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Created on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:42 Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:42 Published on Thursday, 10 January 2013 09:07 Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer Hits: 853
On Jan. 4, State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, brought together newly elected State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, District 6 City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, and District 9 City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess for an editorial board meeting with the New Pittsburgh Courier. While the meeting demonstrated the four men’s commitment to working together in the new year, it also served as a platform for them to discuss their upcoming projects.
The consensus among the group was for development to become a top priority in African-American communities. While the local representatives shared progress on their development projects, Wheatley focused on ensuring African-Americans gain job opportunities through these new projects.
“If we don’t make sure we invest in human capital to be able to take advantage of these things, we’re really wasting our time,” Wheatley said. “We try to connect folks to opportunities. Every community needs jobs, it’s not just a Black, White issue.”
For his part, Wheatley has been active in connecting his constituents with workforce training like a Marcellus Shale training program in the North Side. On the broader scale he said he would like to see the Pittsburgh public schools focus more on career and technical training.
“I don’t push kids to get a four year degree. I’ve always said every child should have a hard skill when they finish high school,” Wheatley said. “I think we can be very strategic in how we train students.”
During his tenure Wheatley has served on a number of House committees including education, human services, and most recently the Pennsylvania Legislative Hunger Caucus. During his time with the House Select Committee on Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Inclusion, legislation was introduced to improve MWDBE participation in state contracts and purchasing.
One of Wheatley’s priorities will be to ensure this legislation, which was passed in the House, will be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor. However, he also said a monitoring agency needs to be in place to ensure developers and contractors are actually doing business with MWDBEs when they claim they are.
“The missing piece is none of us have the power to monitor whether they’re really doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Wheatley said. “We pass the legislation but there’s no one there to monitor it.”
In light of the recent tragedy in Newton, Conn. the conversation also delved into gun violence. Wheatley said the state is forming a taskforce to look at both gun control legislation and mental health, but his suggestion is to mirror Philadelphia’s public health campaign.
“They did a pilot program, collecting data on victims to find out how these situations occur,” Wheatley said. “Say you notice 80 percent of your victims are coming from the Hill District lower Hill community, maybe we should target our resources at trying to change the dynamic in that neighborhood.”
Wheatley’s other priorities for the new year will be investing in public transportation, infrastructure, and restoring funding cuts from education, health care and social services.
Now in his sixth term, Wheatley represents the 19th Legislative District, which includes the Hill District, North Side, South Side, Allentown, Hazelwood, Downtown, Knoxville, Beltzhoover, Manchester, Arlington, and parts of Oakland.
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