We are revisiting our Political Q&A series for the upcoming elections of 2019. We’ve reached out to candidates who are pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ, asking them a series of questions about their campaigns. We’ve sent out about a dozen Q&A’s to folks who agreed to participate. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.
Our next respondent is Bethany Hallam. She has mounted a challenge to the Democratic incumbent in the Allegheny County Council At-Large District.
In addition to Bethany’s Q&A, I’ve published a Q&A with Liv Bennett, Deb Gross, Pam Harbin and Anna Batista. I’ve sent Q&A’s at their request to Kenneth Wolfe, Judith K. Ginyard, Kierran C. Young, and Jessica Rothchild (open lesbian running for Scranton Council), Bobby Wilson and Bruce Kraus and will publish when they submit it. Allegheny County Council Candidate Christine Allen has declined to participate and I’ve sent the information about the Q&A to other regional candidates, inviting them to request a Q&A.
I realize it takes times to complete this Q&A, but it also takes times to create it (see our new Flip the Script series for more on that.) And I think the LGBTQ community deserves every moment of that time.
Your Name: Bethany Hallam
Your Pronouns: she/her/hers
The Office You are Seeking: Allegheny County Council, At-Large
How do you describe your identity? cishet white woman
Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? The first LGBTQ person I met was my cousin, when I was little. I was never falsely taught that being LGBTQ was anything but normal, so there wasn’t much of an impact.
Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. I’m endorsed by both the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh. That said, endorsements tell you more about my policies than my personal familiarity, and I work with members of the LGBTQ community when fighting for a more equitable future for everyone.
The challenge is making sure we have treatment available to people everywhere, and with limited public transit options in the suburbs, that can be more difficult. It’s important to recognize that all of these issues are connected. Poor transit can prevent people from getting to the healthcare they need, and that might be what sends them to jail (which offers limited to no treatment).
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for County Council? How will you respond to those priorities? My top concern is the treatment of trans people in the County Jail, particularly trans women of color. We need to fire Warden Harper and replace him with somebody who will actively fight the transphobia he has allowed to dictate his jail policy. We should also discuss strengthening non-discrimination policies and explore how they will be enforced, but the most immediate problem with the clearest solution is the improper housing of trans people in our jail, and that would be one of my first priorities on County Council.
How does intersectionality inform your work? Let’s consider the example of the County Jail. The jail is mismanaged which harms all of its residents and Allegheny County, but these harms particularly hurt transgender women of color, especially when they’re incorrectly housed with men at the discretion of Warden Orlando Harper. That doesn’t mean we need to focus less on solving its problems for other transgender people or cis people of color. It means we need to recognize that when we work to reverse those harms, we need to specifically consider the range of harm and how to mitigate it at all of its levels.
The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. How does Allegheny County government navigate this equivalency of personal religious freedom with systemic oppression and control of underserved people? Allegheny County should not be providing any taxpayer dollars to a business that claims “religious liberty” exemptions. Whether it is a county contract or a small business tax break, no discriminatory organization should receive county funds. The ACHD could also explore requiring that restaurants serve all people in order to receive permits.
the most immediate problem with the clearest solution is the improper housing of trans people in our jail, and that would be one of my first priorities on County Council.
You are running for an at-large seat. Please explain why you chose to do that instead of running directly for the Council seat that represents your specific community. If you can, please explain concisely how County Council is structured. There are 15 seats in Allegheny County Council, 13 districts and 2 at-large seats. I’m running for the at-large seat because my district seat is not up for re-election this cycle and we need to start solving these problems as soon as possible. As an at-large representative, I would also sit on the board of elections and fight to make voting easier and more accessible, especially absentee voting (the current subject of an ACLU lawsuit).
You and State Representative Sara Innamorato have both campaigned openly about the impact of opioid addictions on your lives and the lives of your families. You are both from North Hills suburban communities that are not typically part of the stereotypical conversations around addiction and recovery. How would you potentially connect the dots around addiction, recovery, and trauma issues to include both the suburban residents and residents of urban neighborhoods? Whether it’s opioid addiction or measles, disease doesn’t care about your zip code. Solutions in suburbs might be slightly different than solutions in denser urban neighborhoods, but the root of the problem — the addiction — is the same. And the general solution — treatment — is also the same. The challenge is making sure we have treatment available to people everywhere, and with limited public transit options in the suburbs, that can be more difficult. It’s important to recognize that all of these issues are connected. Poor transit can prevent people from getting to the healthcare they need, and that might be what sends them to jail (which offers limited to no treatment).
How would you propose to fund a county level Human Relations Commission including paid investigators?
The most direct route might be fines for violations, but that might result in an incentive for investigators, so we could also use the county’s surplus.
Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters.
Clean Water Action
The Sierra Club
The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club
Pennsylvania Young Democrats (unanimous)
Our Revolution Pennsylvania
Women for the Future of Pittsburgh
Steel City Stonewall Democrats
Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh
Food and Water Action (Food and Water Watch)
Ed Gainey – State Representative
Summer Lee – State Representative
Sara Innamorato – State Representative
Deb Gross – Pittsburgh City Council
Marita Garrett – Mayor of Wilkinsburg
Emily Marburger – Mayor of Bellevue
Brittany Reno – Sharpsburg Borough Council President
Jack Betkowski – Ross Township Commissioner
Allison Mathis – North Hills School Board
Sandra Kozera – North Hills School Board
Emily Skopov – 2018 Democratic Nominee, State Representative
Darwin Leuba – Auditor of O’Hara Township
The Young Democrats of Allegheny County
Is there anything you’d like to add? If you like my responses, please sign up to volunteer on my website, www.BethanyHallam.com.
Thank you, Bethany.