Monday, February 23
by Sue on Mon 23 Feb 2009 09:05 PM EST
So, heck yeah, I'm still a little sore. Thanks for asking. I actually did pretty well until my last trip down the narrow flight of stairs at work. Thankfully, my wrists and fingers are fine so I can blog away.
How about someone saw my Twitter updates about the Steel City Dems endorsement meeting and asked for information on how to get involved? Anonymous commenters be damned, we are doing our share of recruitment here at lesbian central. :-)
So before I get started, let me update you on my ongoing attempts to get responses from the offices of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (on the GLBT Advisory Council) and Chief Executive Dan Onorato (on the cyber town hall meeting). Let me check my notes ...oh, that's right. No response from Joanna Doven or Megan Dardanell. Nothing.
I arrived at the endorsement meeting just as the networking was wrapping up which give me a chance to snag a front and center seat for the "meeting" portion of the meeting. I took some notes as fast as my Blackberry permitted. I was sort of annoyed that I forgot to bring a pen, but did enjoy the discomfiture of certain folks who believed I was live blogging. Ledcat accused me of getting carried away with photographs, but as no one stood still very long I had to delete quite a few less than flattering shots. The lighting was terrible for photos, but I took a few anyway.
First up was Dan Onorato. Frankly, I have no idea why he spoke as he is not running for anything. I was not impressed. Regarding the County Anti-Discrimination ordinance, he said "we have to get legislation that we can pass." He also acknowledged a new national "tone" and that we must "keep the tolerance level where it should be."
Huh? I hate to let you down right from the get go but this was just absurd. Legislation that can pass sounds suspiciously like "lose the gender expression language and you got yourselves a deal." And what the hell does it mean to keep the tolerance level where it should be? Tolerate homosexuals because the country elected a black man? This is what the third most powerful Democrat in the state chooses to talk about at a gay meeting? Not his position on the ordinance. Not his position on domestic partner benefits for his employees. Not plans to diversify his staff, train his first responders or any such issue. No, he spoke the language of capitulation and I think that is a bunch of bullshit.
The worst thing is that once again someone who does NOTHING for our community is going to earn bonus points for merely showing up. You can see where
I am mightily disappointed in whomever made the decision to give him the microphone. Thanks for once again devaluing our endorsement. I fully know I am going to get a lot of flack for this opinion, but this was an egregious violation of the community's trust with such important legislation hanging in the balance.
We did, at this point, learn that the County Ordinance is in committee and that they are hashing out the financial side of things -- how to pay for the education and enforcement components. It was alluded that there might be a possibility of combing HRCs between the City and County. If that happens without the domestic partner benefits issue being successfully addressed, shame on everyone.
We did not learn how he plans to vote. We can assume, but we can't know.
State Representative Dan Frankel spoke. One of the elected officials who has been there on every vote since the dawn of time, he deserves any chance to speak he wants. He wants us to support HB 300 which will expand statewide protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. He asked for our "passion and persistence."
Then several judicial candidates spoke, with a very awkward interruption by Sheriff Bill Mullen who was clearly the most uncomfortable person in the room. I have no idea why a Sheriff should speak before a judicial candidate but he really had nothing relevant to say anyway. No word on training his staff or hiring more gay people or pretty much anything except "please vote for me."
Back to the judicial candidates. I was completely lost. It was like a blur of people throwing around terms like "super lawyer" for a long period of time. I *think* the important thing to remember is that there is one opening on the Supreme Court and this could have a significant impact on legislative redistricting after the 2010 Census. The Court is even divided between Democrats and Republicans. Go read the questionnaires for more details on the individual candidates. Here is what stood out to me. (I fully admit I forgot to bring a copy of the ballot home with me so I don't know everyone's names --- I did try to wade through the Steel City page, but I simply could not figure out a few. I apologize and feel pretty stupid.)
Part of me thinks I should write nothing, but I recognize that I'm going to vote based on the things that stuck with me not a ton of research. This will be my only exposure to these candidates before the primary so I'm going to share with you what stuck with me.
Assistant District Attorney ???? unionized his office. I didn't know the District Attorney's office was unionized. That was a bit impressive.
Court of Common Please candidate Arnie Klein made a very impassioned speech about a judge needing experience across multiple divisions. I agree and I endorsed him because he said it and because he has been at almost every gay political event I've attended. I genuinely believe that Arnie Klein would be fair and respectful to gay people. He's worked hard to earn our trust.
Don Walko hopes to leave the State House for the Court of Common Pleas. Walko is another one who has been there on the votes and earned our support.
Joe Williams, I had my doubts about, but when he spoke, he got me. He said two things. He worked on a Persad committee where he learned a lot about gay issues. Second, he spoke very movingly about the unexpected emotional impact of serving on the bench such as concern for the young children of the parent he just sentenced to prison. Joe, you got my vote.
There were several female candidates. This is my ugly secret. I don't remember who said what. One read something kindergarten children wrote about her. Another one is pro-choice. But I was very confused. I do recall that one woman is running for the Commonwealth Court which Ledcat explained is a pretty specialized court. Why do we vote for people to fill judicial seats that require such a high level of skill? That sounds better suited for appointments of qualified people rather than campaigns. I spoke after the meeting with a female candidate who knows a lot about gay issues, but I cannot recall her name and I can't help but wonder why she didn't say that in her speech?
Still, none of the judicial candidates really spoke to the issue of having gay people in their courtrooms. I guess judges have to be circumspect, but I would like to hear an affirmation that they understand that sentencing a gay parent may have extra complications for the kids left behind. Something a bit more concrete.
Hugh McGough has some pretty tough concrete stuff to say. He's running for the Court of Common Pleas and he is openly gay. He talked about his experience in City government as the face of gay Pittsburgh, in what I hope was meant to be a reflection that we have a long way to go when the employee who happens to be gay is the only channel for elected leaders to get a feel for gay issues. Hugh certainly sets the bar high, running as an openly gay candidate, for those who argue that we have to take baby steps in politics. Good for you, Hugh. I voted for you, too.
Onto County Council. Thomas Michalow who is running for District One publicly committed to support the County ordinance and hoped it would pass before he gets elected. Apparently, this is a real opportunity to tumble a Republican seat so get out there folks and unelected Matt Drozd.
Amanda Green for District 13 (my district) was the acknowledged rock star of the evening. She was also very adroit at handling the awkward moment when people basically said they are raising money for her (and no one else). I was embarrassed, but she was classy. She was very matter of fact about her
Next up were the Mayoral Candidates.
Carmen Robinson is one challenger. She was pretty tough on crime, but didn't have anything more specific to say. She claimed that the solvency rate for the City of Pittsburgh was over 95% in 1991 and is now below 50%. If that's true, someone needs to pay attention.
Patrick Dowd led the amen corner. He was eloquent and excellent. I'm glad he's already elected because we need all the straight white male allies we can get.
Mayor Ravenstahl. Sigh. At least he was supposed to be there, even if he did bring his body guard for crying out loud. The only other person in Pittsburgh I ever see with a bodyguard is Mr. Rooney. Luke claims his Administration is all about diversity and inclusion. In the next breath, he admits they are still looking for nominations for the LGBT (he changed the initials -- someone is working with him) Advisory Council.
Natalia Rudiak from City Council District Four is the only candidate in her district that returned a questionnaire. I know some of you live in Carrick. Pay attention.
Robert Daniel Lavalle is challening Tonya Payne for her District 6, which is my City Council District. He seemed earnest, but I disagree with his claim that Tonya isn't visible in the District. I've seen her more frequently than anyone else who represents me. She holds meetings, she responds to email messages, she talks pretty tough. She was at the endorsement meeting before I arrived, but apparently had another commitment and had to leave. I"m sure Mr. Lavalle is a nice guy because Ledcat reported he seemed puzzled when she responded "Yes" when he asked if she had ever seen Tonya in our district. Tonya marches in the Pride Parade. We're good here.
Last up, Bill Peduto. Now you know I have not hesitated to pull punches when I have disagreed with Mr. Peduto or others. I may disagree with him on occasion, but he very simply reminded us that he, along with Dan Frankel and Michael Lamb, have walked with Steel City Stonewall Democrats from the very beginning. Others belong in that pantheon ... Doug Shields, Rich Fitzgerald and Patrick Dowd.
But you know what is cool? We now have someone among our champions who is not a white straight man. Her name is Amanda Green. She doesn't have an East End district with a built in cushion of progressive voters to fall back on (not my words, but a frank acknowledgement from Bill). Now don't get me wrong -- I think Amanda joins the League of Justice and it wouldn't even exist if not for Bill, Dan, Doug, and Michael. I'm just glad that our allied leaders are becoming more reflective of our community.
Bring on the new alliances.
Sunday, February 22
by Sue on Sun 22 Feb 2009 10:00 PM EST
Dustin Lance Black won for his original screenplay for the film, Milk. This is the text of his original acceptance speech.
"Oh my God, this was not an easy film to make. I have to thank all the real life people who shared their stories with me... When I was 13 years old my beautiful mother and father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope, hope to live my life, gave me the hope to live my life openly as who I am. And maybe even I can fall in love and get married. I want to thank my Mom who always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. If Harvey had been alive today, I think he'd want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there that have been told that they are less than by their churches, their government or their families that they are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours"
Video at Good As You.
by Sue on Sun 22 Feb 2009 09:50 PM EST
I completely did not anticipate attending today's endorsement meeting of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. I had to show my rental property and were it not for a nasty slip on the ice which gave me an excruciating headache AND nonshows, I would have missed both Luke Ravenstahl and Dan Onorato coming to speak at a gay event.
Never have I been happier for a throbbing head and being stood up than I was when I snuck into the meeting and learned this news. I have photos. It really happened. They ALMOST took questions. Luke even brought his body guard -- what was he expecting?
Anyway, I grabbed a front seat, whipped out the Blackberry and documented away. But that headache is pretty harsh now and has spread to the entire left side of my body. So I'm going to post a few photos and leave the analysis for tomorrow. I should be receiving the endorsements via press release by then. I hope.
OK, I have to make a few observations.
- Rob Frank is a really cool guy. I know everyone loves Georgia and she seems pretty nice and an ally and all that. But something about Rob Frank really touched me. His speech was heartfelt and he seems like he has really paid his dues to our community, plus has experience. So regardless of the endorsement, I think you should give some attention to this candidate for City Council District 2 which includes Banksville, Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Duquesne Heights, East Carnegie, Elliott, Esplen, Fairywood,Mount Washington, Oakwood, Ridgemont, and Sheraden
- There were a lot of judicial candidates there. So many that I cannot recall much of who said what. I can say that we really underestimate the importance of the judiciary so I'm going to be very careful when I write that up. But it it tough to understand it. I personally would expect someone to prove (in 3 minutes!) that they have the necessary credentials AND that they get LGBT needs. No one did that really well, except for the candidate who is gay. I'm glad they are pro-choice and like kids and all that, but I want to hear them acknowledge that the family in the gallery in any of the divisions (Criminal, Civil, Family, Orphans Court and Juvenile, I think) ANY of those families could be gay and how that impacts their presence in court.
- Ledcat has been elected to the Board of Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Huzzah for Ledcat!
Saturday, February 21
by Sue on Sat 21 Feb 2009 10:31 AM EST
Wow. All the comments, FB messages and email ... the love, people, the love. :-) Yes, I get discouraged and default to blogging about celebrity conception. And, yes, perhaps that is my little cry for help. Thanks for all the support. I promise not to quit in a blaze of glory. LOL. Of course, I find out Dennis Roddy asked to speak with me at BlogFest. Not sure if he said "Sue Kerr" or that lesbian blogger, but either way .... Dennis Roddy!
It hasn't been a bad week at all.
After a seven to nine month battle, the County Assistance office finally approved my grandmother's PDA 60+ Waiver which means we should be able to keep her out of a nursing home until it is absolutely necessary. Only a few more hurdles (mostly meetings) and I can breathe a little more easy. I also learned that my grandmother's new hairdresser went a little overboard on the red dye and she looks a little vivid. Oh well, there are worse things that could happen, right? She likes it! Battling for public benefits is an awful nightmare. My grandfather worked 30+ years for J&L Steel and got screwed on his pension. Her pension is like $78/month and it took months to get the Federal Pension Guarantee Bureau to send a simple verification of income letter. I would have simply preferred to reimburse the money rather than go through that red tape.
The fun little aside is the my second cousin's wife and I are now FB friends and she made a cute comment about that little update. I also used FB to track down some potential other second cousins. Kewl, n'est pas? Let us see if they respond to me. Still, family is family. I have nearly 1300 people in my family tree and it is addictive to track down the details of their lives. I've only met DJ once but FB really does bridge that geographic gap to give you a connection.
Around the queerosphere ...
Pam has some details on how national LGBT organizations are struggling with the tough economy. This could impact us here in Pittsburgh. The Victory Fund is cutting back on campaign donations to openly LGBT candidates and we have one running here. Hopefully, this might help organizations be a bit more accountable to their constituencies and help say the HRC reconsider their stance on an inclusive ENDA? I'm not saying reduced circumstances are a good thing, but as I'm sure your ability to give has been impacted you might want to tighten up your criteria as well. The groups certainly need your support. Don't stop giving, just give in a way that reflects your own values.
Here's Pam's take:
Surf over for some interesting insight on the impact on LGBT media. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I've been asked to contribute content to two local publications, Cue Pittsburgh and the PrideGuide. One of the factors I'm mulling over is whether writing for free has an impact beyond just me ... does it devalue LGBT journalism as a whole if you can get a non-professional writer like myself to give you free content? Sure it does. So is it ethical for me to contribute when I have no intention of leaping into paid journalism and I know there are qualified LGBT professional journalists in my own backyard?
I can't imagine anyone paying to read a blog, at least not a Pittsburgh blog. I was pretty annoyed when the Post-Gazette put out feelers for folks to blog for free after laying off unionized writers. Most bloggers recognized the conondrum and opted out. Most. Not that they approached me, mind you. Can you imagine a lesbian blog at the PG? I'm choking on my coffee. A blog written by someone who happens to be a lesbian, sure. Maybe. If my source is right. LOL.
This is probably long enough and I have to surf over to read my soap opera updates. Yeah. I like the soaps. If I could write for the soaps, that would be awesome.
Friday, February 20
by Sue on Fri 20 Feb 2009 07:20 PM EST
I like Alison Bechdel. I want to read one of her books which the Carnegie Library does not own. So I requested it via interlibrary loan. This is what they told me:
It seems kind of weird that only four places in the world own this book when other folks I know on GoodReads.com have read it. I'm not sure what to make of it. I gave them the name, author, and ISBN number so I doubt there's a mistake. Right?
The book? Postmoderne Lesbenheit published in 2003.
It just seems weird. They have all of her other books. I guess I'll ask them to buy it. Then we'll be the 5th place in the world to own it. I guess.
by Sue on Fri 20 Feb 2009 07:00 PM EST
We are going to try and break some new ground in the coming weeks.
The fascinating world of celebrity reproduction:
Too bad they aren't planning to adopt. I'll go ahead and say it ... undergoing IVF 10 times is pretty selfish. Ah well ...
Mayor's Office Still Mum on Advisory Committee; Chief Executive's Office Still Mum on Virtual Town Hall
by Sue on Fri 20 Feb 2009 08:29 AM EST
You recall that our Mayor was going to set up a LGBT Advisory Council? Nominations were due January 15, 2009. I had a few questions which his staff refused to answer, in spite of promises otherwise from spokeswoman Joanna Doven and Deputy Chief of Staff Kristen Baginski.
Last Friday, I contacted Ms. Doven asking her for the answers she promised me over two months ago. This was her response:
I certainly hope her coworker is feeling better and back to work soon. It is interesting that Ms. Baginski promised to get me the information I needed, then punted me to Ms. Doven who promised to get me the information I needed, then punted to the Mayor's trip out of town. Now Ms. Doven is punting back to Ms. Baginski.
Anyone want to bet on my getting any actual answer to a single question? I'm putting my money on "we are moving forward on this project" as the official response.
However, at least the Mayor's office RESPONDS, however unsatisfactorily. The County Chief Executive did not address any of the LGBT related questions submitted to his virtual town hall meeting. Then we each received email messages informing us that we would receive a detailed response in the near future. Folks who asked other types of questions received answers (such as Bram from The Pittsburgh Comet).
Before the most recent town hall meeting, I contacted his office again pointing out that I was still waiting on a response and resubmitting my question. No response. So I contacted my County Councilwoman, Amanda Green, expressing my concerns that the Chief Executive was ignoring his constituent. She urged me to contact his office and that she would be in touch with them as well about my concerns.
So there you have it. I would be overly bold to suggest they are just stonewalling moi as others who submitted related questions to the County were also ignored. They are really stonewalling our entire community ... double entendre fully intended.
It is very hard to believe that we are going to make progress on a local level if our two executive leaders refuse to answer simple questions about LGBT issues. I can see the Mayor's reluctance to comment as two of his three gay advisors are facing potential criminal charges related to accusations that they received administrative favors in return for campaign contributions to the Mayor. That shouldn't mean the entire community loses a potential resource. In fact, all the more reason to appoint other people to the council, perhaps?
Chief Executive Onorato has no legs to stand on. He won't publicly comment on LGBT issues. Remember that when he announces his bid for Governor and starts showing up at public events where he can't be questioned. That proved successful for Luke to convince tons of people he is gay friendly, in spite of publicly commenting that he opposes civil unions. Let try not to be so easily deluded this time around.
Why bring this up? Well, some recent commenters have got me thinking that we have a lot of unfinished local LGBT business. That's actually rather true. I've had some sense of where things stand, but it has all been off the record and I actually think that it is unfair to just ask all of you to start focusing on other issues without giving some update or perhaps closure to these issues. The elected officials aren't going to do it and the LGBT advocates aren't going to do it. And these are the same people asking you to turn your attention, time and donations in new directions.
Don't get me wrong. I think statewide issues are incredibly important and clearly deserve our support. However, is it realistic to think that we can have any impact statewide when we are in such gridlock locally? Is it in our best interests to divest resources from these local efforts and send them to Harrisburg? If nothing else, we have upcoming elections that could have a more immediate impact on our lives so perhaps we should focus on those?
After reading the comments, I agree that we are being pulled in a lot of directions and I'd also like to see just one thing get finished. One thing. I understand that leaving an ordinance in committee is better than having it defeated by bringing it to vote. I understand that a domestic partner registry is a symbol, not a practical tool. But I would argue that both of these situations allow Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl to get some LGBT credibility without actually doing anything practical. And that's not okay.
Here's what I'd like to see, in no particular order.
1. Mayor Ravenstahl instruct the Department of Personnel to contact City Employees informing them of the Domestic Partner Registry, allowing us to automatically transfer if we choose and describing how it benefits us to do so.
2. Megan Dardenell from the Chief Executive Office send the promised answers to county residents who submitted LGBT related questions to the town hall meetings.
3. Local LGBT advocates distribute talking points for the County Ordinance, including reasons why gender expression should be included in the final version. That's a complicated issue and we need some education ourselves to be effective advocates.
4. The Mayor update the community on his Council in a public manner, not via his unofficial gay spokespersons. I don't want to be updated, I want you to be updated.
5. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl respond to the Steel City Stonewall Questionnaire for this election cycle.
6. Steel City Stonewall drop the "highly recommends" information from its endorsement list so that the endorsement carries more value.
Thank you, readers and commenters, for pointing out what kinds of issues mean something to you. You've really given me some food for thought. It isn't popular thought with local organizations as per the comments, but it is probably progress that you are contemplating and commenting on these issues. I think my platform might move you to take action. I could be wrong. I'm willing to take that chance.
So while I do think you should pay attention to the statewide issues, I would urge you to also hold your local officials and local LGBT advocates accountable for our currently very full plates. Otherwise, we are going to end up with Governor Onorato and Chief Executive Ravenstahl making not a single meaningful action on real LGBT issues. Statewide legislation would mean a lot less if two out of three top politicians aren't invested in our community.
I would welcome some meaningful dialogue on how we can prevent this.
I mean, seriously, do we really want to be the advocacy generation that can list a domestic registry with six participants as our accomplishment for this region? I think we can do better, but we need better organizing, more transparency and more resources dedicated to Western Pennsylvania. Good old fashioned Pittsburgh politics isn't getting us very far.
Thursday, February 19
by Sue on Thu 19 Feb 2009 12:43 PM EST
Breaking news from the PG about one of the opponents of the HRC ordinance.
This is the hypocrisy that sickens me, especially after reading the Christian-laced bigotry and hatred in the testimony record from January 15, 2009. The guy from Blumengarten Flowers doesn't want US near his kids, but would he want Councilman McCullough near his elderly parents? No one asks that question.
I find this especially disgusting because I've been working to get my own grandmother services so she doesn't have to go into a nursing home, especially after the stories broke about Kane Glen-Hazel and Montefiore patients dying on the rooftop. It is frightening and the process to avoid this scenario is arduous and frustrating. I've been at it for more than six months and we still have two more hurdles to overcome. The good people who do the attendant care make probably $9.00/hour and we've had some wonderful, wonderful people come into her home. The idea that he would pay his own sister $60 for companion care AND get to vote on the budget that sets the salary for the Kane nursing home staff makes me throw up a little in my own mouth.
Will he resign?