Friday, December 25
by Sue on Fri 25 Dec 2009 07:01 AM EST
Women in Pittsburgh are rightfully angered by the Ravenstahl Administration's bumbling on the domestic violence charges against Sgt Eugene Hlavac who stands accused of a charge of simple assault for punching his ex-girlfriend in the face hard enough to dislocate her jaw.
In 2007, Ravenstahl and his team of top brass pledged a zero-tolerance policy for matters involving a police officer accused of domestic violence, yet the women's groups claim the Administration has failed to demonstrate domestic violence within police families as a major crime.
After accusations were leveled, Hlavac was "reassigned" to the Warrants Office, but his gun, badge and police powers remain in force. Hlavac is also "using vacation" as a maneuver for Admin to duck and weave on administering discipline.
That's more like 50% tolerance than zero tolerance. Reassigment to the Warrants Office is like the inner circle of hell or maybe Siberia, but it hardly sends a message that this is being taken seriously. Sgt Hlavac's charge was held over for court and a PFA has been issued. If you expect men with PFA's to follow the rules, you need to enforce your own rules regarding these court orders.
Now, last night on KDKA, Ken Rice reported that Hlavac has been fired. One of the investigative reporters interviewed Hlavac's attorney who claimed he would fight for reinstatement along with custody of his son. Yet, this morning that story is not the KDKA website. Nor is reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or the Tribune Review. In fact, the PG has a story by Jerome Sherman that is now out of date because of this breaking development. Thus, I have no source for my claim that he was fired, except for the fact that Ledcat watched the news with me and I'm betting a few of you did as well.
This is especially worrisome given the heightened fear Pittsburgh women rightfully feel about police response to DV calls and the fact the holiday tensions can give rise to spikes in DV situations. Would you feel it worth a call to report battery by your husband when the media has been filled with stories on the Hlavac situation and the fact that DV shelters are overwhelmed? Last night, KDKA also reported that Womens Center & Shelter turned away 600 women in 2008. Good job media. Focus on the merry of the holiday season and leave the rest of Pittsburgh to wallow in your obsession with bad news.
Another point of contention is the failure of the FOP (Police union) to take this seriously. By this, I mean not just the Hlavac case, but the entire concept that domestic violence is a problem.
First note, that O'Hara is quoted on his personal beliefs. He comes across like an uninformed jackass whom probably still doesn't understand that free speech includes vulgar language and flipping the bird at police officers, in spite of a heavy cash penalty that didn't come from his budget. O'Hara does not comment, or at least not quoted, on the FOP's official response to the case.
The truth is that Hlavac is going to have the FOP support for reinstatement. Not only do they just not get it when it comes to the significance of the issue, but they can't afford to ever capitulate to the firing of an officer on this charge. Hlavac is an administrator, but when studies show that domestic violence is 2-4 times more likely in police families ... there's cause for concern with regard to the FOP attitude.
The sentence about the policy interfering in the personal lives is downright deplorable. Of course it interferes. The police interfere in people's personal lives all of the time - when a crime is alleged or committed Why should police be exempt from their own reason for being?
Listen, Officer O'Hara, policies interfer with my personal life all of the time. If I commit a non-work related felony, I lose my criminal history clearance and my job. If I fail to maintain a clean driving record, I lost my work auto insurance coverage and my job. If I travel further than an hour from my site when I am on call, I lose my effectiveness as the on-call supervisor and my job. It is Christmas and I'm on call from now through New Year's Eve. That means we have to celebrate in Pittsburgh rather than at my in-laws house. That means I don't consume alcohol. That means my cell phone goes off at 4 AM with a situation I need to address regardless of the "interference" of my partner's sleep.
All of us sacrifice a little "interference" when it comes to our employment. Deal with it.
Now don't get me wrong. I do not believe that all police officers beat their wives and girlfriends, nor do I believe that all officers condone that behavior. They are on the front lines responding to horrific domestic situations and probably have a better understanding of the nuances of domestic violence than most of the public. Still, there's also a culture of having each other's back. I can imagine that one would not want to believe that a fellow officer would dislocate the jaw of their girlfriend. I can also imagine that the sense of persecution by heightened public scrutiny and the perpetual sense that the public just doesn't understand what it means to be a cop would raise their hackles and circle the wagons.
And there likely plenty of officers who struggle with a justice system that slaps abusers on the hand, victims who won't testify and the other systemic consequences of this epidemic. Even officers who deplore this behavior may not want to acknowledge that their profession is inherently attractive to a personality that craves power over other people. It doesn't make them, but the thin blue line protects and nutures their violent bullying personalities.
The story of Eugene Hlavac illustrates how much work there is to be done to protect officers families from domestic violence, as well as strengthen police responses to public DV incidents. The top down approach carved out in 2007 needs a lot of work and the intense pressure from the local coalition against domestic violence is pushing hard on that front. Jeanne Clark of NOW attended the Hlavac preliminary hearing and used Twitter to keep us all informed on not only the legal outcome, but the nuances of the testimony. It would be easy to see a defense win with the lessened charges, but her account of the multiple defense tactics that were overruled is heartening.
Then there's the FOP. I wonder if the coalition could sit down with the women on the FOP (1 out of 11 members of the Executive Board, 8 out of 40 delegates) and have a conversation? I wonder what other avenues exist to tackle this issue?
I think it is good news that a violent thug has been fired from a job where he carried a weapon and authority. I have no qualms believing his ex-girlfriend given the man's past as well as his reputation on the job. If the police brass and the FOP want us to believe in the integrity and authenticity of their response to the crime of violence in domestic situations, they need to weed out the wife beaters and promote the hard-working, intelligent men and women who uphold the values of their occupation.
Thursday, December 24
by Sue on Thu 24 Dec 2009 04:44 PM EST
I am not sure I will make it to the computer so I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I am grateful for our thoughtful readers and I am also grateful that my use of Merry Christmas earns me bonus points on the AFA Naughty or Nice list.
Today, Ledcat and I had our traditional Xmas Eve sushi meal at Plum in East Liberty followed by a slew of errands. Tonight we join our neighbors at Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church to celebrate the holiday. Tomorrow we celebrate with our joint family.
Plus, Brian O'Neill likes my writing. That put a smile on my face. I feel like Rudolph when Clarice says he is cute!
I promise not to tweet from church!
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Wednesday, December 23
by Sue on Wed 23 Dec 2009 10:16 PM EST
Foursquare.com is *supposed* to promote social and recreation venues. It was recently voted the second most popular social media application on mashable.com
So I started thinking ... what if foursquare were tweeked a little bit to promote municipal and political events? For example, JeanneKCC live tweeted from the preliminary hearing for Eugen Hlavac, woman beater extraordinaire. Natalia Rudiak frequently lets us know of various events she attends, including sewer authority meetings.
What if they took it a bit further? What if I use foursquare.com to remind folks that I'm at Panera Bread for a Steel City Stonewall meeting and someone else in Panera gets the update and wanders over to see what's going on?
The advantage of foursquare.com over Twitter is that you can get the address and directions without too many clicks.
I'm just sayin ...
by Sue on Wed 23 Dec 2009 11:23 AM EST
I've created a Twitter "list" of Pgh regional and statewide elected officials and politicians using Twitter. You can find it here:
So far, I've identified 53 pol-tweeps. The vast majority are members of the State House of Representatives. From Pittsburgh, the pickings are a bit slim. You can find Pgh City Councilmembers (and members-elect) Bill Peduto, Patrick Dowd and Natalia Rudiak. They take different approaches. Peduto mixes progressive political agenda with an occasional glimpse into his daily activities (lots of hockey references). Patrick Dowd tends to share more about his family and day to day life. Natalia is more of a "life of a local councilwoman" tweeter -- updates on meetings and events she attends as well as lots of positive PR for her neighborhoods.
All three are approaches that make our elected officials more accessible and add some transparency to the political process, the hallmarks of progressive politics.
Luke Ravenstahl and Dan Onorato have twitter accounts, but use them next to zero. Well, Onorato uses it a bit for the campaign, but sparingly at best. Actually, his campaign has an account they've never used even though 50+ follow it! For relatively young elected officials, they are being trounced in the social media arena and reinforcing the perception that they are deeply embedded in the 1970's style of governance.
I just added Elizabeth Borough Council President and Executive Director of the Alleg County Republic Committee, Monica Douglas. I haven't caught any of her tweets, but I was impressed that she's using social media tools to highlight a very local political venue AND promote the party. They need to be more active, but the ACDC isn't even a blip on this radar much to the shame of all of us. Steel City Stonewall Democrats are using Twitter.
I'm not aware of any other municipal officials using Twitter in this region. If you have someone to add to the list, by all means send the information to me. I'm @pghlesbian24.
Statewide, things really heat up. Senator Daylin Leach from way across the Commonwealth burns Twitter up with by far the most wry observations on things both local and national, as well as self-deprecating glimpses into his own life. I didn't like Senator Leach when I met him in person, but his tweeting is slowly melting that first impression.
I haven't even heard of half of the other folks using Twitter. The problem for me is that I forget who is a D and who is an R since most of them are tweeting a mix of personal and general observations on statewide legislation. I've never had so much statewide legislative information at my fingertips which is pretty cool, especially in 140 character chunks. I am clicking on the links and learning about issues, but I resolve to be more attentive to this in 2010.
Back to the D and R issue ... this is probably a good thing. It helps to keep in mind that these are human beings, not just party robots. They have families and adventures and all the same tweetable stuff as do I and other LGBTQ folks. Some of the elected officials have followed me in return, so I can at least hope that the various glimpsed into my life as a lesbian in Pennsylvania might make our community a bit more human to those who might otherwise vote against our equal inclusion in society. To be honest, I've retweeted a few and replied to a few; most respond to me.
That leads me to another point. It is clear that the persons behind the tweets are really the politicians themselves. The personal glimpses make that evident. The campaigns, on the other hand, are clearly tweeted by staff with a defined message. And the campaigns are not doing a very good job of using Twitter. The tweets are boring and far too infrequent to make much of an impact. Ironically, the best tweeps are Senator Specter and Wagner for Governor -- the old gray guys are trouncing the progressives like Sestak and Hoeffel. Specter is very entertaining, actually.
If I called Representative XYZ's office, I might get a meeting. If I'm important, I might get a return call. If I email, I'll get a response from a staffer. But the immediacy of Twitter is pretty enticing ... when I hit the @ function, I often get an immediate reply. Now, I've never tried this with a political/advocacy issue, but I'm going to experiment with this in January. There's potential for the sort of access the LGBTQ community needs. If I'm paying attention to RepGordon and learn he's an avid fan of local football, I can bring that up during my meeting with him. I can take note of his banter with RepDePasquale, I can bring that up and see if there's an opportunity to build on that relationship. Plus, I can figure out what's important to Representative Gordon -- gaming legislation has been a topic of frequent tweets.
Advocates would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to interact and learn about our elected officials. These folks are tweeting on Saturday afternoons and you can engage them right then and there. "Hey, my son is playing today, too" or "I caught those lights at Hartwood last night -- great holiday tradition" blah, blah, blah. It creates the relationship that makes your email/call/visit more impactful.
Politicians and elected officials are foolish to pass up this chance to connect with their constituents. I might click the link to the 152 page document precisely because I have been following you for 6 months and appreciate your tweets. I might then contact my state rep and talk about your issue. I might even donate to your charities, campaign or party. You have an unprecedented opportunity educate me and forge a relationship on an interpersonal level that no newsletter, public forum or website can ever offer.
Who would I like to see tweeting? Michael Lamb because he is smart and working on issues people should better understand. Rich Fitzgerald because no one really knows what Allegheny Council does until there's threat of a court battle. Jim Burn because the ACDC is woefully behind the times in general and needs fresh blood. Chelsa Wagner because she's smart, witty and has the unique perspective of legislating with a very young child -- there's a lot of mommies on twitter and a real chance to inspire. I'd like to see someone from Pgh School Board. I'd like to hear from Robert Daniel Lavelle who is being heralded as a progressive voice on a new City Council.
For now, the tweet king of Southwestern Pennsylvania is Bill Peduto. He has the most followers, sends the most updates and uses the technology like a pro. Hands down, Peduto has a savvy grasp on the power of social media and isn't afraid to use it to continue leading the progressive agenda in this region. No, to continue defining the progressive agenda in this region.
However, the entire GOP is breathing down his neck. The failure of SW Pennsylvania Dems to follow Peduto's lead may come back to haunt the Democratic party.
Here's a screenshot of my politician tweeps.
Tuesday, December 22
by Sue on Tue 22 Dec 2009 07:48 PM EST
Ah, the price we citizens pay for the might of the FOP. Sgt Hlavac is in the news again for dislocating the jaw of his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child. He claims he was defending himself. Hmmm.
Potter at the City Paper.
After outrage greeted Hlavac's promotions, Ravenstahl pledged that a new domestic-violence policy would "address the issue from here on out," and that Hlavac and the other officers would be "closely monitored."
How's that working out, Mayor Ravensathl?[sic]
Behind the Blue Wall
IS IT VIOLENT ENOUGH NOW TO TAKE SERIOUSLY?
Some wonder if we should blame the Masons?
Jeanne Clark of NOW went to today's preliminary hearing and used Twitter to share the blow by blow (pun intended).
Hlavac has been reassigned to the warrants office, but still carries his weapon. He's using up his vacation so there's no "need" to suspend him, but the CPRB is calling for a suspension.
Folks, this man is a volatile nightmare of a public servant. How can a person with reasonable intellect and self-preservation skill emerge unscathed from the 2007 promotion debacle only to engage in escalating violence toward his intimate partner? It is called domestic violence, not a spat nor a dispute nor self-defense. A trained police officer does not need to dislocate the jaw of a woman to "defend" himself. At least not a well-trained police officer.
The woman and men of our City deserve better than thugs like this man serving on our police force. I want a cool-headed officer with a measure of self-control to respond to a crisis in my neighborhood, not a violent predator with a chip on his shoulder.
Take his weapon and his badge until the court determines his guilt. For once, Mayor Ravenstahl, move forward to protect the welfare of your residents instead of your union allies.
Thursday, December 17
by Sue on Thu 17 Dec 2009 07:14 PM EST
Has been a busy week at Lesbian Central. Steel City holiday party Weds eve was nice -- they (we?)are looking for new board members. Give it some thought; you don't have to be a political junkie to make an impact. You just have to care and be willing to roll up your sleeves.
I'd like to see some LGBT parents get involved. The front burner issues, such as domestic partner benefits and anti-dicriminatio legislation, should hit home for those raising children. Your voices are needed at the table for the sake of your children.
I've also been working long hours seeking donations for holiday projects. Response has been delightful and very humbling. It really lifts you up to see someone smile over unexpected Christmas present, young and old alike.
If you'd like to help, it is not too late. Gifts of socks, gloves, blankets and $5 gift cards to Subway and similar restaurants can be "gifted" to people on xmas day, folks who are taking shelter in the mangers about town. Contact me if you can help.
I am hoping to work on a story about local and municipal folks using social media. I have been compiling a Twitter list of Pgh and PA pols using Twitter -- I have 51 so far. Check it out and let me know if you have adds.
More later when I am at my laptop, if I'm not asleep! I have to find a 4T Steeler or Pens shirt for my nephew. Any suggestions?
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Sunday, December 13
by Sue on Sun 13 Dec 2009 10:43 PM EST
I know I won't have time to blog tomorrow so here are a few end of weekend thoughts ...
Saturday's Handmade Arcade was a really nice event. Picked up some good gifts for my brother, mother-in-law and work folks. Ran into a handful of acquaintances, but mostly reveled in the DIY niceness that pervades the event. As someone who hates crowds, I appreciated the high ceilings to help me keep the jostling and bustling in perspective. I missed some of the odd ball items we've found in the past -- Dolly Parton notebooks, record coasters, fuzze furry little knit pencil tops ... but overall, it is a great event for Pittsburgh. I texted my friend looking for a line of soap to carry in his business and he's already in discussion with their wholesale folks. Nice.
Today started out on a cool note. Twitter alerted me to Jim Lokay (KDKA traffic guru) broadcasting from his living room, providing live time traffic coverage using Ustream. It was the perfect utiliarian social media forum. I was able to get reliable information fed to me in live time by a credible source and learn some of the behind the scenes "how to's" of the info gathering process. Plus, I didn't have to hear David Johnson comment on wearing his underwear ... can't wait to read Frannie's take on that in an upcoming issue of the City Paper. Lokay was professional and accessible. Ustream provided a chat feature and he did an impressive job of filtering through the silly comments to pick out the actual questions related to traffic. Plus, he recognized my user name which guaranteed a shout on this here blog.
This was an excellent fusion of social media with MSM. Hopefully, KDKA picks up on the greatness and stops sending David Highfield to stand in the bitter cold to tell us viewers to stay home. He can now do that from his front porch and then take us into the living room for a cosy chat on frostbite prevention.
Kudos, Jim. If I ever have a breaking story about my oh-so-exciting life, you will be my go to guy. Well, if Tony Norman turns me down.
Had a lunchtime brainstorming session with social media gurus on how to bolster the Steel City Stonewall presence and impact using these tools. It was scintillating and I'm looking forward to helping filter this project. One thing we discussed is the lack of an organization push to identify and recognize the individuals (like us) who are using these tools to push the "gay agenda" or perhaps more accurately, the LGBTQ agendas. Not recognize as in awards dinners, but recognize in terms of links and aggregated information.
For the record, Steel City is on Twitter @StonewallPGH and there's a new hashtag #LGBTpa and #LGBTpgh. Use it and be part of the good stuff.
Be warned, mommy bloggers, we are coming for you and plan to tap into that amazing parenting energy to join the battle to expand the civil rights of our families. You have been warned.
I suppose a few links are in order.
Houston, Texas has elected a lesbian mayor. A mayor who is a lesbian? Largest city to do so and it is in Texas. My only source in Texas, a self-identified conservative, thinks she's well qualified. Go Annise Parker.
Check out the Gay Wiki History which has a focus on men's lives in Philadelphia.
The Trib search feature got broken so no news from that side of the spectrum.
Steel City Stonewall is hosting a holiday open house. Members can bring folks so I'm inviting YOU to come out and learn how it matters. Hit me up for an invite. Seriously, there will be nog and really nice people (like the host) who work so very hard to battle for our civil rights. Word on the web from the advocates in the no that some major battles are coming up in 2010 ... including a possible challenge to second parent adoption. Come to the party and learn stuff.
Fundraiser for Pride known as Spark is coming up on Friday. For $50 you get a nice evening and support the event that draws out quite the crowd.
The GLCC Library is burning up the Facebook. You rock, library people. Makes me so happy when I get those updates ... who said books aren't compatible with social media? Posh. I understand plans are underway for the library to archive LGBT social media in general. We approve and hope you'll include the GSpod and our humble blog among others. I'm just saying.
In three weeks, PghLesbian.com hits 4 years of age. I have something special planned to commemorate this occasion. If I can pull it off, should be fun. Stay tuned.
Thomas Waters has a great post on which to wrap up.
Nevada: the only state with legalized prostitution (Proverbs 23:27-28), the gambling capital of the United States (Proverbs 13:11), home to the highest divorce rate in the country (Malachi 2:16) draws the moral line at gay marriage (no biblical verse available).
Please, big shout out to lesbian favorite Hoi Polloi for 1) being busy as all get out and 2) sharing coffee goodness with my humble self. They placed in the top 3 of City Paper "Best of Pittsburgh" for vegetarian restaurant.
Speaking of the poll, we need to get some LGBT love going, folks. I'm not sure if they have a best podcast category, but they should. Plus, we are a pretty universal alternative reference in Mr. Potter's paper so maybe a "LGBT resource" or "LGBT presence" or some such category would be good. How about "LGBT event"?
Final, final note. Cutting Edge, take note of Lokay's videocast.
Friday, December 11
by Sue on Fri 11 Dec 2009 07:06 PM EST
Feministing take on the Uganda Hate Bill.
But it's important to remember that this bill is still AN ANTI-GAY BILL. No matter the severity of the suggested "punishment" for homosexuality, the premise is uber-problematic. I also think it's important to remember that the anti-gay sentiment that created the bill has not been eradicated.
Rachel Maddow urges Rick Warren to denunciate this legislation on her show. I also learned through this link that the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Church, has remained mum. Anglicans and Episcopalians might want to have a little chat with your church leadership. Murdering and/or criminalizing gay people is an issue far beyond the pale of gay marriage or gay bishops.
Tonya Payne is running for the State House seat currently occupied by Jake Wheatley. Her facebook page is here. Facebook played a part in stripping her of her committee roles so let's see how this plays out.
PA Congress Rep Joe Sestak stops by Pam's House Blend Monday evening for a live chat.
Domestic partner benefits for public employees seem possible in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, back in good old Democratic Allegheny County -- nada. Well, it is an election year so it is possible we'll be thrown a bone to shore up that quasi-progressive image. Back in 2007, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee hosted what I deemed a "Big Gay Chat" to connect endorsed candidates with the LGBT community.
At this meeting, I asked Dan Onorato's surrogate about domestic partner benefits.
Dan Onorato: Said Dan favors extending nondiscrimination protections. In his Steel-City questionnaire, Onorato said he's in favor of domestic partnership benefits if the budget allows. When he was called on that, the surrogate got a bit snotty and defensive. Did he really expect a crowd filled with domestic partners and tax payers were going to just let that fly? I asked a follow up question and he looked none too pleased.
Now I am on the record as pointing out that the County's unmarried employees could be replaced at any point by married employees with children who would get benefits, so the budgetary argument was ridiculous (see follow up question). The surrogate sputtered which only confirmed the "have my communion wafer and eat it, too" mentality of these regressive Democrats.
I won't bore you with my repeated attempts to address this with the Onorato adminstration over the past several years. Suffice to say, Onorato is being spun as the best gay thing since ... Luke Ravenstahl. I guess. The benefits will be granted in the near future and Dan will get all the credit. Bah.
Do you read PageOneQ?
Public radio on marriage equality.
The plague of bars in Pittsburgh continues unchecked. Really, have you tried to visit the Southside? We visit one restaurant and one restaurant only because the food is good, but we have to mentally prep ourselves for an unpleasant environment. Hard to understand why the Cultural Trust would let a culturally interesting bar like Pegasus slip away from their part of town, even if it needed some sprucing up while the expanse of sports bars is considered a good thing.
The City Paper unveils Pittsburgh's best as voted by you! Does it mean anything that they have a category for LGBT friendly bar, but no LGBT specific anything? Well, the staff acknowledged that the Allegheny County anti-discrimination ordinance means Pittsburgh has left 1957 behind forever. Look out 1980's, here we come?
Some of favorite restaurants made the cut. Woo hoo!
Thursday, December 10
by Sue on Thu 10 Dec 2009 09:05 AM EST
Yesterday, I posted a statement from Bruce Springsteen in support of marriage equality.
"Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, 'The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is -- a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.' I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now."
PG's pop music guru Scott Mervis added a little spin ... sort of pops culture instead of pop culture?
A gig with the Indigo Girls can't be far off.
Funny? Lame? Mervis is a tough bird to understand. He comes across as a sort of dated hipster who begrudgingly trudges out to pop concerts with skull cap pulled ironically around his head. Some of his interviews are dripping with either intentional sarcasm or careless disdain. My problem is that his homophobia is sort of that gentle media insensitivity type, not blatant and not easy to pin down. The kind that misses opportunity after opportunity to educate readers and goes for the heterosexist default. Like this interview with somewhat vulgar comedian Lisa Lampanelli.
(Lampanelli) You're not a big homo, are ya? You sound [like one], I gotta tell you the truth.
(Mervis) No, actually, I have four kids. What helped you break through to this size audience?