Those of you who have been reading along since 2005 or know how to use Google probably know that I’ve been paying attention to this group since the Ravenstahl era. I was at meetings, I read minutes, I pushed and pulled, I resisted – basically, I showed up and paid attention more consistently than any other outlet or writer (jounalist or otherwise) in the entire free world.
Last year, I was silenced by then-Mayoral aide de campe Corey Buckner and group chair, Reverend Shanea Leonard, when they jointly forbade me from contacting members of the group to ask questions. I was told that I could submit questions in writing and they would be answered – as a group. Period.
So that’s when I stopped paying attention. Because I knew why they were silencing me (I had information that didn’t reflect well on any of them) and it was a shameful tactic that made me lose most of my respect for both individuals.
Recently, I tallied up the people who told me that they had resigned or rotated off or just quit with those who moved out of state and realized that the list of members wasn’t current.
So I sent an email to the official email address on January 4. No response. I tried to find out what City official had replaced Corey Buckner as the staff liaison with no luck. So I emailed again on January 28, this time cc’ing Mayoral Spokesdude, Tim McNulty. Still, nothing.
Now Tim bats about .250 in terms of answering my email. He’s a very important man with very important missives to address. And I’m a queer disabled lady blogger. My typical response is to email people directly with my questions and cc Kevin Acklin/now Dan Gilman. That worked well, but I had hoped we were past that.
In this case, I thought I should try something different. All I wanted was a current list of group members and to know how many lived in the City and how many did not. This was a hot topic during the formative period because a truly representative LGBTQIA group was pretty hard to put together with a City residency requirement.
All of this is on my blog and in my inbox archives. Surely, it is documented at City Hall, too.
So I decided to reach out to someone I know on the Mayor’s team and simply ask them to direct me to the person staffing this group. And that’s how I met Keyva Clark. She ran the Mayor’s reelection campaign and is now working on the communications staff.
Independent bloggers are important tools in democracies. Help us resist silencing tactics with a donation today.
Now if that were me, I would have googled me (I did google her) and maybe some of this could have been avoided. If I was Tim, I would answer my emails in a timely manner but I would definitely smooth the introductions over. Maybe his time with JR Block corroded his people skills, I don’t know.
So when Ms. Clark asked me what I needed (why don’t people read email chains?) and when I told her, she balked. She told me I was “odd” and I guess inappropriate?
I oversee the council and do not feel comfortable just sending over a list of my members to you without context to why. As far as IT problems let that be my concern and I am sure you know that both Tim and I, receive numerous amounts of correspondence daily in our capacity. Why does it matter to identify those who live and those who do not live in the city? I do not understand your intentions, and this is all seems very odd to me.
‘My members’ really? She owns this group of people who are volunteering their time to advise the Mayor. Is she queer? In what other sense could they belong to her?
And let’s be clear about their role because too often people tell me to go to them with concerns or issues that have nothing to do with advising the Mayor. It is not dismissing their very hard work to put it in the appropriate context of municipal government. They serve at the whim of the Mayor and have nowhere near the standing of a board or commission. I think too many people think this group is something more than it is which is a problem. It is like giving credit for marriage equality when you only have civil unions – not the same thing. It is wrong to imply otherwise and the City is not serving the LGBTQ community by these insinuations of influence and power that are simply not true. We should be pushing for a FT LGBTQ staff person (who is actually LGBTQ and from Pgh ideally) not inflating something to be more than it is.
Also, the IT thing – remember in 2013 when the City blocked my website and it took a hearing by the Human Relations Commission and a lot of publicity to find out the reason why. The IT department has never since addressed the underlying problem of how they whitelist/blacklist sites. It just fell to the wayside so we never got to the bottom of the problem or determined if any other sites had been blocked (hey, there’s a JR pun!) because it was all better. That’s a City Council failure of oversight.
So telling me to leave the IT worries to the staff, little nice middle-aged disabled queer lady, and go back to my odd ways is pretty damn insulting. I responded by explaining that I was insulted and suggested we start fresh over a cup of coffee. She (and Tim!) just ignored me.
Pro-tip: ‘odd’ is a triggering word when communicating with persons living with disabilities and/or queer folx. It is loaded as fuck. And I know exactly what it means.
Obviously, Ms. Clark has no idea who I am or about the history of my blog. Fair enough, I didn’t know who she was until this month. She was in high school in California when I began blogging. She is part of the influx of bright young folks who come to Pittsburgh for a masters at either GSPIA (Pitt) or Heinz School (CMU), get their feet wet working in leadership programs, do some campaign work and in some cases move on out of the City. The thing is that we who live here during that process rightly expect a little investment of time in our communities. Ms. Clark is far from the first person or the last to do this.
But she is the first person in a long time in the Mayor’s office to define my interest in a project for MY community that I’ve been involved with for over a decade as odd. That’s Ravenstahl speak, not what I expect from Peduto. And to just disregard my offer to start fresh? That’s rude. And Tim McNulty is a craptastic supervisor for allowing that to happen on his watch. If I did that in any of my paid positions, I’d be held accountable.
Being a queer blogger is not odd. Asking for data about queer governmental bodies is not odd. Understanding the intersection of representation with residency requirements is not odd. Knowing that the IT infrastructure of the City is weak is not odd. Referencing my lengthy history is not odd.
I’m paying attention, Ms. Clark. I, too, have a masters degree as well as a degree in political science. I don’t expect you to know that going into our conversation, but maybe you could have taken 2 minutes to look me up or privately ask the other people on the email chain about me. But it doesn’t even matter if I’m educated, informed, and paying attention. I’m a resident who asked a reasonable question.
This isn’t my first clash with young folks who don’t show respect for anyone over the age of 40 who isn’t a white cis het man and I’m sure it won’t be my last. It is a bitter reminder of what a PITA I probably was, especially when I started blogging at the ripe young age of 35. I’m sure I was a smug jagoff and I have actual blog posts to prove it.
But here’s the thing. Someone in the Peduto Administration dropped the ball with this advisory group. And even though I started asking my questions on January 4, they still haven’t updated the page with a current list of members – I know this because I know who resigned, moved, quit, etc. Adding the name of the staff person shows someone was fiddling with the software – why not just go for 100% accuracy and transparency?
LGBTQ folks in Pittsburgh and beyond have a lot to worry about. Look to what’s happening in Armstrong County, look to how many LGBT groups have closed up shop these past years, and look to the implosion of groups like the Pittsburgh DSA due to homophobic candidates guised as Democrats of faith. It is horrible. And frightening, to be honest. I’m still not over the organizing failure that was the local LGBTQ response to the Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh Marathon – we blew it bigtime and our kids will suffer for years. And by “we” I include the Mayor whose support did not carry the day for us.
I’ll delve into this in another post, but this week my website was attacked and went down for almost an entire day. I learned later that it probably wasn’t random because Monica Robert’s site TransGriot also went down and that’s a mighty improbable coincidence. In that case, I started asking questions and several national LGBTQ folks have rallied to figure out what’s going on and develop a prevention strategy for blogs. A story for a different blog post, but one that might shed some light on why I don’t just trust a brand new staffer on IT matters.
That’s how allies work – they listen, they offer advice if asked, they bring resources to the table, and they consider multiple probabilities. They trust that everyday people might know what they are talking about. They read signature files to get some clues on whom they are dealing with?
And they don’t describe queer people as odd or claim ownership of my representatives serving my City. That’s the JR Block way of doing business. I expect more from the Peduto Administration.
But it doesn’t even matter if I’m educated, informed, and paying attention. I’m a resident who asked a reasonable question.
I’m still waiting for Tim McNulty to apologize without claiming his workload is soooo heavy that he can’t read all of his email. I bet he doesn’t say that to Acklin. And if that’s true, they need to hire more staff, not just stop answering correspondence. This isn’t optional work duties. It reminds me when former State Representative Ken Ruffing told me that they simply deleted all email without reading them (circa 2003) because “most of them were foreigners” – I kid you not. Don’t be like Ken Ruffing, Tim.
So the Advisory group had an event tonight at the EQT LGBTQ Mental Health Center in Lawrenceville. And that’s important work. It is a real shame Ms. Clark didn’t take the time to work one of the only local active LGBTQ bloggers to promote or report on it. How very odd.
Also note that if your name is misrepresented here, you might think back to how the Delta Foundation kept a list of ‘advisory council’ members with names of folks who had resigned years earlier. It was a tactical move that gave them the credibility of a Dan Frankel without any heavy lifting. Dan Frankel refused to simply insist they remove his name (he’s an affluent white cis het man – he has lawyers to do this stuff) and got quite irritated when people like me pointed it out. Don’t be like Dan Frankel. If you want your name off this list, you are going to have to do the work. And let that be a lesson for anyone applying in the future.
I have a Dan Frankel story, too, but I’ll definitely save that for another post … what are the odds it would be relevant today?