Mayor Bill Peduto is looking for applicants to serve on the soon to be re-established advisory group.
Participants will meet monthly and serve on at least one subcommittee. Applicants must submit their information via an online form; the City has partnered with multiple community groups to allow individuals access to the application even if you don’t have Internet access.
The previous incarnation of this group advised Mayor Ravenstahl. While I wouldn’t say that Administration prioritized the group, they did some things – they were very helpful with resolving the snags that the then Pgh Dyke March was repeatedly hitting with the Department of Public Safety. They held a few forums. I honestly think the members had good intentions, they were just serving an Administration that didn’t necessarily share those intentions.
Obviously, there are much bigger policy and administrative issues to be addressed so I am glad to see this forward momentum in the Mayor’s third year of his term.
I am going to share some concerns – of course, I am. But I want to say first that I think it is incredibly important that a diverse group of people apply for this council. Lots of people should apply. This committee should not be dominated by quietly out white cis gay men with affluence and political ambition – that group hasn’t done such a great job over the past oh five decades or so, right? It should not look like an internship photo of millenials, nor a who’s who of gay Pittsburgh from a glossy magazine.
I know the Mayor’s team is doing a lot to ensure they reach a lot of people with this opportunity – but I’m going to part ways with them here and say even then, it is still their job to ensure the group is diverse. We don’t owe it to them to apply or serve. The culture in regional government is not exactly brimming with queer and trans cultural competence. It is going to take a lot of hard, difficult work to change the culture while simultaneously establishing a committee. In 2014, I blogged about these same issues. It is worth a read, especially if you think I’m being unfairly critical.
But maybe we owe it to ourselves and each other to take a closer look at the opportunity?
I do have a few concerns.
- Applicants do not have to be LGBTQIA+. Given the absence of any publicly open folks in senior leadership roles, this is both unsurprising and disappointing. I continue to cast a skeptical eye on the disconnect between allies who support us, but don’t create a culture where folks are proud to be out. This is a serious problem that opens the door for council that doesn’t reflect who we are – there is no conceivable way a straight cis white person should be on this committee. And real allies won’t try to take up the slots by applying. Don’t do it, allies. Hand over the mic and stand back.
- Visually, the page is VERY marriage equality heavy. This did shock me. Where are the queer and trans faces, the qtpoc and others for whom marriage was not a penultimate moment? Surely the City has more photos than just those from Pridefests?
- The subcommittees are a bit unusual – a heavy emphasis on human services (health, housing and homelessness) but none on public safety? Faith communities warrant a subcommittee, but not the trans community or seniors? Or qtpoc? I’m not sure what model was used to create the subcommittees, but it doesn’t reflect the role of City government as I understand it.
- There are serious barriers to participation – multiple monthly meetings require bus fare, parking fees, walking through metal detectors and possible body pat downs by security (or the police) and more. These are not to be dismissed as the cost of civic engagement. I’d like to see the Mayor commit to holding at least 50% of the meetings in the community with a firm commitment that all meetings of any type be close to public transportation.
So while we should push for a solid start, we have to be realistic about the implications and continue to work on all fronts for a more just and equal Pittsburgh. We must demand a Public Safety subcommittee because it is very, very clear that is a frontburner issue. We must ensure our siblings & neighbors who are trans, queer, bisexual, gender nonconforming, and otherwise not white cis gay men and lesbians are a significant if not majority makeup of the group. We must insist that our allies stand down from applying and not use their privilege as an excuse to speak for us, rather than giving us the opportunity to speak for ourselves.
Yes, I think you should apply! (Not allies, stop if you think I’m okay with that, I’m not.) If you can invest this time and energy, you could make a significant impact. I believe government can do good for our community, I do. And I understand if you can’t apply or won’t apply for various reasons. That doesn’t reduce your commitment to the common good – don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter, that your voice doesn’t matter simply because you don’t apply for a committee position.
So please spread the word to individuals you think might be interested. Encourage them to apply. Sign up for the email list on the City website so you can stay informed. If you have feedback on the application process, let the Mayor’s office know.