will go wrong so much as worry that it will go nowhere. We have too many missed opportunities (see Domestic Partner Registry) and we are not exactly standing on the shoulders of the activists from the 80's and 90's who tackled LOCAL issues around funding for AIDS programs and anti-discrimination. We are merely scrambling at their knees and that's a disservice to all they accomplished.

  • This is ridiculous. Gary VH is a grubby political control freak with a very shady background of “allegedly” ripping off local gay groups (no slander here). The Delta Foundation is a sham to turn Pride and everything associated with it into profits for the bars. If that is the Mayor's idea of an advisor instead of Billy Hileman or Betty Hill or Rick Allison, we are F***iing screwed. Someone should do some digging into his background before he gets any more power. Restorative justice, my ass. Power grab is more like it.

  • Hush your mouth. No one is supposed to talk about this because it makes board members look bad. You have no proof, Tommy. Don't spread rumors. The boards need the bar money.

  • Hey Sue. This story was picked up by Pam's House Blend. Awesome job getting local issues on the national radar. Pittsburgh is my hometown and I might just come back for the convention this summer. Good to know that there is progress even if its business as usual in the Mayor's office. City Council has always been the bedrock of gay rights.

  • I've been on the receiving end of some pretty unpleasant comments, including death wishes. There is no need to turn a discussion about a real issue into a personal attack on anyone. If you have a story to explore WITH FACTS, email me. If you just want to toss landminds, go somewhere else. Posting anonymous rumors is pretty cowardly, just like the first commenter pretending to be someone who wasn't at that meeting.
    This discussion is about a political process, not individuals.

  • If the Mayor doesn't appoint Gary, Steve or Peter to his Council, I'll eat my computer. No way, no how, no lack of the big three. Follow the money and it always leads to booze, sex and business owners.

  • Good job Sue on getting so many stores on The Blend. Pittsburgh is quite the hot spot. Your Mayor is stonewalling you. Welcome to Illinois.

  • Let's get this straight .. ha ha.
    The Mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, is probably the most ethically challenged mayor in recent memory. Everything from inappropriately using public vehicles to trying to fire whistleblowers to the latest mess over contracts for campaign donations.
    Self-described leaders in the gay community are big supporters of this Mayor. They give him money we spend in their businesses and boast about their connections
    Therefore, what can we conclude about the decision-making of these gay leaders? Do they really represent the rest of us? Set aside the questions about their checkered pasts, focus on what's happening now.
    None of it matters really. The mayor has a big war chest so he doesn't care.

  • Say what you want about Gary, he's still in business. The cupcake guy is begging and pleading for people to spend $$ to keep him in business. I guess all the nasty lesbians who hate Sue for having an opinion or two get what they deserve when the only gay businesses to survive the recession will be the gay men's bars.
    Gary is also able to handle criticism. He doesn't write nasty things about Sue when she criticizes his decisions. He doesn't encourage people to be vile and vindictive. He just disagrees with her. Maybe he did learn a lesson or two along the way. It is called growing up. Some could learn from that.
    I think he's wrong on this issue, but don't sink to the level of the cupcake guy by turning this into a nasty bitchfest. Let's disagree and figure out how to nominate people who represent our viewpoints. Keep focused, people.

  • I agree. This is suposed to be about the process. Gary isn't a bad guy, but he does seem to be a little too involved in this process. The guy running the meeting shouldn't be the one who reviews the nominations and then chairs the committee. That's not a democracy — there's no check and balance. If he's already an informal advisor to the Mayor, he should be gracious enough to allow someone else to sit on the committee. He won't lose hise own access and it will make him look like a real leader. That's probably a pipe dream. It would be hard to let go of the power even if it was in the best interest of the community. I don't think he's that good a guy.

  • It is outrageous that the Mayor's office holds a meeting and then refuses to answer your questions. Here's another prime example of what a circus this council will be. One day soon Rich Lord will be doing some expose on how the entire council donated to Lukey's campaign and some gay bar is now the official vendor at the Light Up Night event. What a crock of shit. Just another reason to move to the suburbs where the hypocrisy is more up front. Fuck them.

  • Finally, the real issue — the Mayor engaging in “dodge ball” to have his cake and eat it too, all without choking on his distaste for the homos.
    If the Mayor's office won't answer question from the closest thing we have to gay media in Pittsburgh, we are supposed to believe he's going to take an advisory council seriously? He's making himself look like a fool and a hypocrite. Obviously, he should provide information on campaign contributions. What is he hiding? Does he really want all those folks on DailyKOS to come to town LOOKING for a story? They aren't going to just blog about the museums and how much the Pirates suck.
    If he continues to stonewall, it just makes Doug Shields, Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto look better and better.

  • I can't believe Gary held his tongue this long. I give him three hours to post some lame-ass bombastic response defending our friend the Mayor and stroke his own ego about how much he gives to Pittsburgh. Fucking shit. Just wait. He won't be able to help himself. I'll buy a round of drinks at Donny's if he can just let it go.
    Wait until he runs for office or wants a political appointment. The skeletons will finally come out of the closet. Too many people know bits and pieces of the story. It will all come out. It already started this summer. And good people will go down for trying to do the right thing by avoiding a scandal. Not a good economy to alarm your funders.
    Two hours and 50 minutes. Bet on it. The bastard doesn't have it in him to be above the fray.

  • Good job, Sue, for reporting an actual story that is of national interest and relevance. I think your questions are fair and your story balanced, even if your are naive for expecting the Mayor to answer them. I saw the story on the blend and kos. I'm really proud that you are now part of the national gay blogosphere. You are making Pittsburgh proud.
    Don't let the chit-chat about the personalities distract you from pursuing this story. You've been digging for months and have finally proven that you were right about the advisory committee. You were right about the Domestic Registry. Keep digging. Keep asking questions. Keep pushing people's buttons. The Mayor is going to form whatever advisory committee he wants, but now he's got your readership here in Pittsburgh and at the other blogs paying attention to what he does next. That is an accomplishment. If you turn out to be right and he appoints Gary to the committee and others who donated to his campaign, there's a story for the mainstream media to tackle. But you have it first.
    Pittsburgh may not be Illinois, but you could be writing about a future candidate for the Governor's seat. This whole dialogue will never go away and someone will be back to read it one day when it might really matter.
    Keep up the good work and don't let the negative nillies get you down.

  • Yeah Sue. Be optimistic! The Mayor came to PrideFest and even shook hands with some gay people. And use more CAPS because it makes you sound even more enthusiastic about rimming the Mayor's Chief of Staff. LOSER.

  • Where on earth did all these comments come from? 🙂 I go to work for a few hours and bam!
    Please try to stay focused on the issue of the Advisory Council. That's paramount. I'm still hopeful that the Mayor's office will answer the questions. Yes, that may mean I'm naive. So be it. The rest of the comments are completely unnecessary.
    And thank you folks for avoiding the death wishes this time. Tis the holiday season.

  • What is the Mayor hiding? Who cares. Anyone fool enough to think this Mayor intends to do a damn thing for any homo who isn't a white gay male business owner is an idiot. Make that a white gay male business owner with reasonably deep pockets.
    Don't be an idiot. It is bad enough Pridefest became a showcase for Liberty Avenue businesses and corporate blow-jobs. Now we are supposed to crown Luke Ravenstahl the King of the Queers because he is setting up a committee with a token tranny and a few white lesbians sprinkled in for good measure? Sister Sue, please tell me you are just trying to be objective in print and not really “optimistic” about this bullshit. You are a smart woman and must know better. This man finds us distasteful at best unless we are dipped in big shiny rainbow dollars tied up with pink bows. Which you ain't social-work-woman. And I sure ain't. And all the folks slinging drinks at Images aint. Most of the folks drinking those drinks ain't either.
    Your time and attention is better utilized by paying attention to City Council and County Council. Mayor Luke may want your advice, but these people want your actual support.
    Look at how many blogs are linked to this story! Let that be our advice to the mayor. People are paying attention to you, Luke. And they do not like when you and your shiny rainbow dollar lap puppies play us for fools. We are paying attention.
    And we are gonna recruit your baby.

  • Unfortunately Bruce Kraus has become an embarrasment. Our first openly gay elected council person and he has let the power go to his head. He's running rampent over south side businesses and would destroy the businesses and jobs if he could (he's trying hard).

  • Bruce Kraus isn't perfect, but it is weird that the Mayor isn't working with him to connect with the gay community. At least, people ELECTED Bruce. GVH appointed himself King of the Gays and is running rampant over the Stonewall Dems, PrideFest, Hillary Clinton's campaign and about 3 dozen other projects into which he can sink his paws. And our so called leaders just let him do it. The very same people who should be on this committee are the ones who don't stand up to Gary or the Disco-Sex Kings. I wonder if Luke has been to Club Pittsburgh for a meeting?
    Bruce can be unelected. GVH will have to be dragged away from power kicking and screaming. In my opinion.

  • Sue,
    You really need to take control of this thread and bring it back down to a civil discussion. I would respectfully submit that you kind of instigated it with the negative title you put on your original post. To say “amidst unanswered questions” implies that this council is tainted from the start. Why must there be an answer to every possible question before taking action? Can't things be answered or worked out along the way? The way the title is worded has given folks the impression that this is something untoward.
    The post itself was fine. You have questions, which you are entitled to ask. I would also point out, however, that this is not an elected council. This is a tool that an elected official is using to better fulfill his duties. An earlier poster who was railing against Gary Van Horn said that Bruce Kraus can be unelected, but that Gary can't. That's true. But what he failed to mention is that Luke can be unelected too.
    I feel you have made this into a popularity contest that is focused on WHO is talking to the mayor. Why don't you instead focus on what the mayor and his administration actually accomplish or do? An elected official can choose whomever he/she wans to for advice. That is not a democratic process. But if he/she chooses advisers that advise him badly, then the elected official will suffer. No amount of packing the board with ANYONE will make a hill of beans bit of difference unless the advice they give the mayor satisfies the majority of folks in our community.
    So, if you and your posters are so concerned about WHO is on the committee, instead of feeding whatever committee is created with helpful, thoughtful, realistic ideas and suggestions, then you are, as I said, just making it a popularity contest where it matters WHO is on the board, not what the board accomplishes.
    Why does it matter WHO is on the board? If the board gives the mayor bad advice, then our community won't support him the next time around. What possible purpose could the mayor have for a board that feeds him bullshit (read, advice that alienates him from a constituency)?
    Why not put your energy into providing input to whatever board is created?

  • Anonymous:
    Interesting points. First, however, you should acquaint yourself with other blogs and perhaps read a bit of the back posts here. The comments are a public forum where people are free to express their own opinions. Sue keeps comments up, even those that portray her in a very negative light or even threaten her. That speaks volumes about her commitment to free expression. She even puts her name on posts. And your name is?
    Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of democracy and a democratic process. Where some in our community invest their time and energy into cultivating personal contacts to further their self-defined agenda, Sue puts her ideas out for all to reflect upon. Agree or disagree, she's not hiding behind cutsey screen names or snide comments in private. She may have some wacky ideas, but you cannot fairly accuse her of not investing her energy into a rigorous public discourse on contemporary Pittsburgh gay life.
    You should carefully reread the posts and the comments, perhaps ignoring those who have a personal grudge to unfurl. The question is about process and the ever lingering phrase “transparency.” Your words suggest we should sit back and let events unfold rather than take an active role in the process itself. This is illogical. Why have a meeting to discuss the process, present the process and seek approval of the process and then turn around and say the process is not integral to the effectiveness of the committee? The only reasonable answer is that the Mayor's office wants public approval of his project, but not public input. Again, backwards thinking.
    You suggest the committee will be ineffective if their input is not satisfactory to the majority of the gay community. Again, illogical and undemocractic — please see the Founding Father's writings on factions. The committee has to start out representing both the majority and minority viewpoints in the community to be truly representative. IF that is what the Mayor wants. It won't be perfectly representative, but allowing for a transparent process during the nominating phase is the most reasonable way to achieve that outcome.
    Your forget to mention, sir, that the election is in 2009. The committee cannot possibly have any measurable outcome until well after the primary. Thus, any electoral consequences of this committee will not be felt for several years in the future. That is not considered a constraint by anyone of reasonable intellect much less the considerable campaign funds collected by the Ravenstahl.
    Who is on the committee is not so much an issue as how they conduct themselves. I am satisfied to be represented by a committee of individuals with integrity, intelligence and fairness. Gender, sexual orientation, wealth, and so forth are far less important to me than their thoughtful understanding of the complexities of our community. Someone who is willing to make public of their own free will that they have donated to the Mayor (or anyone else) strikes me as somewhat trustworthy. That is a person who is unafraid of public scrutiny.
    You, sir, should also reconsider your claim that Sue is more interested in the negative – a charge she faces quite often when it comes to the gay support for Ravenstahl as I read through old posts on related topics. You might note that she has vigorously encouraged her readers to nominate worthwhile candidates. She started a Facebook page which has attracted 60 members in just a few days – that's how I found out about it. The Mayor's meeting drew only 25 people. I looked it up and the local gay democrats only have 50 members. So in a few day's time, she put this information — and promoted the nomination process — in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of people because she cares. I have not noticed that the other gay bloggers attended the meeting or wrote about it, except second-hand from Sue's original story. I have seen no press release or email blast from the local gay organizations educating their members on the process. Pittsburgh's OUT wasn't present at the meeting, at least according to Sue's information. Perhaps they were. Mr. Van Horn has not started a Facebook Page or a website or any other type of outreach to the general milieu of gays. Your accusations of negativity are simply inconsistent with the evidence.
    I'm sure the other people at the meeting have been talking about it and perhaps preparing nominations. But you do democracy a grave injustice, sir Anonymous, when you try to suppress free expression because you do not like the expressed thoughts. Some are silly, some are unpleasant, but many of the comments seem to be reasonable perspectives that have no other outlet in this entire community. If someone takes the time to post on a small lesbian blog, they must feel somewhat strongly about the issue. Isn't that level of political involvement exactly what we want in our community?
    Accusing Sue of being an instigator is unfair. The questions were unanswered and perhaps remain so. Hyperbole about “every possible question” is a distraction tactic. These are specific questions relevant to this specific point in the process. She did not suggest that individuals with campaign donations be kept from appointment, just that the information be disclosed by the Mayor. Perhaps if the Mayor's staff had been better prepared by their advisors to expect some thoughtful questions beyond residency requirements, we might not be in a position to question the judgement of said advisors. Frankly, I'm perplexed that someone as active in gay Democratic politics as Mr. Van Horn was not thinking on this level. It certainly implies a certain naivete, if not a sense of entitlement, that makes me question if he has the maturity and depth of character to serve on this committee. I do not know the gentleman, but he does seem to prefer to operate behind closed doors a bit too much for my taste. That might be fine for a street party on Liberty Avenue, but is that a transferable skill to creating a political climate that tackles the real challenges facing Pittsburgh's gay community?
    Overall, I find this blog a very entertaining and thoughtful read. I will certainly visit on a regular basis. No other media source provides such broad insight into Pittsburgh's gay life. The balance of first-person anecdotes with first person reporting and a constant call to action is sorely missing amongst the meetings of many other local groups. And I rather enjoy the off-beat insight into Sue's day to day life all of which adds some charm and serves to humanize her. Clearly, the other bloggers admire her work so perhaps we should be adding new voices to her discussions rather than asking her to stop talking.
    Sir Anonymous, you are clearly invested in this committee and good for you. Perhaps you could post a list of nominees for us to discuss in a civil manner. That would be a very useful way to bring the discourse back to a civil tone.
    I also suggest you join the Facebook group. You might learn some interesting things about 60 people you've never met before.
    I am very much looking forward to how this discussion moves forward when the Monday morning readers chime in. This has been one of the best give and take dialogues I've witnessed in years.

  • Anonymous,
    Did you actually read the original post? You think the phrase “unanswered questions” is what instigated the anti-Gary and co backlash? Are you fucking kidding me? There's a scandal waiting to be exposed that will rock several organizations. How will the Mayor feel when that hits his little gay love nest? That would be fucking hilarious. Like a mini-me Pat Ford just waiting for the bloggers to dive in for devouring.
    The Mayor picks three white well-off gay business owners as his advisors and you think it is negative to be questioning the process? You must either be one of those folks or be sleeping with them. Or working for them.
    Your post doesn't even make sense. If it were a popularity contest, it is likely that the owners of the bath house and the bars would be on the board — they cultivate popularity to stay in business, for pete's sake. Marketing 101, dude. The GLCC doesn't hire half-naked boys to stroll through their events to bring in the crowds. There is no disco ball in the waiting room at Persad. Yet everyone says they should be part of this process. How is that a popularity contest?
    No one ever said the Mayor shouldn't pick his own people. They have been saying that the people he's picked so far represent a very narrow strata of the community (strata is now officially replacing transparency as the word of this story). And how would we know if people are or are not putting their input into the board if the Mayor's Office being closemouthed about everything? For all we know, 15 resumes hit his desk on Friday.
    I admire how you try to use a reasonable tone to cloak your distractions and accusations. Clearly, Sue would not win any popularlity contests because she is always making someone angry (especially those lesbians when she questions anything they do — probably a good thing the young lesbian nation is ignoring this whole opportunity or she'd be toast). But she knows she's a lightning rod and I doubt she'd be willing to serve on a board that is controlled by the Mayor. Nonetheless, this conversation is right where it needs to be.
    Why not put your energy into having the Mayor's people answer the questions so we can move on? Even if they say “no, we aren't going to release that information” at least we know where we stand. Behind the popular kids. Fucking truth, dude.

  • I'm sick of all the little jabs you men are making at lesbians. Not every lesbian in Pittsburgh hates Sue, in spite of the petty little bitches making comments about her a few months ago. Talk about priorities — they get their ire up over cupcakes and eating disorders but pay no attention to something like this. Now the rest of us have to pay for their “mean girl” behavior. Good job to the woman who instigated all of that with her email list. That kind of insular, self-serving behavior has given the women's community quite a reputation on line. Keeping worrying about the Liquor Hours and the potlucks. Leave the politics to the menfolk, ladies, as that has served us well over the years.
    To be fair, some of the men posting here are at that same level of maturity and pettiness. So it isn't about gender at all, just about maturity and decency.
    Some of us care about politics. There were women at that meeting and some of us are considering applying for this board. I think Sue raises some good points and I'm very intrigued by all this mystery around Gary Van Horn. I have no doubt the board will end up with mostly Mayoral picks plus a few tokens so the lesbians should get their act together and nominate some stellar candidates so our voice is heard at the table.
    Grow up, lesbians and gays. Stop being distracted by the gossip and the pot shots and start taking adult responsibility for the decisions being made on our behalf.

  • Some lesbians like Sue, a few dislike her, a few are afraid of her and most don't have a strong opinion one way or another because they don't judge people they haven't met. We aren't all shallow, even if we disagree with her from time to time. She's a smart woman and has been the best source of information in this community since she began blogging. Even if we disagree with her from time to time.
    It is sad that the nastiest comments on this blog come from other women in the lesbian community, especially those affiliated with organizations like Persad and the GLCC. Sad.
    When it comes to being petty and immature, the lesbians have put on quite a show.

  • People. What matters is what the Mayor is NOT doing. Gary's sordid past, the lesbian nasties, the disco ball duo, none of that matters. The Mayor of our City is using us to have fake gay credibility.
    Here's what should happen.
    1. Gary should publicly state that he will not serve on the committee and thus put an end to any hint of impropriety and squelch any further investigations into his past. He can be on the nominating committee, just not the Council. Prove you are the leader we need, Gary and step aside.
    2. Peter and Steve should make it clear what role they are playing. None of these three need to be on this committee. They all have plenty of access to the Mayor.
    3. All of the above should disclose their campaign contributions, either personal or through their businesses, to the Mayor. All nominees should follow suit.
    4. Gary should use his influence and access to convince the Mayor to provide answers to at least some of the questions.
    5. Readers of this blog should nominate someone they think is a good fit instead of flinging slurs around.
    6. Everyone should congratulate themselves for having an animated discussion on an important topic.
    7. Someone in the mainstream media should take note and write about this issue. Hey, Chris Potter and Political Junkies, I mean you. Anyone got Rich Lord's phone number?
    ps: Thanks to those who are passing this link around. Fascinating early morning reading.

  • All twinkly and sparkly is Gary. He gives us free drinks and how we dance at his command. He feels so pretty when we dance for him.

  • Where ARE all these nasty comments you keep referencing? I love it when lesbians gang up on each other, especially the therapists — oooh, they can be a mean bunch of self-loathing, man-hating, tofu-eating dykes. I love that chunky chick with the funky glasses and the *snap* attitude. And that social work “can't get a real job” man-hater who beats down the tranny women and thinks we can buy a community center by selling beads. I love it! They keep it real, honey. The lesbian community is as much about power, control and cliquishness as the Bush Administration.
    Sue, honey, I love you too for being a big, brassy, sassy, obnoxious, self-admitted hypocrite with a heart. Keep it real, honey.

  • It's interesting that the only thing being discussed is who is or is not on the committee. Not one poster has made a suggestion about what the council should do or have as it's goals. All anyone is interested in is who is on the council. It sounds like jealousy or envy to me…
    I challenge everyone who has posted to list one goal, problem, issue or whatever that this yet-to-be-formed council should take up with the mayor.

  • Hi Folks,
    I have to chime in here. While it is true that some of the discussion has focused on potential members of the Council, I think it is an overstatement to say that has been the “only thing” the commenters have discussed. Setting aside the unpleasantries and downright odd tangents, a lot of the discussion seems to be on the process of establishing the council and the behind the scenes happenings that led us to this point.
    Anon — I think you mischaracterize the vibe as envy. There is some clear resentment, some anger and some frustration, but I've also read some pretty interesting analytical observations that seem to come from years of being part of the community — perspectives I never considered.
    However, you do lay out an interesting challenge. I, for one, can say that I actually began this whole conversation with a “wish list” of my expectations for the council. That link is: http://www.pghlesbian.com/blog/_archives/2008/12/3/4006081.html
    I also recently responded to a post on What Comes After 8, Pgh with another list of 10 goals for the council. You can read that here: http://after8pgh.blogspot.com/2008/12/wow-sue-quite-response.html
    Finally, I agree with the commenter who said that this conversation is right where it needs to be. Identifying goals is putting the cart before the horse until the Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff provides more clarity on the process of creating the council. I'll have to go back through the comments to see if anyone has laid out goals, but my impression seems to be that people want answers on the how, not the who.
    We are better served if we don't talk in absolutes, especially given that we have 30+ opinions here. And … wow! 30+ opinions on a political LGBTQ topic. Wow!
    Sadly, some are using this discussion to bash specific individuals, both involved with this project and in the larger community. I didn't enjoy when I was on the beat down side of that behavior and it really serves no purpose other than creating more divides. If you want to convince people that there is some nefarious plot afoot in the gay community, lay out your facts and evidence. These folks have done some good work for our community and deserve a chance to rebut criticism of their choices and decisions, not defend themselves against anonymous, spiteful and hateful comments.
    I know I can't argue with folks who have an agenda, but I want to at least go on the record as saying that all of these attacks — the pointed and the absurd — are unwarranted and out of line. Your only accomplishment is to demonstate that folks in our community can be as petty and small-minded as the larger hetero community. Emulating Sally Kern is not exactly productive or imaginative.
    Rather than turn on ourselves, make a call to the Mayor's office and ask for more information on the process.
    Sue

  • Anonymous sniping does not = keeping it real. Let's just try to stay focused on the issue at hand and keep the snark to a minimum. Following the example of people who “spewed unpleasantries” at me for having an opinion is not going to win anyone over or move the conversation ahead. Better yet, step up and do something to contribute to the community. Or at least the conversation.

  • WHO is this person obsessing about WHO? The question is WHY does anyone believe Luke Ravenstahl will be a man of his word given his track record of the most objectionable judgment possible? I know that Gary really seems to like Luke, but that's not a good enough reason for the rest of the community to trust the Mayor. Gary isn't a stellar reference when it comes to truthiness. His conduct in this matter only reiniforces the skepticism of his motives.
    If Gary has appointed himself ambassador to the Mayor for the homosexuals, let him set the right tone by stepping aside to avoid the hint of impropriety. If he wants us to trust the Mayor, he should defer to the prevailing sentiment and allow others to take the lead on this project.
    Gary, the ball is in your court. If you refuse to step aside, you confirm every negative expectation of this whole project. If you do step aside, I'll be impressed by your sincere commitment to its success.

  • What is the fucking deal with all the lesbian bashing? So a few immature girls behaved badly? They were led down that path by their leader who opted to tap into the as you call it “mean girl” vibe to vindicate her buddy, the cupcake king. That's like 7 women in a community of thousands. That was a pathetic immature display. Most of us could care less about cupcakes or Sue's opinions about cupcakes or Gary Van Horn's opinion about the Mayor. They care about their families, their jobs, their health insurance and their every day lives. Potlucks, bookclubs and happy hours are fine, but they are luxuries that many of us can't indulge when we are struggling to make ends meet. These are the things this council should be advising about and we need to get some intelligent women on board, not those who make us look bad by issuing fatwas over cupcakes.
    Please stop lumping all of us in with the few who bash their sisters. Clearly, they have lesser things to worry about than those of us living day to day. We should be happy that 25 people were able to attend a meeting scheduled at 5 PM, a move clearly intended to exclude working class queers.
    Bashing lesbians is not going to build consensus on this issue. I didn't see any of you men jumping into that discussion, so let it rest and move on. We have issues. I need to feed my family today and next week. Let me sit down with the Mayor and tell him about some of my experiences dealing with anti-gay/anti-lesbian crap in the workplace. I would love that and you can bet he'd learn a thing or two.

  • My head hurts over all these words. Where the hell have you people been for the past three years? Is this some sort of Prop 8 backlash everyone keeps talking about? I need an aspirin to keep reading.

  • You know what, Marsha? I bet you got the same email message I did about this blog. You are right that lesbians aren't all Lword naval gazers. But I think it is a damn shame that a group of young twits got mouthy over something so stupid and it makes us all look bad. And those comments will be on the Internet forever, making us look ridiculous. And not a single one of those women are chiming in on something IMPORTANT like this. We can only hope none of them will end up on this committee.
    Marsha, you need anything — you let me know. Don't let them get you down.

  • What's done is done. Let's move on. Clearly, those women are not representative of the lesbian community. Nobody thinks that. I'm glad the email message went out about this blog thanks to Missy. This is a real conversation that our community hasn't seen in years. No Power Points, no fancy agendas. Just opinions, for good and bad. Amazing this grandma dyke. This whole conversation, including what Gary has to say, is a concrete example of why we are concerned of how the committee gets set up. I didn't even know about this until now, but I'm sure as heck damn concerned by what I'm reading.
    Sue, was Betty Hill at this meeting? If she is on the committee, I'll feel better. She is a pretty smart cookie.

  • Lesbians have their own subculture within the community because the men in charge won't step aside for meaningful leadership opportunities. You can make fun of our potlucks and our vegeterians, but think for a minute — who started this blog, the biggest “gay” blog in Pittsburgh? A lesbian.
    Who made sure hundreds of people know about this opportunity for political change? A lesbian.
    Who is the only one who publicly calls out the white gay men making most of the decisions? A lesbian.
    Thank a lesbian today, folks, for they are making an impact.

  • Missy — WTF? Is this a novel or a blog? I will say that it is pretty ironic that this Gary guy who runs PrideFest made that event less about the politics and community that drove Stonewall and more about a circuit party is the same guy who thinks under the table deals with the Mayor is the way to achieve political gains. He should go see Milk. Or read a book about Stonewall. So we have a big party and the Mayor comes. Big whoop. That doesn't give my partner health insurance or help us find a way to pay for adoption sees so I can cover our kids. Why doesn't the Mayor do something about that?
    Speaking of campaign contributions, why don't you add to the list of questions how many of Luke's corporate donors provide domestic partner benefits to their employees? Maybe now that he has a child, he can appreciate how hard it is when you can't get something so basic for the child you've raised and loved because adoption fees are really expensive. His wife is a hairdresser, right? So the City is paying for all three of their insurance packages with MY tax dollars. How come I can't get insurance for my kids except through CHIP which the Governor makes possible?
    Maybe lesbians and others would be at the table if we weren't so damn busy working extra jobs and overtime when we can get it so we can take care of our families. I may have a working class job, but I'm smart and well-read and I lived our history. I have the battle scars to prove it.
    So answer that question, Gary. How does a street party, which used to be a nice place to take my kids, make a difference for me? How does someone who doesn't seem to understand the history of the gay movement get to be our leader? And when am I going to get some health insurance for my partner? Take that to the Mayor for your next little chat.

  • Just a quick correction. No one from Transpitt was at the meeting. I was there as part of a Trans Working Group that I'm trying to start up, which is not affiliated with any organization.
    Emilia

  • You are talking about many separate issues. This should be about the Mayor. He is the one who made the decision to rely on Gary's advice. So we have two options here.
    First we can make sure Gary is hearing from us directly. This is his email address: GARY@vanhorngroup.com. This is the phone number at Images 412-391-9990. Give him your input instead of just complaining. The cowards won't bother, but those of you who really care about change will do something constructive. For your information, i got that email and the phone number from public sites so I am not invading his privacy.
    Second, we can help get good people on this committee. Nominate someone. Nominate Missy. Nominate Tommy. Nominate the people who are saying things that you agree with. Don't just nod your head and click to some other blog. Be the change you want to see in the world is a famous quote. President Obama says “yes we can” so make that our saying here in Pittsburgh. Yes we can make change.

  • The Mayor needs to be responsive to his voters. Period. Refusing to answer a question about campaign contributions is the kind of subterfuge that poisons the local Democratic Party. Then they whine about us being negative. What a crock of bullshit. There's no chance to be positive without being flaunted as some sort of homo-trophy for the political ambitions of Raventstahl.
    Someone should start asking questions about the sudden and quiet resignation of half the board of directors of the Delta Foundation. We were talking about this at Bingo. What happened to Loni and that super-cheerleader straight woman? They disappeared without a further word after being paraded around as God's answer to diversity on an all-white male group. And we are supposed to TRUST this group to form a diverse committee? Shut up.
    I agree. Welcome to Illinois.

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