I was moved by the reactions of several members of the new LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council to their official swearing-in yesterday at the City County Building. I love that I don’t know everyone and I love the expanse of voices that will now be officially at the table.
You know I’m not one to mince words.
Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ has serious issues to address – I know this is preaching to the choir. You know these issues because many of you live them or tackle them day by day. You walk with the most vulnerable and you hold the most powerful accountable. You listen. You reflect. You amplify.
This is not a moment to rest on laurels. It is an opportunity to use a solid foundation to move forward into new territory. Here’s to your successwhich is all of our success!
My wishes for you
- Learn. Learn how a municipal government works and how it fits into the larger system of our Commonwealth government (and federal, too.) Learn how the cities are classified and what that means for their powers to do things. Study the City structures and read the budgets closely. Familiarize yourself with how an ordinance becomes law (and how an ordinance is different from a bill.) Review funding streams. This is boring, routine stuff but it can mean all the difference when it comes to deciding where to invest your energy. Pittsburgh as a City cannot do the same things that Philadelphia can do because of real legal constraints that would have to first be addressed.
- Listen. You already listen to your people, this I know. But listen also to those who have walked these halls before – how did sexual orientation get introduced as a protected class in the City of Pittsburgh? What did organizing look like in the 1970s and 1980s? Read the old clippings. Ask the old-timers still working in the bureaucracy. Those folks who persevered under Nixon and Reagan have become incredibly relevant again as sources of wisdom. Remember that Persad was founded under Nixon and the GLCC/PATF under Reagan. They have institutional wisdom.
- Look around internally. The City has some internal housekeeping to do. They do not offer transgender health insurance coverage to City employees. Their main cooperative partner, Allegheny County, does not offer domestic partner benefits so any consolidation would result in people losing benefits. Cultural competency trainings are not universal among City employees – for example, lifeguards at the public pools. There are only a handful of openly LGBTQ persons serving on other councils, commissions or committees. I’m not aware of any openly trans employees. These are items that they do have the power and resources to address now. Changing police culture requires internal cultural change, too.
I have faith in you.
You can stay in touch with the Advisory Council via Facebook. The members named to the council by Mayor Peduto are:
- · Julian Arney
- · Keyva Clark
- · Tricia Dougherty
- · John Ester
- · Cori Frazer
- · Megan Good
- · Reverend Shanea Leonard
- · Satvika Neti
- · Richard Parsakian
- · Skylar Rella
- · Marcus Robinson
- · Sarah Rosso
- · Ciora Thomas
- · Kevin Urda
- · Andrea Aliquo-Varela
- · Eric Horwith (Commission on Human Relations Representative)