He brought it up first.
I'll admit it was the elephant in the room and I was debating how to bring it up without going into accusatory mode. Everyone talks about it. His Steel City Stonewall Questionnaire is pretty darn good, but “it” lurks like the tell tale heart. Or so it seems.
But Independent Mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin brought up his donation to then Senator Rick Santorum's war chest. I listened somewhat skeptically to his tale, but found myself drawn in to the story of a working class kid who found the party he loyally supported moving inexorably to the right on positions where he could not bend.
Like gay rights. I've been curious why Acklin has showed up at so many gay events, especially when he was still a Republican. He told he received a lot of backlash from inside the party for testifying in favor of the anti-discrimination ordinance before County Council. So why do it?
Acklin has gay people in his life that he loves and cherishes. His college roommate came out while they lived together so Acklin witnessed the ups and downs of that process, eventually serving as a witness at his wedding in Canada. He's close with a young man also coming out under completely different circumstances and has been amazed as the transformation in his life when he connected with supports that affirmed his identity. The political really is personal on this issue. Or issues.
Acklin supports marriage equality. He believes in domestic partner benefits. He wants an LGBT Advisory Committee that is “not just my top ten gay donors.” He sees hiring an openly gay person in his Administration as integral to having a real culture of tolerance and understands that policy doesn't quickly translate into practice when it comes to equal treatment. When I explained that City employees lost rights when the 911 jobs collapsed into the County which does not offer domestic partner benefits, he agreed that it shouldn't happen again.
He sees Pittsburgh as a City in the process of becoming gay friendly, due mainly to the “hard work” of community leaders or from the bottom up. Now is the time for a top down approach to promote Pittsburgh as a diverse, welcoming community.
Still. The donation.
I forgot about it.
We talked about other things. His plans to streamline the small business process at City Hall He's appalled that the Mayor declared the Hill District CBA a one time deal when development should be leveraging private dollars for the public benefit. That negotiation is what he defines as “the hard work of government.” He wants to push for a dedicated source of funding for transit The restaurant closed so we didn't get far on that path, but he did tell me that he favors a spineline of public transit to Oakland, preferably through the Hill District
Acklin and I had an interesting side conversation about the use of new social media. He uses Twitter and strives for what he terms the 3 P's – a little Pittsburgh, a little personal and a little politics. The story about his usage of Facebook is definitely offbeat As a Harvard alum, his information was actually hacked by the Facebook founders and he set up an account back in 2000, long before it became the trendy media of today.
I like Kevin Acklin. We disagree on some issues, but I believe he's a friend to our community.
His Steel City Questionnaire is attached.
And he did bring it up first.