A survey was distributed by GEAE to all available candidates who will be on the November ballot for the city and county that can have an effect on the Municipality Equality Index. The following is an explanation of our concerns and questions regarding those concerns. The responses are below.
As a valuable guide for the community wellbeing GEAE relies on The Municipal Equality Index (MEI). The MEI is a measure created by the Human Rights Campaign that examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and the city leadership’s public position on equality.
Erie’s scores on the MEI have historically been poor at best which is cause for concern. For the year 2014 Erie scored 51/100; we saw a slight improvement in 2015 to a score of 57/100 and in 2016 a decline to 39/100. For specific areas of concern, please find current score and explanation at the following web address: http://assets.hrc.org//files/assets/resources/Erie-Pennsylvania-2016.pdf?_ga=2.234206110.1290808284.1503683355-237254331.1501075374
It is evident that scoring is inconsistent year to year and it is GEAE’s interpretation that this is a direct result of a disconnect between city hall and the surveyor. It is important to ensure accurate scoring because this tool can be used to target areas of need and better use resources to make improvements to in our community.
We are writing to ask for your feedback. Please answer the following questions so that our community may gauge how they might support you in the upcoming election.
1. If you are elected, would you ensure that a dedicated representative is responsible for accurate reporting and annual survey completion?
2. If so, what would that position look like?
3. What areas from the MEI [listed below] do you feel can be positively impacted by your administration and how?
· Non-discrimination Laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations
· Municipality as employer (offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBTQ employees, and by awarding contracts to fair-minded businesses)
· Developing an LGBTQ liaison in the Mayor’s Office
· Supporting districts with anti-bullying school policies
· Provide services to LGBTQ youth, homeless, elderly, those living with HIV/AIDS, and transgender community
· An LGBTQ liaison for task force within the police department
· Report hate crime statistics to the FBI
· Generally show visible support for the LGBTQ community
We welcome your responses and any additional comments that might help our community make an informed decision about the upcoming election and subsequent progress in Erie.
Liz Allen (Erie City Council):
1. I have looked through the survey results for Erie. Erie’s score does seem to be off when compared to nine other Pennsylvania cities and to cities sometimes used to compare Erie on other demographic/economic/civic measures (Grand Rapids, 76; South Bend, 78; Akron, 82). I agree that it is important to make sure that the survey is filled out accurately and consistently. To figure out how to accomplish that, I would need to know where the MEI Survey is currently sent. Does it go to the mayor’s office? The City Clerk? Human Resources? I can’t tackle the problem of inconsistent answers on the survey unless I know where it goes and who fills it in. Do you have that information from the Human Rights Campaign? If not, I would be happy to call or email HRC to see if I can find an answer to my initial question.
2. If elected to Erie City Council, I would ask the administration to inform council about who will fill out the next survey and then make sure that the deadline is met to complete the survey with accurate data, to see what problems or concerns are identified. Erie City Council’s current liaison to the Erie County Human Relations Commission is Councilwoman Sonya Arrington. That is an important relationship to maintain and to build upon. I am confident I can work with Sonya on any needs/issues identified by the county HRC.
3. In your email, you say there is likely a “disconnect” between Erie City Hall and the surveyor. One of my strengths is that I am good at making or restoring connections. In your email, you also invited candidates to meet with your board but I couldn’t find any information about the next board meeting on your website (maybe I missed it). I did see information about your training program for business. Since I am new to public service, I would be interested in learning whether you offer a training program for municipal employees that would address the areas covered by the MEI survey. But before that happens, I would be happy to meet with your board, formally or informally, to learn what issues you think are most important for the LGBTQ community in Erie.
Carl Anderson (Erie County Council): No Response
Kathy Dahlkemper (County Executive):
1.If you are elected, would you ensure that a dedicated representative is responsible for accurate reporting and annual survey completion?
I value diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace. As the County Executive, I requested the creation of a Diversity & Training Manager. This position could address these issues, and would facilitate the completion of the annual MEI survey. The position required the approval of Erie County Council and has not been approved at this time.
2.If so, what would that position look like?
The scope of work for the Diversity & Training Manager is as follows:
This position reports to the Director of Human Resources and is responsible for developing and implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and programs for the County of Erie, specifically focused on recruitment, retention, and advancement that are aligned with the key priority of creating a model county and culturally competent workforce representative of the county demographics. This position is also responsible for developing and implementing a training strategy for the County of Erie through needs assessments, planning and coordination. This position will also be responsible for managing and maintaining the ADA compliance program.
3. What areas from the MEI [listed below] do you feel can be positively impacted by your administration and how?
• Non-discrimination Laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations
• Municipality as employer (offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBTQ employees, and by awarding contracts to fair-minded businesses)
• Developing an LGBTQ liaison in the Mayor’s Office
• Supporting districts with anti-bullying school policies
• Provide services to LGBTQ youth, homeless, elderly, those living with HIV/AIDS, and transgender community
• An LGBTQ liaison for task force within the police department
• Report hate crime statistics to the FBI
• Generally show visible support for the LGBTQ community
I am proud to stand with the LGBTQ community and am committed to fighting for equality. Of the areas that fall under the jurisdiction of county government (in bold), I am proud to say that my administration has prioritized these issues and will continue to do so in my next term.
Kathy Fatica (Erie County Council): No Response
Andre Horton (Erie County Council): No Response
Casimir Kwitowski (Erie City Council): No Response
Dan Nick (Erie City Council): No Response
Art Oligeri (Erie County Executive): No Response
John Persinger (Erie City Mayor):
(2) I would like to appoint a strong Deputy Mayor or Chief of Staff, and I envision that that Deputy Mayor or Chief of Staff would be responsible for accurate reporting and annual survey completion.
(3) Our administration would look to make a positive impact in the community in various ways, and would consider the following:
• Non-discrimination laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations;
• Municipality as employer;
• Developing an LGBTQ liaison in the Mayor’s Office;
• Supporting the school district’s anti-bullying policies;
• Working with social services to provide services to LGBTQ youth, homeless, elderly, those living with HIV/AIDS, and the transgender community;
• An LGBTQ liaison for task force within the police department;
• Report hate crime statistics to the FBI; and
• Generally show visible support for the LGBTQ community.
Scott Rastetter (Erie County Council):
Thank You for taking interest in my campaign. I wish all citizens would take such interest in organizing our community. Call me simple but, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, covers my position on municipal equality. If elected you can be assured that I will represent my district with consideration to all. You will have my ear.
Kathy Shaaf (Erie City Council):
I was raised that people should be treated fairly. My educational background from St James School, St Benedict Academy, and Villa Maria College have always encouraged that commandment. Love God, Love others as you yourself are loved.
I am running for city council to bring about many positive changes for the community and hopefully to unite the people of Erie to work for equality in many ways of life right here.
If elected I would be one of seven people to work with the mayor to build partnerships with the people. I would hope that I could initiate a representative who would be responsible for accurate reporting/annual survey completion. This person could work with council/mayor to make sure all LGBTQ concerns are addressed, as well as the seniors,veterans, HIV/AIDS, immigrants etc. I have friends/relatives who are gay/lesbian/transgender. No one should be bullied. All people no matter their ethnic origin, race or religious affiliation should be treated fairly and equally. This saddens me that Erie is not scoring well on the MEI. It would be a good thing to have council set a position to oversee that businesses are following laws set in place for non discrimination/ no bullying or harassment policies.
I am surprised that these areas you have listed are not already in place in Erie. There should be non discrimination laws set for employment, housing and public accommodations already stated and practiced here. There should be protection for all LGBTQ employees as well as minority/race/ethnic people in the workforce. There should be fair minded business practices in place. Yes there could be an LGBTQ liaison for the Mayor’s office and I am sure that whoever is the next mayor would embrace the meetings. As an educator I am already aware of anti bullying policies and anti bullying education in the schools and it should continue. Counselors should be available at all schools to address these issues as well. Yes there should be a liaison to meet with the police officers. Yes hate crime statistics should be reported to the FBI. AS one member on a council of seven I would do my best to get changes made that are needed. It is not going to be an easy task if these are not even initiated at all at this time. The candidates for mayor appear to be open and willing to changes. Erie therefore should be headed in the right direction to improve those scores. I would support the LGBTQ group like I would support any other responsible law abiding group of people, no matter their race, ethnic background,minority, religious background, veterans, senior citizens, political parties etc. We all are people who have a story in our hearts that have brought us to the path/point we are at today. All people in our families, neighborhoods, churches, communities, places of business and entertainment need to be treated fairly. All people should be treated fairly in public institutions,businesses,parks etc. We all are on this planet together. It is up to us build up our community so it can be a better place for the next generation.
Let’s look hopefully to our future here in Erie PA, so many needs to be addressed within its council chambers. May the next elected mayor, council and executive work together to be the change that is needed in our fair city. May our city prosper with new hope, new people and ideas which can make a difference in the lives of all people in Erie and our surrounding county. I do not have the power of legislature as a single person but I do have faith, hope and love to work together as a team to be perhaps a needed change in our community. Please give me the chance to work as a team member to make a difference in this upcoming election November 7th by voting for Kathleen Schaaf for Erie City Council. Thank you for this consideration.
Joe Schember (Erie City Mayor):
- If you are elected, would you ensure that a dedicated representative is responsible for accurate reporting and annual survey completion?
Reviewing the recent MEI survey results, two things are obvious
- Either the city is failing our LGBTQ residents badly, or
- The city is not reporting accurately and completely.
As Mayor, I will make sure that these two things will never happen again. For instance, it is unacceptable that the city would not file our Hate Crime Statistics with the FBI. A member of my staff will be responsible to make sure our service to the LGBTQ community is second to none and to file accurate, complete and timely annual reports to MEI.
- If so, what would that position look like?
Based on my understanding now, I do not believe that this would be a full-time position. In other words, the person responsible for both improving our MEI score and filing a timely MEI report annually, would have other responsibilities as well.
One of my staff members will be the Community Liaison, who will be responsible for connecting full-time with residents and groups throughout the city. Among the groups the Community Liaison will be in constant contact with are: Neighborhood Associations, charities that serve residents of the city, church groups, and associations like The Greater Erie Alliance for Equality.
- What areas from the MEI [listed below] do you feel can be positively impacted by your administration and how?
- Non-discrimination Laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations
My Solicitor will review all current laws. If we do not have Non-discrimination Laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city, the next step will be to research and draft these laws and engage Erie City Council to adopt the laws. I will also invite members of the LGBTQ community to actively participate in this process.
- Municipality as employer (offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBTQ employees, and by awarding contracts to fair-minded businesses)
Every city employee should have the same benefits and protections. LGBTQ employees should be treated no different than any other employees. Sexual preference is irrelevant.
- Developing an LGBTQ liaison in the Mayor’s Office
This is essential, but at this point I do not see this as a full-time position. This will probably be a responsibility of the Community Liaison.
I would like to have LGBTQ employees on my staff, just like I’d like to have African American, Hispanic, and first generation Americans. Diversity is a unique strength of America. We are stronger and our policies are better when all diverse perspectives are part of the decision making process.
- Supporting districts with anti-bullying school policies
My administration will be active with the Erie School District. Those students are the future of Erie. For instance, our Community Policing Program, which currently includes police officers playing basketball with and tutoring children, will be ramped up. We will provide every support the School District needs to totally eliminate bullying.
- Provide services to LGBTQ youth, homeless, elderly, those living with HIV/AIDS, and transgender community
Any services we provide will be for all members of the Erie community. LGBTQ youth groups, homeless, elderly, individuals with HIV/AIDS and the transgender community will not be excluded.
- An LGBTQ liaison for task force within the police department
We should have an LGBTQ liaison. I’m not sure if that would be a city employee (who would have other responsibilities as well) or a member of an LGBTQ group like the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality. I’m open to direction on this.
- Report hate crime statistics to the FBI
Yes. All Hate Crimes will be reported to the FBI on a timely basis.
- Generally show visible support for the LGBTQ community
I have a great relationship with members of the LGBTQ community. This will continue as Mayor. My children have taught me much about diversity. My special needs daughter, Jodi, has taught me more than anyone else about accepting and interacting with people as they are. I am publicly proud of my son, Joe, who is gay. We have become much closer since he shared with my wife, Rhonda, and that he is gay. We welcome Joe and his partner into our home and thoroughly enjoy our time together, when they come to visit us or when we go to visit them at their home in Albany, New York.
Jim Winarski (Erie City Council): No Response
Robert Yates (Erie County Council): No Response