Q&A with David Bonaroti, Candidate for Allegheny County Council, District 13

Photo of a white man with short curly brown hair and blue crew neck shirt.

Allegheny County Council needs to insert funding directly into the organizations that serve the LGBTQ community so they can expand their services and operate with financial autonomy. 

The next post in our 2023 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

David Bonaroti is running for County Council in my district so I’m especially interested in his responses. I was glad he agreed to participate. I have yet to meet him, but hopefully that will change soon. I’m very interested in his commitment to mental health supports.

Your Name: David Bonaroti 

Your Pronouns: He/Him/His 

The Office You Seek: Allegheny County Council District 13 

How do you describe your identity? 

I’m a straight, cis, white man 

Tell us about your district. What is a hidden gem most people might not know about? 

Allegheny County District 13 comprises Bellevue Borough and the City of Pittsburgh Wards 1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 30. Our District is fortunate in that it is filled with an overabundance of history, arts, and culture, however, an often overlooked jewel is the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead. Combined with the C&O Canal, this trail stretches ~350 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. Estimates are that nearly ~1.4 million people utilize the trail annually. It’s a testament to our region’s ability to reclaim and rehabilitate land for public enjoyment and highlights the restorative power of nature from our industrial past. 

How has redistricting impacted your district? 

The most recent redistricting effort has added the 30th Ward (Knoxville) to District 13. 

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? Using initials or pseudonyms is fine. 

The LGBTQ individuals that have impacted me the most were my classmates that had to hide who they were. I grew up in a Catholic family and attended parochial school until college and as a result, my view of the world was always through the lens of that institution. When you are taught that the doctrines of the church are infallible, it extinguishes any hope of empathy and humanization towards those not aligned with that institution’s beliefs. When I moved away from the area, that distance enabled me to finally break free from the way I previously understood the world and in particular, the LGBTQ community. Therefore, when I reflect on the experiences of my LGBTQ classmates, I’m filled with a tremendous sense of shame and anger. Shame for my silence when language was used by that institution to dehumanize them, frame them as outcasts, and strip them of their dignity. Anger towards the hypocrisy of an ideology that preached love, understanding and community, yet judged and ostracized those individuals for their identity. I was a coward for not standing up for them then, but I will do everything in my power to stand up for them today.

Tell us about the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. 

District 13 is home to a number of organizations that proudly serve the LGBTQ community including True T PGH, the Persad Center, the Central Outreach Wellness Center and the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation. Additionally, District 13 is home to the annual Pittsburgh Pride festival. 

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? 

Gender and sexuality affirming behavioral and medical care services will always be a top concern for the LGBTQ community and should be a top priority for Allegheny County Council. I will work with the LGBTQ community to identify gaps in that coverage and ensure proper funding is made available to facilitate those services. Another issue that ACC needs to confront is the rise in LGBTQ censorship across our school districts. LGBTQ voices are being erased in our classrooms and the alarmist behavior by these institutions to ban art, film, and literature will directly correlate to an increase in behavioral and physical violence towards that community. In an earlier question, I spoke about my experiences in college/graduate school and how transformative they were to redefine my understanding of the LGBTQ community. At the core of those experiences was the exposure to LGBTQ art. For example, in NYC I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of “Paris Is Burning” followed by a Q&A with director Jennie Livingston. More recently, I read the novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong and listened to Ocean speak at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh in April 2022. It is unfathomable that our public education institutions are actively trying to censor this material and it is extremely dangerous to strip artifacts of representation from our youth’s hands. As a member of ACC, I would advocate for funding to directly sponsor LGBTQ themed programming (such as monthly speaker series) within our region. 

You’ve worked closely with local queer and trans BIPOC led organization True T Pgh. Please give an example of an experience in this role that changed your understanding of the region’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Rather than limit it to one individual experience, I would say that my conversations with True T leadership has educated me on the financial challenges that face organizations which serve the LGBTQ community in our region. True T offers short term and emergency housing as well as offering regular programming tied to artistic expression, community empowerment, and employment enablement. A portion of the funding that allows these services to be offered is provided via endowment grants. Allegheny County Council needs to insert funding directly into the organizations that serve the LGBTQ community so they can expand their services and operate with financial autonomy. 

On your website, you list a six point platform. Your housing proposal emphasizes home ownership with a brief reference to rental housing and no mention of homelessness. Your district includes rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, including my own – Manchester, and the Downtown neighborhood that is struggling to meet the needs of homeless residents. What specifically will you do to create more safe affordable housing for renters and to house the homeless? 

When it comes to housing affordability, we can try and reinvent the wheel as many times as we want, but the root cause of our housing crisis is due to limited supply. We need to eliminate zoning and parking restrictions which prohibits us from building high density housing units. As for homelessness, providing shelter is only one variable in this equation. If we don’t address the underlying causes of homelessness (mental health crisis, substance abuse epidemic, limited economic opportunities, etc.) then this problem will continue to afflict our region’s constituents. 

It’s a testament to our region’s ability to reclaim and rehabilitate land for public enjoyment and highlights the restorative power of nature from our industrial past. 

Allegheny County rescinded domestic partner benefits in 2015, citing the Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality. Fast forward to 2022 and the undermining of Roe v Wade legal arguments that underpin the marriage equality rulings. Additionally, Pennsylvania still has a so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ on the books in spite of the SCOTUS rulings legalizing marriage equality. How would you propose County Council revisit domestic partner benefits for all employees, both same sex and opposite sex to protect workers? 

Due to the uncertainty regarding the Supreme Court’s position on Obergefell v. Hodges, ACC needs to reinstate domestic partner benefits for both same and opposite sex couples. This would allow us to hedge against the precarious legal landscape afforded by the Respect for Marriage Act coexisting with PA’s DOMA law. 

Do you support replacing the Allegheny County Jail Warden? 

Though the jail warden has announced his resignation since this Q&A was released, I would have supported a measure to have him replaced based on the horrendous conditions at ACJ. I will caveat that whomever is selected to take their place, conditions will not improve as long as we continue to incarcerate the mentally ill (75% of the jail’s population is prescribed at least one psychotropic medication) without addressing their underlying medical needs. We need to confront the mental health crisis immediately. 

How will you fund increased mental health supports for County residents? 

The inevitable property tax reassessment will give us an opportunity to explore financial solutions that can facilitate mental health services in our region. We should also explore other existing tax avenues as a means to fund these efforts such as the ACC drink tax. Additionally, we must petition our state and federal representatives for funding. 

What are three reasons people should vote for you/support your campaign? 

● My candidacy brings a fresh perspective with new ideas to Allegheny County Council. With 10+ years of experience in the private sector, I am the only candidate equipped to recruit businesses to our region, deliver new job opportunities, expand our tax base, and reinvest that growth back into our communities. 

● Whether spending my nights tutoring adults pursuing their GEDs or teaching English as a second language through the Pittsburgh Literacy program, I have a strong track record of serving individuals and empowering my community. 

● I have a clear vision for the future of Allegheny County. I am willing to take risks and apply progressive solutions to problems that have affected this region for decades. We must challenge the “status quo” mentality of local government and explore ideas that can restore our ability to help those in need. 

Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters. 

Allegheny County Democratic Committee 

Allegheny County Labor Council – a local branch of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) representing 100,000+ workers in Western PA. 

Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Thank you for allowing me to participate in your Q&A! 

Where can readers find your campaign on social media/online?

Readers can learn more about my campaign at bonarotiforacc.com. Though I do have an instagram page (@bonaroti_for_county_council), I’ve made a decision to pull back on utilizing social media for this campaign. Due to the pandemic, we are using digital tools more than ever before and as a result, we’ve seen how destabilizing they can be to our democracy. I firmly believe that politics needs to be decoupled from social media entirely. Trump wielded social media like a cudgel and the January 6th attack on the US Capital was inspired by the language espoused through social media channels. Additionally, the attempts to invalidate Biden’s victory and the misinformation/disinformation campaigns tied to the Covid vaccine were and continue to be propagated through social media. Time and again, research has shown how incredibly toxic these platforms can be towards our mental health and they’ve become too dangerous (due to radicalization, propaganda, and exploitation) to use in political discourse. For those reading this, I would urge you to reconsider your utilization of those platforms as a means of political engagement/education and reinvest your time/attention towards local journalistic outlets (WESA, Spotlight PA, Pittsburgh Union Progress, Public Source, etc.) as an alternative.

Other Q&A’s in this 2023 election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here. 

  1. Q&A with Rachael Heisler, Candidate for Pittsburgh City Controller
  2. Q&A with Abigail Salisbury, Candidate for PA State House District 34
  3. Q&A with Erica Rocchi Brusselars, Candidate for Allegheny County Treasurer
  4. Q&A with Bethany Hallam, Incumbent Candidate for Allegheny County Council, At-Large
  5. Q&A with Tracy Royston, Candidate for Pittsburgh City Controller
  6. Q&A with Lita Brillman, Candidate for City Council, District 5
  7. Q&A with Kate Lovelace, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
  8. Q&A with Valerie Fleisher, Candidate for Mt. Lebanon School Board
  9. Q&A with Barb Warwick, Candidate for City Council, District 5
  10. Q&A with Nerissa Galt, Candidate for PENNCREST School Board
  11. Q&A with Todd Hoffman, Candidate for Mt. Lebanon School Board
  12. Q&A with Dan Grzybek, Candidate for Allegheny County Council, District 5
  13. Q&A with Khari Mosley, Candidate for City Council, District 9
  14. Q&A with Alexandra Hunt, Candidate for Philadelphia City Controller
  15. Q&A with Deb Gross, Candidate for City Council, District 7
  16. Q&A with Phillip Roberts, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
  17. Q&A with Matt Dugan, Candidate for Allegheny County District Attorney
  18. Q&A with Corey O’Connor, Candidate for Allegheny County Controller
  19. Q&A with Giuseppe GC Rosselli, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-3-02
  20. Q&A with Bob Charland, Candidate for City Council, District 3
  21. Q&A with Katrina Eames, Candidate for Northgate School Board Member
  22. Q&A with Michael Lamb, Candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive
  23. Q&A with Sara Innamorato, Candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive
  24. Q&A with Rachel Rosnick, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-2-31
  25. Q&A with Bobby Wilson, Candidate for City Council, District 1
  26. Q&A with Weldianne Scales, Candidate for Magistrate District Judge 05-2-08
  27. Q&A with Lindsay Powell, Candidate for PA State House 21
  28. Q&A with David Bonaroti, Candidate for Allegheny County Council, District 13


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