In fourteen years of blogging, I’ve developed several ‘relationships’ with local pundits and politicians that ebb and flow with the issues that we have in common.
Blogging has been a gateway to channel my education, work experience, and privilege into storytelling, advocacy, and, by extension, these relationships.
One of the longest running relationships has been with Mayor Bill Peduto. Our friendship is a very loose use of the word; we aren’t personal friends and have rarely had a lot of face-to-face contact. What we’ve shared has been our investment in LGBTQ and other progressive issues, even though we haven’t always been on the exact same side every time.
Please note that he was serving in City Council (2002-2014) when I began blogging and elected Mayor for the term beginning in 2014 through today. So my references are sometimes to then-City Councilor Peduto and sometimes to now-Mayor Peduto.
I also use “friend” because of its political overtones. We describe campaign supporters and donors and voters as friends of politicians. I’ve leaned into that usage over the years, writing about times when I was breaking up with then Councilor Peduto because of his decisions and later when we were once again just friends. I wrote a still very popular post about why I wasn’t going to ask him to marry me.
We don’t hang out, we have never had a meal together or a cup of coffee. We’ve rarely spoken on the phone. We meet in person maybe 2 or 3 times a year at events. Our is a purely political relationship, one that has remained viable over the years because I’m pretty stubborn and our shared investment in the LGBTQ community.
But he feels accessible to me for the most part. I can reach out to his staff, both campaign staff and Mayoral Administration staff with mixed results, but it isn’t difficult to get their attention. When my blog was blocked by the City web filters as a porn site, he was one of the first to reach out to me to work on solutions. When the City ‘lost’ the Domestic Partner Registry, his team again reached out to me and found the missing documents (in the basement.)
And I haven’t held back my criticism. In 2008, I thought his team work with then State Representative Chelsa Wagner was out of line. I’ve weighed in on the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee since it’s first incarnation in 2008 and many times since. I’ve assessed his relationship with Pridefest, considered his transparency and accountability to the LGBTQ community, and contemplated writing a book about his Administration.
These are not personal favors (albeit perhaps one) but responses to systemic issues. Likewise, I am not criticizing the Mayor personally or for his personal life choices. I am critiquing his campaign and political decisions.
The first time I mentioned then-Councilman Peduto on my blog was Sunday, June 18, 2006 after hearing him speak at Pridefest. I had known about him for many years longer, dating back to when he co-founded Pittsburgh chapter of the Stonewall Democrats and he also showed up at LGBTQ events like Pride when no one else did.
When he considered a bid for the Mayoral Special Election in 2007, I wrote more regularly about him. His decision to end his campaign was crushing to me. I broke up with him but we eventually reconciled.
I’ve mentioned him on my blog in at least 150 posts over the years about 3% of my posts overall. Here are a few highlights you might enjoy reading:
Thursday June 22, 2006.
Overall big fun. Plus, we got to sit with City Councilman Bill Peduto. I’m just enough of a geek to think that is really cool and be nervous about what to say to him. After all he is THE progressive man. And I don’t want to look like some fawning sycophant. Which I totally did, but I’m sure he’s used to it.
May 31, 2007
Analysis on the emerging Peduto base on City Council
* It is easy to romanticize the “progressive bloc” backing Peduto, but the CP reminds that in politics, things are never romantic. Dowd and Kraus are not clones and have philosophical differences <thank goodness they have philosophical anything>. Burgess is keenly aware of the historical isolation of his district and staking territory as his own man. It is not Peduto the progressive leader or Peduto the king-maker who is going to surge ahead with these gentlemen in tow. It is Peduto’s ideas — solid, smart and good governance policies — that stand a chance of winning the support of these gentlemen. And, to be fair, these gentlemen stand a chance of winning Peduto with their own good ideas.
March 11, 2011
Peduto commits to halt City-County mergers until there are benefit parities
Members of City Council, including Bill Peduto, have stated they won’t let City employees lose benefits even as they move ahead with the consolidations. At some point, we’ll hit a wall and progress will be halted because (ironically, this is an issue now in 2019 because the County eliminated their benefits.)
June 8, 2014
I Owe Bill Peduto an Apology
Now I stand by my critique that the Mayor should be more aggressively addressing municipal equality and should be prioritizing his own employees regarding the Domestic Partner Registry and our future benefits rather than weddings. I’m not letting go of my skepticism and bewilderment over that radio silence. But I’m returning to my earlier, less jaded stance that it is my job as a blogger – and yours as a resident – to help build Next Pittsburgh by asking questions and holding him to his pledge of transparency.
In 2013, I asked him this question for my blog. His response is still something to consider.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community, what would it be? I think I would like to change the politics of it. I wish more of our local elected leaders we step up and be champions on issues of equality for LGBTQ people. There are still some who are not the allies they could be.
This blogger/Peduto friendship is probably unique to Pittsburgh. Our City is large enough to avoid the trope of everyone knowing the Mayor on a first name basis, yet small enough to make it possible for a queer disabled blogger who grew up in West Mifflin to feel she has access and proximity to the Mayor.
I should add that I have only invested one $50 contribution to his coffers and he has not donated to my personal projects. We have no fiscal entanglement.
If the Mayor asked me for my opinion right now, I would encourage him to give serious attention to establishing an Office of LGBTQ Affairs with FT staff. I’d advise him to shift the Mayor’s Advisory Committee to a Community Advisory Group for that body to have maximum impact City-wide. I know he’s considering this, but I hope he collects a lot of input and also assesses LGBTQ priorities across the City. There are many smaller easy wins that could bolster the quality of life of LGBTQ residents and aren’t on the table right now.
I’d love to be part of those conversations, but I am not a suitable person to serve on an Advisory Board or Commmission. I have to shout from the sidelines and Interwebz.
Most importantly, I would remind him that resting on his LGBTQ laurels is ill-advised. He knows better, he’s been doing this too long to expect one of the more marginalized groups in his City to do anything other than continue to push hard for genuine progress. Friends hold one another accountable rather than demanding absolute blind loyalty.
And I might ask him to have lunch with me after all these years.
I wrote this earlier this year for another purpose that didn’t manifest, so I’ve held onto it. Election Day seems like a good time to remind you that our relationships with elected officials are important. They require nurturing, attentiveness, and transparency about our motives and roles.
Just like any friendship.
I genuinely like and value Mayor Peduto. He’s been a good friend. That doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything, but I care enough to continue paying attention.
Invest in political blogging that understands the importance of these friendships.
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