City Council District 6 from the queer perspective

I read the Post-Gazette's endorsement of Robert Daniel Lavelle this morning with some skepticism.  I've lived on the Northside for almost 4 years.  Tonya Payne is the only elected official representing Manchester who has showed up IN MANCHESTER.  Not only that, she actually organizes meetings specific to our neighborhood. 

I've never seen Robert Daniel Lavelle in Manchester.  Someone did shove campaign literature behind my door knob one day. I was actually on my way to answer the door, but they walked away after two minutes and disappeared. 

We have other good legislators and elected officials, but they don't roll into our community.  They have come to nearby communities when invited, but I'd expect at least one appearance per term.  Is that too much?  She doesn't think so and she's here much more frequently.

Tonya makes time for Manchester.  She answers my inquiries on a regular basis.  She has been honest with me when her ability to intervene is limited.  She's trying to develop affordable housing in our neighborhood against the wishes of the mighty mighties who want to focus on housing for the $250,000+ crowd. 

The Post-Gazette editorial board also focuses on the Hill District issues and doesn't even mention Northside issues.  I guess the North Shore development's impact on Manchester doesn't generate the sexy headlines from the Hill District.

Then there's the gay issue.  Read the candidates questionnaires from the Steel City Stonewall endorsement process.  Lavelle is quasi pro-choice, tepid on comprehensive sex education and uninformed on LGBTQ issues — he says some of his “associates” are part of the community.  I guess he must take a page from Luke.  It is infuriating that someone can be so uninformed on issues that have been extensively covered by the media, lack the initiative to get informed before completing the questionnaire and put the responsibility on us to educate him.  What? Ask an associate!

************************************************************************************** UPDATE:  A Lavelle supporter has pointed out to me that I misrepresented Lavelle's response.  Lavelle referred to friends/associates.  I should have caught that.  I still believe the distintion is necessary in the context of Lavelle's overall answers — he clearly is uninformed on LGBTQ issues and lacks the motivation to educate himself.  That's unacceptable for a so-called progressive and I am somewhat disappointed that progressives ally himself with him, but fail to see this as a serious problem.  That's staggering.

Lavelle's supporters are using snark to mock Tonya Payne's name.  It is utterly ridiculous how well-respected leaders can engage in such behavior.  Sayeth the blogger, LOL.


Tonya, on the other hand, acknowledges her FRIENDS who are part of the LGBTQ community.  She's for civil marriage equality.  She understands the issues and she has a long record of turning out for LGBTQ events.  I always find it compelling that she marches in the Pride Parade and doesn't necessarily need the microphone.  It seems more genuine.  I've seen her show the same restraint in other situations and I admire her for trying to walk in people's shoes rather than bask in the limelight.  That, Mr. Lavelle, is how you educate yourself on the issues and the people whose lives they impact.  You don't go to a bar crawl for heaven's sake.

The Post-Gazette is wrong to say that Tonya has been indifferent to constituent needs.  I'm also not a fan of the editorial board painting her as an overwrought “more heat than light” kind of woman.  I guess they don't pay attention when Tonya quietly turns out for events and talks one on one with people.  They also haven't seen her wade into the political muck that is Manchester's housing development issues and deftly handle the minions of the local barracuda without losing her cool or becoming “heated.”  This is a tough neighborhood — there's little sense of community, tremendous socio-economic/racial divides and a bad reputation. 

Lavelle may be all things described in the editorial, but I believe the piece missed the boat on Tonya.  Labeling her with quasi-sexist paint as the overwrought woman who needs to let the men get the work done is a disservice to all of us. 

Associates?  Really?  You don't have any gay friends? Geez.  That's the language of people who tolerate my kind, not someone who values us.

Let me rephrase that.  It is good to acknowledge having LGBTQ friends and associates.  The inconsistency is how you can have those relationships and remain uninformed on basic issues of equality, especially if you are running for office. I don't get that at all. 


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  • As a Pittsburgh progressive I was hopefully when Tonya was first elected to office. I agree she shows up and supports many things in this city. But she continues to support the policies of the Mayor who is not at all progressive. Her campaign was heavily funded by Bob O'connor and she hasn't shown me that she can be an independent voice for Pittsburgh. I was stunned to hear her justifications against campaign finance reform. I also cannot support the political grandstanding she has been doing with Ravenstahl. That recent press conference in the Hill District was a campaign season press conference – the fact remains that there is still a lot of work to be done in the Hill District and I don't see her demanding to speed things up.

  • Those are good points. Do you have information on what Lavelle proposes for the Northside? I saw a FB update this morning by Mr. Udin that congratulated Lavelle on the endorsement and then took an unnecessary potshot at Tonya. That sort of unprofessional conduct makes me think we ARE facing another Udin regime which does not bode well for Manchester. I want the Hill to flourish, but not at the expense of the families living in this neck of the woods.

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