I’m proud to have passed three bills that, while they are primarily aimed at protecting reproductive freedom, they also have significant implications for the LGBTQ community. Historically, LGBTQ individuals have faced barriers to accessing healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. The overturning of Roe v. Wade and other related decisions by the Supreme Court not only impacts access to abortion but also access to other reproductive healthcare services that are critical for the well-being of LGBTQ individuals.
The next post in our 2023 primary election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. 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. We welcome candidates at all levels of government across the entire Commonwealth.
By participating, candidates are saying that they
- must be an LGBTQIA+ ally, specifically supporting equality and dignity for transgender persons
- identify as pro-choice
- must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that they accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results
I first met Bobby during his inaugural run to represent District 1 in City Council. In 2022, I had the opportunity to work with him more closely on the #ProtectTransKids projects. I reached out to him as soon as I heard about the family’s experiences in his district. After months of work, his office asked about issuing a proclamation around the issue of protecting trans kids and assigned a staff person to educate the trans teen proclamation writers about the process. He continues to show up around this and related projects. And he does other important work. He’s a busy devoted public servant.
Your Name: Bobby Wilson
Your Pronouns: He/His
The Office You Seek: Pittsburgh City Council – District 1
How do you describe your identity? I am a cishet male
Tell us about your district. What is a hidden gem most people might not know about?
There’s a lot to choose from. I’ll highlight Allegheny Commons. A lot of people might not know that it’s the oldest park in the city of Pittsburgh, dating back to 1867, which is actually before the city of Allegheny was annexed by the city of Pittsburgh! It was once free grazing land and then it was turned into a park. In recent years we’ve had the fountain turned back on and the park in West Commons redone. The park is also home to our incredible National Aviary.
How has redistricting impacted your district?
It has impacted it quite a bit. In the past decade the Northside lost a significant amount of citizens so our district needed to grow in size and population. District 1 grew to include a good bit of Downtown Pittsburgh and the Strip District. We also were able to reunite the Central Northside into our council district after it had been split years ago. Marshall-Shadeland was removed from our district and added to District 6, represented by Daniel Lavelle, who had also lost population.
In your 2019 Q&A with us, you told us about the first LGBTQ person you had met. This time, tell us about a LGBTQ person or persons you’ve met or learned about since taking office and how they’ve impacted your work. Initials or pseudonyms are fine.
In 2019, after I completed the questionnaire I had a volunteer, SC, who was a trans man. I cannot begin to describe how influential SC was in my journey to learn more about the trans community. I went to an action with him shortly after the primary and in addition to getting to know him better he graciously spent a lot of his time talking to me about a number of issues impacting his community, how trans individuals fit in the larger LGBTQIA+ community, and how I can be a better ally. To this day some of these lessons impact my work with the trans community and I am ever grateful to him.
How has your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region changed since you took office?
The Northside has an evolving LGBTQ community and allies. Unfortunately, as in all places, there is still an undercurrent of hate. Last year we had an incident with a person directing hateful signs towards their neighbor’s child. I felt it important to aggressively be an advocate for this family and show them that they were not alone. This incident initiated a “Protect Trans Kids” sign campaign that was sparked by you, Sue. Thank you. I see those signs all over the city now and it warms my heart. From a terrible thing we saw hope. There is more to do, however, and we need to eradicate this kind of backwards thinking from our society and have one that is accepting and loving of all people, regardless of their orientation.
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the City Council? How will you respond to those priorities?
The top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the City Council are promoting acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of the LGBTQ community, eradicating hate and discrimination, and protecting the rights and safety of LGBTQ individuals, especially youth.
To respond to these priorities, the City Council could work on passing and enforcing anti-discrimination laws and policies, providing resources and support to LGBTQ individuals and organizations, promoting LGBTQ visibility and education, and engaging in community outreach and advocacy efforts. Additionally, the City Council could collaborate with local LGBTQ organizations and leaders to better understand and address the specific needs and challenges faced by the community.
The chosen vendor will seek to buy dischargeable health care debt directly from hospitals in bundles. The debt that can be purchased at a discount will be bundled and sold to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization that buys and forgives medical debt. RIP Medical Debt has calculated that an allocation of $1 million could discharge an estimated $115 million of health care debt owed by thousands of Pittsburghers.
Please give an example of how intersectionality has informed your work.
Intersectionality is a crucial concept in my work as a City Councilmember because it recognizes the multiple and overlapping identities and experiences of individuals and communities. One example of how intersectionality has informed my work is in the area of affordable housing and homelessness. In Pittsburgh, we have a large population of low-income LGBTQ individuals, many of whom also belong to marginalized racial or ethnic groups. I recognize that LGBTQ individuals who face multiple forms of discrimination and oppression are often disproportionately impacted by issues such as housing insecurity and homelessness.
Therefore, in my work on affordable housing policies and initiatives, I strive to incorporate an intersectional lens to ensure that the needs and experiences of LGBTQ individuals, particularly those who face additional forms of discrimination, are accounted for. This includes working to increase funding for affordable housing programs that prioritize marginalized communities, advocating for policies that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ renters and homebuyers, and collaborating with LGBTQ organizations to better understand the unique challenges faced by their constituents, including those who experience homelessness.
Please give an example of when another member of Council has persuaded you to change or adjust your perspective on an issue.
During a recent debate about whether or not to ban the use of facial recognition software by our city’s police department, I had initially been hesitant to support such a ban. I believed that facial recognition technology could potentially be a useful tool in fighting crime and keeping our communities safe.
However, during the debate, a Councilmember made a compelling argument about the potential risks and dangers associated with the use of this technology. They emphasized the fact that facial recognition software is not always accurate, and that even one mistaken identification could have serious consequences, including wrongful arrest or even harm to innocent individuals.
They also raised concerns about the potential for the technology to perpetuate systemic biases and discrimination, particularly against marginalized communities who are already disproportionately impacted by over-policing and surveillance.
I began to see the potential harms and dangers associated with the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. Their points made me realize that we need to prioritize the protection of individual civil liberties and rights, even if it means forgoing certain technological advancements.
As a result, I voted in favor of the ban on facial recognition software by our city’s police department. This experience showed me the importance of listening to and learning from the perspectives of my colleagues, particularly when it comes to issues that have the potential to impact our community members’ civil liberties and rights.
When Bruce Kraus leaves office, there will be no out LGBTQ members of Council, depending on this election cycle results. That’s a significant loss for our community in terms of representation. What will you do to ensure the LGBTQ community has a voice, not just cishet allies speaking for us?
As a Councilmember, I recognize the importance of having diverse and representative voices at the table. It is crucial that the LGBTQ community has a voice in our local government, and I am committed to ensuring that their voices are heard.
To that end, I will take the following steps:
- Proactively seek out and engage with LGBTQ community leaders and organizations to better understand their concerns, priorities, and needs. I will make sure that they are included in policy discussions and decision-making processes that impact their community.
- Advocate for increased representation and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in city government and leadership positions. This includes supporting policies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of city governance.
- Work to create and support policies that promote equality and protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. This includes advocating for anti-discrimination policies, safe and welcoming spaces, and equal access to resources and opportunities.
- Ensure that LGBTQ voices are included in all community outreach and engagement efforts. This means actively reaching out to LGBTQ individuals and organizations to seek their input and feedback on city policies and initiatives.
In short, I am committed to being an ally and advocate for the LGBTQ community in our city. I will work to ensure that their voices are heard and that their concerns and priorities are included in all aspects of city governance.
You’ve proposed using American Rescue Plan Funding to address medical debt accrued since the pandemic. You plan to eliminate $115 million in health care debt owed by about 24,000 City residents who meet the criteria. How does $1 million eliminate $115 million in debt? And what if any role will our region’s largest healthcare nonprofits play?
As the author of the resolution to allocate $1 million from the City’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) Trust Fund towards discharging eligible health care debt owed by Pittsburghers, I can explain how this funding will eliminate $115 million in debt. The chosen vendor will seek to buy dischargeable health care debt directly from hospitals in bundles. The debt that can be purchased at a discount will be bundled and sold to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization that buys and forgives medical debt. RIP Medical Debt has calculated that an allocation of $1 million could discharge an estimated $115 million of health care debt owed by thousands of Pittsburghers.
Regarding the role of our region’s largest healthcare nonprofits, the legislation does not mention any particular healthcare nonprofits. However, we welcome collaboration with these organizations if they are interested in supporting this initiative. This program is designed to provide direct relief to Pittsburghers who are experiencing financial hardship due to health care debt, particularly those who are uninsured or underinsured and have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We hope that this program will help alleviate some of the financial burden on our residents and make Pittsburgh a national leader in reducing the burden of medical debt.
We are actively working to address the issue of short-term rentals in our district. I recently introduced a rental bill that would require short-term rental owners to register with the city and provide a contact person who lives within a certain radius of the property. This will allow us to better regulate these rentals and ensure that they are not a danger to our community.
In September 2022, City Council recognized the first ‘Protect Trans Kids’ Day in Pittsburgh with a proclamation written by trans teens. Please review the proclamation and offer some concrete policy or program solution you would consider championing in response to their priorities.
Based on the priorities outlined in the proclamation, there are several concrete policy or program solutions that could be championed:
- Implement comprehensive anti-discrimination policies: Although Pittsburgh established protection from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression in 2000, it is important to ensure that these protections are comprehensive and enforced. I could champion the implementation of stronger anti-discrimination policies that explicitly protect transgender youth and adults in all areas of life, including employment, housing, healthcare, and education.
- Ensure access to gender-affirming healthcare: Transgender youth should have access to gender-affirming healthcare, including mental healthcare and hormone therapy. I could advocate for policies that ensure healthcare providers recognize and respect the pronouns and gender identity of trans youth during medical and clinical interactions.
- Create safe spaces in schools: Schools must create safe bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gendered spaces, and actively ensure that all trans students can access them with dignity and peace of mind. I could advocate for policies that require schools to create and maintain gender-neutral restrooms and ensure that they are easily accessible for all students.
- Support trans youth-led initiatives: The proclamation emphasizes the importance of including trans youth and adult voices in all areas of work. I could champion policies that support trans youth-led initiatives, such as the establishment of youth-led organizations, mentorship programs, and advocacy groups.
- Increase funding for mental health services: Trans youth are at higher risk of experiencing depression and suicide ideation, partly due to societal mistreatment and stigma. I could advocate for policies that increase funding for mental health services that are specifically designed to support transgender youth and address the unique mental health challenges they face.
Overall, the priorities outlined in the proclamation are critical to ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of trans youth in Pittsburgh. I have a unique opportunity to champion policies and programs that address these priorities and create a more inclusive and supportive community for trans youth.
The devastating mass shooting that took the lives of two teenagers and wounded many others was in your district. I live nearby and there’s an AirBnB four house fronts away from me. It has been horrible, especially when the owner lived off-site.The only person who benefits is the property owner and I guess the people who sidestep hotel fees and taxes. Our neighbors don’t benefit. The parents of unsupervised youth do not benefit. A hotel would have staff on duty and access to security assets. That’s why they charge fees. And then there is the issue of affordable rental housing redirected to this purpose. Why is City Council not aggressively protecting our communities from this clear tax-workaround?
I understand your concerns regarding the presence of AirBnBs in our community. The recent mass shooting in our district is a tragic reminder of the potential dangers of unsupervised short-term rentals. I agree that AirBnB rentals can create a strain on our community by diverting affordable rental housing to vacation rentals and contributing to the bypassing of hotel fees and taxes.
It is the responsibility of the City Council to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. We are actively working to address the issue of short-term rentals in our district. I recently introduced a rental bill that would require short-term rental owners to register with the city and provide a contact person who lives within a certain radius of the property. This will allow us to better regulate these rentals and ensure that they are not a danger to our community.
Additionally, we are exploring options to provide more affordable housing for our residents. The conversion of rental properties into AirBnBs only exacerbates the affordable housing crisis that many of our citizens are facing. We must work together as a community to find solutions that balance the needs of property owners with the needs of our community.
Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention, and please know that I am committed to working with my fellow councilmembers and the community to find a solution that benefits everyone.
How do competitive primary elections benefit the residents of a community?
Along with the obvious, that they represent an opportunity for the citizenry to change an ineffective leader, they’re also a chance to push conversations that need to occur. We must always grow and evolve and these campaigns represent a place where incumbents are forced to look inward and evaluate how they serve the community. They allow us to put our ear to the ground so to speak. I am actively campaigning and it’s allowing me to hear from constituents on the issues most important to them. When you are up for reelection constituents are not shy about telling you, an opportunity that I relish.
What are three reasons people should vote for you/support your campaign?
- I’m an active leader who is unapologetically progressive and is present in our community. You will see me all over the district at events and I feel that I am accessible and easy to approach and talk to.
- I am a legislator. I’m constantly looking for ways that we can improve our government in order to better serve the people. I look to other cities for effective legislation that we can enact here in Pittsburgh.
- I want the best for my home. I’m from the Northside and I feel that it is my role to fight for it and what is right. I hope that anyone that encounters me knows that and that I’m not in this for power or corruption.
Tell me about your endorsements and supporters.
I have been overwhelmingly endorsed by both the Allegheny Democratic Committee and the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council.
I have also been endorsed by:
Working Families Party
Steel City Stonewall Democrats
Young Dems of Allegheny County
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes. I’m proud to have passed three bills that, while they are primarily aimed at protecting reproductive freedom, they also have significant implications for the LGBTQ community. Historically, LGBTQ individuals have faced barriers to accessing healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. The overturning of Roe v. Wade and other related decisions by the Supreme Court not only impacts access to abortion but also access to other reproductive healthcare services that are critical for the well-being of LGBTQ individuals.
Furthermore, the second bill seeks to regulate deceptive advertising by crisis pregnancy centers, which often target vulnerable individuals, including LGBTQ people, with false or misleading information about reproductive healthcare options. By addressing deceptive advertising, this bill can help ensure that LGBTQ individuals have access to accurate and trustworthy information about their reproductive healthcare options.
The third bill aims to shield abortion providers in the City of Pittsburgh from out-of-state investigation or prosecution for providing abortion care that is legal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is particularly important for the LGBTQ community, which may face discrimination and harassment when seeking healthcare services. By protecting abortion providers from outside interference, this bill can help ensure that LGBTQ individuals have access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare services without fear of discrimination or prosecution.
Overall, these bills are important to the LGBTQ community because they help to protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare services, which are critical for the well-being and autonomy of all individuals, including LGBTQ individuals.
Where can readers find your campaign online and on social media?
Thank you, Bobby.
Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here.
- Q&A with Rachael Heisler, Candidate for Pittsburgh City Controller
- Q&A with Abigail Salisbury, Candidate for PA State House District 34
- Q&A with Erica Rocchi Brusselars, Candidate for Allegheny County Treasurer
- Q&A with Bethany Hallam, Incumbent Candidate for Allegheny County Council, At-Large
- Q&A with Tracy Royston, Candidate for Pittsburgh City Controller
- Q&A with Lita Brillman, Candidate for City Council, District 5
- Q&A with Kate Lovelace, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
- Q&A with Valerie Fleisher, Candidate for Mt. Lebanon School Board
- Q&A with Barb Warwick, Candidate for City Council, District 5
- Q&A with Nerissa Galt, Candidate for PENNCREST School Board
- Q&A with Todd Hoffman, Candidate for Mt. Lebanon School Board
- Q&A with Dan Grzybek, Candidate for Allegheny County Council, District 5
- Q&A with Khari Mosley, Candidate for City Council, District 9
- Q&A with Alexandra Hunt, Candidate for Philadelphia City Controller
- Q&A with Deb Gross, Candidate for City Council, District 7
- Q&A with Phillip Roberts, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
- Q&A with Matt Dugan, Candidate for Allegheny County District Attorney
- Q&A with Corey O’Connor, Candidate for Allegheny County Controller
- Q&A with Giuseppe GC Rosselli, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-3-02
- Q&A with Bob Charland, Candidate for City Council, District 3
- Q&A with Katrina Eames, Candidate for Northgate School Board Member
- Q&A with Michael Lamb, Candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive
- Q&A with Sara Innamorato, Candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive
- Q&A with Rachel Rosnick, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
- Q&A with Bobby Wilson, Candidate for City Council, District 1
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