The @PghCurrent Column Where I Call for Pittsburgh To Abolish the Mayor’s LGBTQIA Advisory Group

My latest for the Pittsburgh Current – City Should Dissolve LGBTQIA Advisory Panel

It is time for Pittsburgh to establish an Office of LGBTQ Affairs with a dedicated paid staff. This Office will be a resource for all City Departments and Programs, City Council and the City Commissions, Boards, and Authorities.

In addition, a LGBTQ Community Advisory Group should be created to work with this staff and Office. They can be trained on Municipal Government 101 to ease their transition into this expanded role.

I’ve been thinking on this for several weeks since the existing LGBTQ Advisory group publicly expressed concerns with the Administration. I’ve probably paid closer attention to this very specific group since 2008 than any other single person in Pittsburgh. And I went back, reading over all of my previous coverage and doing some side reading before I came to this conclusion – this model is no longer a good fit for Pittsburgh. I know other people read this content, but it is unfortunate that they don’t use me as a resource.

You may recall I have a degree (and did some graduate work in) political science so I love diving into the nuances of how things in municipal government work or should work. This group was established, essentially, by the Delta Foundation under Luke Ravenstahl so right off the bat it makes sense that the shaky foundation wouldn’t hold up over time. See what I did there?

I hit some of the concerns about precedent, capacity, and lawfulness in my column if you are interested in those points.

I’m unsure if establishing an Office similar to Philadelphia or a Commission similar to the Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commission is the most appropriate solution, so I think the ‘good governance’ foundations should fund an exploratory process. It is a very important question so it deserves a rigorous and thorough launch, not just a reactive decision. There are many opportunities to share resources between these office/departments/commissions to conserve resources and ensure the absolute best people are at the helm.

As Karen Kane rather gleefully points out in her (too) many columns about Bill Peduto’s record on LGBTQ issues, it is imperative that the Mayor’s Administration take substantive action on LGBTQ affairs, not just tacking up window dressing. More on that in another post.

I want to be very clear in case people chose to misunderstand my 11 year investment in this particular governmental body. This has absolutely nothing to do with the individuals who have served on this group either now or in years past. There’s no reason those folx cannot be part of a new entity with more concrete power and authority. My opposition to their proposals to administer City media tools and get more face time with the Mayor is a reflection of how government works, not the efforts or integrity of any one person. And I’m certainly not the only person or the best person to weigh in on this, but I am perhaps one of the few who the long view over 11 years coupled with the municipal government 101 information. And my partner has been a City employee for nearly 20 years so I have the spousal view of how things do and do not work behind the scenes sometimes. I am absolutely certain the City lacks the capacity to put email and Facebook in the hands of people who are not elected or employed by the City. It barely has the capacity to manage the access of employees as it is.

I’d like the City and the Administration to embrace the future, not fall back to what worked in 2008. The future is transparent, accountable, and grounded in principles of good government (and the Constitutions – state and federal  – and the City Home Rule Charter.)

I really hope Karen Kane finds better soft Democratic targets than the Mayor soon. And I hope the Mayor at least considers my not-so-modest proposal – acknowledge the Advisory group is right in their basic premis that it’s a broken institution and start fresh and big with the municipal resource the LGBTQ community deserves.