Stagnation and communication woes: Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA+ Commission struggles to deliver on promised action

Parade marchers carrying Pride flags walk across the Andy Warhol Bridge toward Allegheny Commons to continue the Pittsburgh Pride Revolution celebration on June 3, 2023. (Photo by Alexis Wary/PublicSource)

The commission has grappled with developing its infrastructure over the last two years and faces challenges in communicating with the mayor’s office.

by Punya Bhasin, PublicSource

Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA+ Commission, created in 2020 by former Mayor Bill Peduto, started with the promise of action on behalf of the queer community of Pittsburgh.

Three years later, external displays of action have been on the sparse side — even at the admission of some of its members.

Much of the work has stagnated due to creating framework from nothing, communication challenges with the city’s administration, turnover and workload, according to commission co-chairs.

One of them, Sarah Rosso, said much of the work has consisted of figuring out how the commission can function as a group.

“I think the initial investment of time was really focused on building infrastructure,” Rosso said. “So there was no infrastructure prior to us starting and so there was a lot of time and investment from the commissioners to develop bylaws, structure and how we would operate.”

Read more: LGBTQ+ healthcare experiences inconsistent, lack some services for transgender Pittsburghers

The commission of 16 members, who have experience in various sectors including education, workforce development, homelessness and health, have met on a near-monthly basis since its first meeting in August 2021. The goals the city laid out for the commission include: developing action plans to address the challenges the Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ community faces, conducting studies about those challenges, working to develop cultural competency training opportunities and engaging with the Pittsburgh community on LGBTQ+ issues.

While some fruitful conversations have been held to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community within the city and the commission has made strides on developing its internal structure, the commission’s 20 meetings thus far have lacked public engagement and it hasn’t conducted a single study.

“The fact that I can’t, right now, fire off a list of studies that we’ve done for you, that is an issue,” said Leonard Orbovich, a commission member who advises and advocates for LGBTQ+ issues in regards to education. He added that he wants to do studies, but it hasn’t been possible due to budgetary and administration issues within the commission.

Read more: Fox Chapel Pride: Would my teenage self have believed it was possible?

Some efforts have, in part, been held up by what appears to be confusion with city counterparts.

Commission-city communication

From money to meetings, the city and the commission appear to have a communication problem.

The LGBTQIA+ Commission lost out on city funds to support its efforts in 2023 because, according to commission co-chair Sue Kerr, its members didn’t know they had to submit a budget plan.

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