Ten Years Later: Looking Back at the 2009 Steel City Stonewall Democrats Endorsement Meeting

I’m resharing/reposting this post from exactly ten years ago – my summary of the 2009 Steel City Stonewall Democrats endorsement meeting. I’ve included the comments. You might notice a similarity with the modern incarnation of progressive Dems – both candidates and activists (and commenters). And the criticisms that I’m irrelevant, self-serving, and demanding as well as the quite accurate observation that I was the only media outlet that showed up.

This popped up on my Facebook “Remember When” feature and I almost choked when I saw the parallels to events that involved my blog this very week, ten years after the fact.

The more things change … I don’t attend these endorsements any longer for a lot of reasons. I had no idea that tomorrow (February 24) is the date set for the 2019 endorsement meeting. Wow, that’s a another coincidence in a week filled with them.

So it is refreshing to remember the good old days. Back then, I allowed anyone to comment and rarely edited/intervened. Some of the handles people chose to use are a bit offensive. You are cautioned.

You will find the original post in its original format at this link.

You’ll also find the City Paper reference to this post and the endorsement at this link.

The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances

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 Governor Chief Executive Onorato is going with this. There is simply no excuse for a man of his generation and party affiliation to need to be brought gently along to see the moral imperative of building a more just and equitable Allegheny County. If he can slaughter geese and sleep easy at night, he can do a better job on our issues. Let me rephrase that. He has the power to do something now about domestic partner benefits and he doesn’t. He should NOT sleep easy.

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 support leadership in creating a more just Allegheny County. More on her later.

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.

Posted to:
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Lez B Done on Mon 23 Feb 2009 10:26 PM EST | Permanent Link
Those are the worst pictures. You need PhotoShop. Thanks for the updates. Your take on the judicial races is right on the money, people do make decisions based on gut reactions. You shouldn’t feel guilty because none of the women made a strong impression on you. If you cannot remember their names, they need to know that fact before they make their next speech.

How many people attended the event?

Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Facebook, Gay, Yes! on Mon 23 Feb 2009 10:32 PM EST | Permanent Link
Amanda Green is the best thing to happen to gay politics since Bill Peduto. Now we have them both. Yes, I agree 100% that adding her to a really good progressive alignment is great news for us. I hope she picks her gay advisors very carefully. Congratulations to the Steel City Stonewall Democrats for a good event. I hope someday I will be able to work one job and be able to come to your meetings. Domestic partner benefits could really make that happen. Keep up the good work. Thanks to Sue too for taking time to “cover” an event that no one else pays attention to.
Re: Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by OUT reader on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:57 PM EST | Permanent Link
Why didn’t anyone else cover this? The Post Gazette and the City Paper both wrote about it after this blog posted. Where was Out?
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Monica Quinn on Mon 23 Feb 2009 10:36 PM EST | Permanent Link
Why didn’t you ask Onorato and Ravenstahl some questions? Or ask Dan Frankel about the topics from your other posts on his legislation?
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by PS on Mon 23 Feb 2009 10:41 PM EST | Permanent Link
I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to blog about this. Hey, great job Steel City for making this happen. I agree that Onorato did not deserve to speak, but I can picture him putting the organizers in a no-win situation. The judicial stuff is crazy, man. They really do all look and sound alike after 15 minutes. Thanks for tweeting this.
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Karen on Tue 24 Feb 2009 07:46 PM EST | Permanent Link
Let me guess who made the embarrassing comment about money.
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Anonymous on Tue 24 Feb 2009 09:34 PM EST | Permanent Link

Fuck Mickey Rourke. The same kind of people who think Mickey Rourke should have won the Oscar are the same kind of people who think Lynn Cullen should be back on local radio. They don?t look at the body of work, they look at the sensationalism. I, personally, think John McIntire needs to be back on local radio. McIntire is the Sean Penn of Pittsburgh. He works his mother-freaking fingers to the bone on every project that he does and he brings our little city the provocative edge that it needs. So what if sometimes he seems like an asstard? Who doesn?t? All I?m saying is? Mickey Rourke did not deserve to win. Sean Penn did. Word.

A question or two
by Geoff Staples on Wed 25 Feb 2009 11:31 AM EST | Profile | Permanent Link
Wasn’t the forum set up for the members to ask questions?

Here in Dallas, we had a candidate hijack our endorsement meeting by paying for Stonewall memberships for his shills to join Stonewall, at the endorsement meeting so that they could vote for him to be endorsed. He’s not gay friendly and he got away with this.

But, at least his shills got raked over the coals.

Sue: Are you a member? Someone above asked if YOU asked questions. Here in Dallas, I don’t think the media would be allowed to ask questions during a meeting, but members certainly can.

I don’t know your politics in Pittsburgh to know the clout which Stonewall has or doesn’t have, so I don’t know if Stonewall has the ability to do anything about Ornorato, but they could have at least held him accountable for his own position.

Here in Dallas, there’s a big rift between gay Democrats (who have worked for and supported equal rights and non-gay candidates of all colors) and some black Democrats who, now that they have power, want to shove gay Democrats and Stonewall aside.

Re: A question or two
by Sue on Wed 25 Feb 2009 12:49 PM EST | Profile | Permanent Link
Yes, but very few questions were asked. I am a member, at least that’s what they told me at the desk. I opted not to ask questions because I was the only media source there (quasi-media?) and I also was very curious if anyone else would ask the hard questions. I am trying to be frank — Onorato and Ravenstahl get away with this crap b/c most of us say nothing. I don’t know why, but now I think it is time for the general public to ask the tough questions of our leaders.
Re: Re: A question or two
by Lance Friedman on Wed 25 Feb 2009 01:46 PM EST | Permanent Link
Both the informal mixer & formal meeting were set up so that anyone could ask anyone questions.

We even let non-members ask questions.

Re: Re: Re: A question or two
by Les-Bee-One on Wed 25 Feb 2009 05:28 PM EST | Permanent Link
Sue Kerr is the shizz. Nice of you to “even” let people ask questions. We are ever so grateful. My question is “Why did you let Onorato talk?” Answer is?
Re: A question or two
by Jacob King on Wed 25 Feb 2009 04:16 PM EST | Permanent Link

Not sure if you are a new reader, but Sue Kerr has been asking questions of both Onorato and the Mayor for weeks now. Read over some old posts and you’ll see what I mean. Pittsburgh politics is done behind closed doors and there are three men who have access to either of these men. Two are under investigation for criminal conduct and potential bribing of public officials, including the Mayor. The third is the one who blurted out that he was raising money for someone and should be under investigation for conduct unbecoming a community leader. Asking questions at this meeting would not have accomplished anything. You have to understand that Pittsburgh’s gay Democrats are divided between those who think showing up at a meeting for a three minute speech is an accomplishment and those who believe that would have been an accomplishment in 1991.

Steel City Stonewall has received a lot of support from this blog in the past years. Sue really puts her money where her mouth is by encouraging people to join the group to make it the kind of membership entity that has real power. That’s the only way we’ll get to the point where people show up at the meetings and ask questions. She has every right to provide a critical analysis of the endorsement meeting, particularly as no other media outlet showed up not even the City Paper (which has posted a blog post based on written sources).

We are asking the questions, Geoff. We just don’t have the political muscle to get them answered. That will only change if people heed Sue’s advice and join the organization. It will also require the organization to be more graceful in accepting feedback from Sue and others who don’t always agree with their tactics. I admit that I’ve withheld my membership dues waiting for them to get their ducks in a row by building a solid board.

I’ve been reading this blog for almost two years and it has proved to be the most consistent source of information on gay politics in the region. I’m glad to know folks in Dallas are paying attention. We must be getting somewhere.

Jacob King

Re: Re: A question or two
by Lance Friedman on Wed 25 Feb 2009 05:27 PM EST | Permanent Link
Hi, Jacob King? I have been involved with a lot of different progressive political endeavors in the region. I don’t think I have ever met you. Sorry, If I am a little skeptical as to whether you are a real person. But I have a strong suspicion that a lot of the posts in the comment sections of this blog are coming from the same person.

I don’t know where to begin to respond to your weird allegations. I guess they problem come from some secret source.

I would also like to add that everything I say on this blog are my on personal views and do not represent www.steel-city.org

Re: Re: Re: A question or two
by I’m Just A Little Fag on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:13 PM EST | Permanent Link

You’ve arrived as a commenter on this blog when Lance spews the paranoia at you. Welcome to the world where everyone is out to get Lance and his friends. The rules are that if Lance hasn’t personally met you, you aren’t a real gay person. Also, you must never criticize people who donate money. The new rule is that we are all the same person so you might want to provide your 10% rainbow card to prove you exist independent of the hundreds of other people who have commented on this blog.

I think Lance has slain a lot of brain cells with the bottle and honestly believes that trying to debunk this blog is a useful contribution to the community.

Re: Re: Re: Re: A question or two
by Lance Friedman on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:30 PM EST | Permanent Link
Well typed. But strangely similar to the rest of the anonymous posts on this blog.

Sorry that I am not as good a typist.

Maybe one day I will meet you. Why do I have a feeling that I already have?

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A question or two
by Sybil on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:44 PM EST | Permanent Link
Tim McNulty was right. This is hysterical in every sense of the word. Well typed. Who comes up with this stuff? You gay people should be on the political pundits tour. All one of you.

Re: Re: Re: A question or two
by We Are Family! I Got All My Personalities and Me! on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:17 PM EST | Permanent Link
I’m just a giggalo and everywhere I go, people know the comments I’m making. Pay for every rant, selling cheap laments … ooohhh what are we/I saying?
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Gab 2 on Wed 25 Feb 2009 06:55 PM EST | Permanent Link
This post has been picked up on a ton of national blogs and the Post-Gazette, too. The national scrutiny can only be a good thing. Nice job.
Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Steel City Fan on Wed 25 Feb 2009 07:03 PM EST | Permanent Link
Steel City Stonewall has come a long way. This was a really nice event. You may not like the comments, but Sue was the only media person there. Now you have publicity on the Post-Gazette, the City Paper, Pam’s House Blend and other sites. That’s great news for Pittsburgh. Great testament to the event organizers. You’ve come a long way.
Re: Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Lance Friedman on Wed 25 Feb 2009 08:25 PM EST | Permanent Link
Well, I agree this is all very hilarious. I’m just not sure how useful or constructive it is in the long run.

I think it causes people to be less inclined to get involved in politics.

I have never heard a member say they joined www.steel-city.org because of this blog or anything said in it.

I have come to believe that Sue isn’t really interested in the very difficult & complicated work that needs to be done to achieve progressive change. Instead, she mainly seems interested in creating controversy & causing division in an attempt to garner attention for her blog.

These are my personal views. They don’t reflect the views of www.steel-city.org or any other board members of Steel-City Stonewall Democrats.

Re: Re: Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Emilia on Thu 26 Feb 2009 09:49 AM EST | Profile | Permanent Link
Lance, I think you’re out of line here. I’ve known Sue for a long time and known her to be active in many causes. While I may not agree with everything she says I still find her viewpoints insightful and makes for further thinking on my part.
Re: Re: Re: The Big Queer Endorsement: Shifting Alliances
by Anonymous on Sat 28 Feb 2009 01:51 PM EST | Permanent Link
Isn’t interested in the complicated work? Where have you been, what have you been reading?
Trying to get politicians to answer a few siimple straightforward questions about important issues, and she isn’t interested in the complicated work? The simple stuff can’t even be answered. Lance, I rarely post here, so because you don’t me, I am lumped into your paranoia over “who is the same person” claiming to be anonymous. Goodness gracious my man, would the real anonymous please stand up.


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