First mayoral forum for Allentown candidates focuses on LGBTQ issues

Written by on April 2, 2021

First mayoral forum for Allentown candidates focuses on LGBTQ issues

By Genesis Ortega

April 2, 2021

Who Will Lead: Allentown LGBTQ Mayoral Forum

The Lehigh Valley’s first ever LGBTQ forum with Allentown mayoral candidates took place Thursday night. It was hosted by 91.3 WLVR, PBS39 and the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.

Listen to the story.

Four candidates, all Democrats, took part in the forum: City councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach, city councilman Julio Guridy, Mayor Ray O’Connell, and former economic development official Matt Tuerk.

Tim Ramos, the sole Republican running for Mayor, declined an invitation to participate, saying he does not have a primary opponent but looks forward to future opportunities to discuss the issues.

The forum was moderated by Tyler Pratt of WLVR News and Adrian Shanker of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center

The primary election is scheduled for May 18, 2021.

Candidates answered a range of questions posed by moderators and members of the public about discrimination, economic opportunity, housing and healthcare. Each highlighted his or her experience and vision.

Click here to watch: Who Will Lead: LGBTQ Allentown Mayoral Forum

Former economic development official Matt Tuerk said the city can do more for protected classes like the LGBTQ community.

“One of things we would do is we would engage in landlord and tenant education that would make sure that landlords are held responsible for providing discrimination-free access to housing opportunities and make sure that tenants are aware of their rights,” he said.

City councilman Julio Guridy said he plans to hire a diversity officer to make sure that no one faces discrimination.

“As an immigrant myself and facing a lot of those issues, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to anybody,” he said.

City councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach said all issues are LGBTQ issues.

“From healthcare to homeownership to COVID vaccinations,” she said. “The only way forward is through intersectionality. Being an ally for the LGBTQ community means stepping up for other marginalized communities as well.”

Incumbent Mayor Ray O’Connell said he’s a lifeline for anyone experiencing housing discrimination.

“We have to make sure anyone: Transgender, LGBTQ community, young youth make sure they are safe, sheltered, and get the necessary needed services to make their life better going forward,” he said.

After the forum, the organizers were made aware that one question coming from the public was from a volunteer for Ce-Ce Gerlach’s campaign. They released this statement:

On behalf of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, PBS39, and WLVR, we were made aware after the historic Allentown LGBTQ Mayoral Forum that the community question directed to Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach came from a volunteer member of her campaign team.

None of our organizations were aware of this relationship, and we would not have included this question and certainly would not have posed it to Councilwoman Gerlach, had we known about this connection to her campaign.

All three of our organizations believe in the value of a fair and impartial voter forum, and we apologize for this oversight.

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