In response to “Pride in being pushy,” Feb. 28-March 6
I had the honor of attending the ribbon cutting of the John C. Anderson Apartments recently and soon thereafter was able to read Mark My Words in the Feb. 28 issue of PGN. For those who know me, and question whether I actually have a heart, I must say it was a little heartwarming to read Mark Segal’s comments. While my comments might be construed as those of a first-class ass-kisser, I assure you that Mark will never accuse me of such a brazen endeavor. However, I found everything I heard from Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter and the myriad of state and local politicians to mirror my thoughts exactly and I have to say, I would want it no other way.
Mark Segal, accepting his position as the greatest pain in the ass to politicians in this state, is nothing more than a badge of honor in my book. Eight years ago while I was commissioner of the City of Brotherly Love Softball League, and was being stonewalled (no pun intended) by a department of city government that would have meant the cessation of the largest LGBT sports group in Philadelphia, I called the one person I knew could help.
The help I received from Mark Segal was like nothing I have ever encountered. Rather than a surgical strike against the offending department, Mark forwarded my email to every significant member of the mayor’s staff in City Hall with a simple request: HELP. Over the next four hours, I received emails, phone calls and even a fax from departments I never even knew existed asking me how they could help. By 2 p.m. that day, the offending department resolved its internal issues and we were ready to start our season. The best part of the day was receiving a call from the head of the department asking me to send an email out to everyone that the problem was resolved since the first email made “such a fucking mess” of his day.
Move forward four years and Mark Segal attends a meeting of the board of directors of the William Way LGBT Community Center to sell his “pie in the sky” LGBT senior housing above the WWCC building. All one needed to do was attend our town-hall meeting with the community to know there were a few naysayers and opponents of the WWCC being involved, as well as the typical voices who questioned Mark’s ability to make this happen. To Mark’s credit, he entrusted me with moderating the debate and kept his word on my one request of him. My request was a hard one too, but Mark was up to the task. The task was to not respond to the craziness that was swirling and to trust the board of the William Way to handle this issue professionally.
For almost a year, the board of the WWCC assessed plans, developed ideas, debated issues and, most importantly, listened to the community. At the end of the day, we resolved that this was a fundamentally necessary and important project and needed to be built, but the best way for it to get done was for it to be completed apart from the WWCC. Would we have loved a new building? Absolutely. But the logistics and funds just did not appear to be present.
When I delivered the news over lunch at Famous Deli (the only place a true lunch meeting is allowed to take place) to Mark and Micah [Mahjoubian], I was somewhat astounded by the response. Micah, whom I expected to be the calm voice of understanding and reason, was a bit agitated and Mark turned to me and said, “I understand, but the WWCC still needs to be involved.” I was grateful for the positive response and understanding. I will say that, as to myself (not speaking for any member of the board), I never doubted the ability of Mark to make this happen from the first day I heard about it. My tour of the building proves those abilities to me, as it should to everyone else.
What does this tell us? What is the point of my little exercise in composition? Very simple: We can call Mark a pain in the ass, a pushy Jewish faggot (his words, not mine), a grandstander, the devil, etc. You can call him anything you want, but this community, young and old, needs to take notice that this city would not be the number-one rated city in the country for LGBT Americans if not for the many years of work by Mark Segal. Was he alone? No. But Mark is still standing and still fighting, and I personally am profoundly grateful to have this pushy pain in the ass on my side. — Jeff Sotland Philadelphia