Stonewall Dems land Howard Dean as speaker for June 2-6 convention in Pittsburgh

Howard Dean will visit Pittsburgh to serve as keynote speaker for the June 2-6 convention of the National Stonewall Democrats.

        Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is the first of a number of well-known Democratic Party leaders expected to announce their participation in and support of the conference.

        Scott Safier, co-chairman of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats, the local chapter of the Stonewall Democrats, is looking forward to Dean’s appearance at the convention.

        “It’s exciting to have the signer of the first civil-unions law in the country as our main speaker,” Safier said. “Dr. Dean’s participation illustrates the growing, strong ties between the Stonewall Democrats and the [Democratic] party.”

        As governor of Vermont, in 2000 Dean became the first governor to sign a bill legalizing same-sex partnerships. During his subsequent run for president, he actively courted the participation of GLBT voters in his campaign, an effort that led to the formation of a group called “Out for Dean.” Since that time, the organization continues its advocacy for GLBT issues under the name “OUT for Democracy.”

        Since he accepted the top DNC post in 2005, Dean has met with over 500 state and local GLBT leaders.

        The DNC partnered with the National Stonewall Democrats on “Neighbor to Neighbor Organizing Day,” a 50-state block-by-block organizing initiative held in April to register new Democratic voters and inform them on local, state and national issues.

        Also, the DNC will launch a project called “Pride at the Polls” during “gay pride season” from late May through the end of July to mobilize GLBT voters to better educate the community-at-large on pertinent issues and encourage more participation in the political process.

        The bulk of activities at the June convention here will be held on the University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus. Stonewall has secured the use of six classrooms at the Cathedral of Learning and use of the auditorium at Benedum Hall. Additional classroom space may be reserved as the number of activities for convention attendees increases.

        Workshops scheduled so far include:

        ·“Messaging on GLBT Issues in an Election Year,” led by Stacey Sobel of the Center

ter for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights;

        ·“Earned Media: How to Spotlight Your Organization’s Work,” led by Tom Hoffmann of the Service Employees International Union;

        ·“How to do Field Campaigning,” led by Sam Hens-Greco, field director, Georgia Berner for Congress;

        ·“Organizing Effective Canvassing,” led by Jody Hirsch, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania; and

        ·“How to Plan an Event That Raises Money, Not Your Blood Pressure,” led by Jo Wyrick, National Stonewall Democrats.

        Other topics are expected to cover campaign finance, discussing GLBT issues with candidates, recruiting volunteers and using the Internet.

        Convention organizers have signed the GLBT television network here! as a media sponsor, and crews from here! are expected to film speeches, workshops and events throughout the convention. Some of the network’s contributors, such as Elizabeth Birch of the talk show Birch & Company, are considered likely to attend.

        Other major sponsors of the convention include the Pittsburgh Pirates, America Votes and GoTV.

        Safier said the National Stonewall Democrats continues to work with the local organization to firm up plans and add benefits for convention participants. Among the new features are:

        ·Training and resources for organizing local Stonewall Democrat chapters;

        ·An online component that will keep convention-goers “connected” to national efforts and enable them to receive ongoing technical assistance throughout the upcoming elections;

        ·Access to a new Campaign Job Bank that will help students and others interested in working on important campaigns locate and compete for jobs in those campaigns;

        ·Opportunities to participate in coalition-building activities between the GLBT community and national trade unions, such as the Service Employees International Union, the United Steelworkers of America and teachers’ associations like the Pennsylvania State Education Association; as well as other Democratic Party-related organizations such as the Pennsylvania League of Young Voters, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and Project Blue Stone, an Internet organizing company;

        ·Networking with local, state and national Democratic Party in workshops and social gatherings planned throughout the weekend’s schedule. For $100 ($50 for students) in addition to the registration fee, participants can attend a special VIP reception at the Cavenaugh-Graham Mansion on June 2 with Howard Dean and other convention speakers; and

        ·Voter registration and canvassing activities geared toward giving participants hands-on experience in discussing candidates and issues with members of the general public.

        Convention participants are encouraged to arrive early on June 2 to participate in a non-partisan voter registration effort sponsored by America Votes and Liberty PA at the Three Rivers Arts Festival; the campaign will be conducted from 10am until 5pm. Canvassing will resume on June 4 after a picnic with the keynote speaker.

        As more activities are added to the event lineup, the need for volunteers will continue to grow. Safier said volunteers are needed before the convention begins to help solicit ads for the convention program book, secure more sponsors and develop additional political and social activities for convention participants.

        The group is also seeking donations of items and services as varied as hospitality bags and vans to provide free transportation.

        Volunteers will be needed during the convention to help out-of-town guests navigate the city; to operate the shuttle service to and from the conference host hotel, the Pittsburgh Hilton; and to provide support at off-site activities. Interested volunteers can contact the Steel City Stonewall Democrats via the Web site at www.steel-city.org.

        Community members are also urged to join the convention planning committee, which will meet from 7pm until 9pm every Thursday until the convention begins. For more information on joining the committee, send e-mail to Scott Safier at scott@steel-city.org.

        Convention registration is still available at the “early bird” rate of $50, or $20 for students. Students who are members of “allies” groups, such as out-of-town college gay-straight alliances, may also request free housing while attending the conference. Student housing is available on a first come, first served basis at the University of Pittsburgh.

        To register, visit the National Stonewall Democrats Web site at www.democrats.org.

Schedule of events

Friday, June 2

·10am-5pm: Liberty PA/America Votes canvassing activities

·National Stonewall Democrats board of directors meeting featuring address by Evan Wolfson, Pittsburgh native and executive director of Freedom to Marry

·5-7pm: social at 5801 Video Lounge & Cafe, 5801 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside

·7-9pm: VIP reception with Howard Dean and other speakers at Cavanaugh-Graham Mansion

Saturday, June 3

·9am: Convention registration and continental breakfast

·10am-noon: Campaign training

·Noon-1:30pm: Picnic with Howard Dean and other speakers and trainers

·2-3:15pm; 3:45-5pm: Campaign training

·8-10pm: Stonewall Night at PNC Park, $22; followed by a social at Images, 965 Liberty Ave., downtown

Sunday, June 4

·Neighborhood canvassing with Liberty PA and America Votes