From the Editors: January 2021
The Year of the Woman
2020 was the year of the woman. We celebrated 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment and the constitutional guarantee of women's suffrage and with that power we finally elected the first female vice president in a contest largely settled by the tremendous political power of women voters.
In Erie, even in the face of the pandemic we celebrated the centennial of women's suffrage with community events, murals, and educational initiatives to help uplift and showcase the contributions of women in American society and throughout Erie's history.
That celebration and the lessons learned came to a screeching halt in early January as four men on Erie City Council joined together to promote Ed Brzezinski to council president over Councilwoman Liz Allen, whom Brzezinski had publicly called a "nut" and a "broad" just weeks before. Brzezinski offered a half-hearted apology at the following council meeting noting that, "the broad comment was a terrible comment and I thought my mic was off..."
We're glad it wasn't. Brzezinski speaks to and for Erie's past. His words represent an era when women were expected to be seen and not heard. It appears that Brzezinski and his cronies on council would prefer that Councilwoman Allen do just that.
Allen, a retired journalist and a frequent contributor to the Erie Reader, has no shortage of questions regarding the lack of process, protocol, and leadership that she's seen during her first term on Erie's City Council. In short, she's made sure she is both seen and heard.
The lack of process, protocol, and leadership on Erie City Council is the reason she wanted to serve as council's next president, it's the reason we believe she would have been the right choice to hold this council accountable, and it's the reason her status quo colleagues conspired to keep her from holding the gavel.
Perhaps most disheartening about the Brzezinski blockade is that Councilman Mike Keys, who was elected largely with the support of Black and progressive women, served as the fourth male vote to block Allen's opportunity to serve as council president despite having heard public outrage over Brzezinski's comments. So much for representative government.
It's also been 32 years since the Erie Times-News declared 1989 "the year of the women." Thirty-two years.
That's when Judy Lynch was county executive and Joyce Savocchio, rather than seek re-election on City Council, sought the mayor's office. And won. Erie's two highest offices were held by women. Both of whom broke their glass ceilings. Twenty-ish years since they left office, only one other woman has been elected to one of those seats.
And here we are, 32 years later, only to find women still being called "broads" and "nuts" and that behavior is being excused with the notion that somehow this situation would've been improved if a mic wasn't live.
It shouldn't need to be said, but we will: If this is what Brzezinski says when he thinks the mic's off, what does he say when he knows it's not on? Either way, this says a lot about Erie and its politics and we'd be fools not to be listening.
This year Erie voters will have a chance to address the wrongs of this council when they head to the polls and elect four (possibly new) members of City Council. Councilman Jim Winarski is term limited and Councilwoman Kathy Schaaf has said she will not seek re-election. Neither Liz Allen or David Brennan, who was appointed to serve out the term of now-State Representative Bob Merski, have signaled their intent to run for re-election, although it is likely they will pursue another term.
Not long ago, it seemed our city had made progress. But now after a year of protests, pandemic, and the political status quo, it seems we may have taken a few steps back. We hope there are candidates we can support who have the vision and the strength to help the city move forward. Again.