Category: Metro Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
HEIR APPARENTS—Pittsburgh mayoral candidates, from left: Jake Wheatley, Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner, wait to ask Hill District residents to vote them into the city’s top elected office. (Photo by J.L. Martello.)
The sound of Wesley Center AMEZ Church’s choir was lively enough to inspire dancing from some of the homeless center residents across the street and definitely enthused the audience inside as, for the second time in just three days, candidates for Mayor of Pittsburgh, city council and school board asked Hill District residents to support their bids for election.
The forum, sponsored by the Hill District Ministers Alliance, focused on addressing the economic and human development issues facing African-Americans in the Hill and throughout the city.
After a warm welcome by Wesley Center pastor Rev. Glenn Grayson, thanking the assembled clergy, guests and his choir, Pittsburgh School Board Director Tom Sumpter, who is running unopposed, made his opening statement before fielding the first of the alliance’s prepared questions, as well as those from two district students and from the audience.
Sumpter said he planned to continue working to craft policy that would close the achievement gap for Black students and deliver a quality education for all students while maintaining the district’s fiscal integrity.
Tonya Payne, who is running to regain the District 6 City Council seat R. Daniel Lavelle won from her four years ago, told the audience she wanted to address the unfinished business of gun violence and homelessness. But ensuring inclusion for Blacks in the district’s economic development dominated her and Lavelle’s time.
“When I was on Council I created a one-stop shop for employment and made sure we were talking to the developers at Consol before any work started,” she said. “I did the same thing at the Casino. We have to do that every time development comes to our neighborhood.”
Lavelle said he was responsible for ensuring that 20 percent of the jobs at the Consol Center went to Hill residents and that a union represents them. And he said he was committed to working with churches and community groups to make sure more Blacks are prepared to benefit from new job and business creation.
“We can’t just leave it to the schools, we all have to be involved,” he said. “We can help folks like Kris Kirk and Reggie Good who are taking brothers off the streets and getting them Marcellus Shale jobs.”
That dovetailed into the mayoral candidates’ segment of the forum with all agreeing that, while they don’t control the school district, it should do more to prepare students, especially Black students, for the energy industry jobs that don’t require a college or advanced degree.
Councilman Bill Peduto told of his grandparents working in the steel mills their whole lives.
“That city is gone. The city that’s coming is the one I’ve worked to rebuild since I met with business owners in East Liberty in 1996,” he said. “We’ve had $2 billion in growth in my district, but that needs to happen everywhere, and it can.”
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, said he’s passed legislation requiring minority participation in state contracting, and that his record on Black inclusion is much better than Peduto’s or former Auditor Gen. Jack Wagner.
“And that Marcellus program of Kris Kirk’s, that was started with funding from Jake Wheatley,” he said. “I’m going off the script here, but here’s the thing; if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll get the same results. I’m here to make a difference.”
When the applause subsided, Wagner, who touted his management experience as a US Marine, in the private sector, in city council and in state government as the key for getting the city to work for its residents, got off the best laugh line of the evening saying he appreciated Wheatley’s work.
“I like Jake. He is a tremendous asset in Harrisburg. And I hope he stays there,” he said.
Wagner added his administration, and authority and board appointments would reflect the city’s Black population. He said the police bureau should actively recruit from the military to find experienced Black candidates.
All three candidates again said they would move to remove guns from the streets; Peduto touting his “Lost and Stolen” gun law and Wagner reminding the audience that he passed an assault-weapons ban while on council in 1993.
The mayoral candidates are scheduled to meet again addressing Black community issues with the Black Agenda forum April 19 at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, the African American Chamber of Commerce May 2, and with the Community Empowerment Association May 15.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 06:09
Category: Metro Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer
After 32-year veteran School Board Rep. Jean Fink announced she would not be running to retain her seat, only one candidate stepped forward to take her place. However, despite the one candidate race for District 7, Cynthia Falls of Overbrook has been out actively engaging with her future constituents. This week alone she will attend a Block Watch meeting, a Parent Teacher Association meeting and meet with her state representative.
But these activities aren’t just for campaign purposes. The retired Pittsburgh Public School District health and technology instructor with more than 20 years of experience as a registered nurse has a long history of advocacy in her community and education. Falls has served on the Carrick Community Board of Directors, as the education chair of the Overbook Community Council, a Block Watch member in Carrick and Overbrook, an A+ Schools volunteer, and more.
“I think the fact that I am a registered nurse and a retired educator are the primary reasons that I feel qualified for this position,” she said. “Both of these professions allow me to bring knowledge, experience and insight into the work that needs to be completed by the board. In addition, the list of community organizations has allowed me to interact with the staff, students, parents and community leaders for a period of time expanding over the past 15 plus years.”
Falls identified low high school graduation rates and post secondary education preparation as the greatest problems facing the district. She said one of her methods for addressing this issue would be to, “increase student achievement by recognizing the need for individual support and resources in each community, in each school and each student.”
When asked how she would address the achievement gap between White and Black students Falls said she would, “support and create policies that require a higher standard of academic achievement, insist on equity, eliminate racial disparities and promote pride in the Pittsburgh School District.”
Falls will have some big shoes to fill on the board in replacing Fink, who was harshly criticized by some for securing resources for schools in her district while other schools suffered. However, Falls said she would work to benefit all students in the district.
“Policies that will be created will have to be developed so that it reflects the needs of all the students in the District, not just District 7,” Falls said. “I also plan on visiting some of the other Districts so I can get a better feel of the needs of other Districts.”
She’ll also have to tackle working with other members on the school board, a task departing representatives have identified as one of their greatest challenges over the years.
“(I would) listen to the opinions and thoughts of the other school board directors to acquire a better understanding of their positions, present my thoughts and ideas in a respectful manner, (and) display flexibility and compromise as needed on various issues,” Falls said.
Falls said her overall priorities would be to increase student achievement across the board, provide students with more individual support, and increase the flow of information between the district and the public.
District 7 is made up of Overbrook, Carrick, Bon Air, Knoxville, Mount Oliver, St. Clair, South Side Slopes, South Side Flats, Arlington Heights and Arlington.
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 10:09
Category: Metro Written by Ashley N. Johnson
With nine homicides in Allegheny County for March, six of them were Blacks. This is the deadliest month thus far in 2013. In January there were five Black homicides and in February there were four. What is even more upsetting is that all six of the Black homicides were Black men and most were under the age of 24. But these numbers only represent the numbers of homicides; it doesn’t even include the numbers of shootings that are occurring throughout the Black communities. Shootings such as the one that took place in broad daylight March 30 in Edgewood Town Centre where three people were injured, or the shootout in Clairton on March 26 that claimed the life of one, and several were injured.
We need to get this issue of Black on Black violence under control. The only word to describe it is sickening. Each month we at the New Pittsburgh Courier present a challenge to the community. Challenges such as for residents to ask for tougher gun legislation or for authorities to step up their presence in our communities. Well this month the challenge is to start at home. We need to look at what our children are being taught and whom they are being taught by. Not necessarily the teachers in our schools, but those “teachers” we surround them with in the community. For instance, the rappers we let them listen to day in and day out who rap about money, drugs and guns, or those people we keep around who we know aren’t doing right, but who we allow around because we need a babysitter or we don’t want to be alone. If we are not giving our children the right foundation, whom will they get it from? How can we ask for others to come in and help, if we, as a community, are not willing to do the work?
As part of an ongoing effort to heighten awareness about the effects of murder in Black communities, the New Pittsburgh Courier will compile a list of homicides in the County each month. It is our hope that as the list of victims grows, so will a true understanding of how these lost lives affect the mental health, economic well-being and self-images of the region’s Black neighborhoods.
Out of the 20 murders, thus far, in 2013—15 were Black and 13 were Black men.
MARCH HOMICIDES (9)
MARCH 3—John Sumpter, a 32-year-old Black male of Wilkinsburg, was fatally shot multiple times while sitting in his vehicle outside of Club Pink, a Munhall Strip Club in the 900 block of East Eighth Avenue, after a fight earlier that evening. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Paul Barrone is charged with homicide and is awaiting trial.
MARCH 6—Maurice Penny, a 24-year-old Black male from McKees Rocks, was found dead with multiple shots when a shootout erupted in the hallway of an apartment building in the 500 block of Penn Avenue in Friendship. Penny was a rapper also known as “Big Penny.” No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
MARCH 11—James Adams, a 29-year-old White male from Imperial, was fatally shot in the head while inside the Fort Pitt Inn bar in North Fayette after a man, who was also inside, reportedly became angry after a text message conversation with his girlfriend, walked out and came back in with three handguns. David Mazzocco is charged with homicide, attempted homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, 11 counts of reckless endangerment and weapons violations. He is awaiting trial.
MARCH 19—Lora Hoffman, a 31-year-old White female from Sheraden, was allegedly stabbed to death by her brother in her Sheraden home in the 3600 block of Allendale Circle when they were allegedly arguing over him lying on the couch while the family was watching television. He reportedly walked into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and returned stabbing her multiple times in the head, face and neck. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Chris Hoffman is charged with homicide and is awaiting trial.
MARCH 26—Terrance Moore, a 34-year-old Black male from Clairton, died hours after being shot in his car during a gunfight outside a home on Halcomb Avenue. He was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he later died. Others were also injured. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
MARCH 28—Bernadette Scholl, a 74-year-old White female from Munhall, died from injuries she sustained when she was allegedly shot by her son, Anthony Scholl, in her Munhall home on Longfellow Drive. She was found when officers entered her home after a standoff with her son. Anthony Scholl is charged with homicide and weapons violations. He is awaiting trial.
MARCH 29—Kellcy Thomas, an 18-year-old Black male from McKeesport, was found with gunshot wounds to the trunk in the 1400 block of Evans Avenue. He had been taken to UPMC McKeesport, where he later died. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
MARCH 30—Steven Lee Jr., a 21-year-old Black male from McKees Rocks, was fatally shot aboard a “party bus” near Chartiers Street in Sheraden after a fight reportedly broke out. He was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he later died. A warrant has been issued for Michael Lyons on charges of criminal homicide and carrying an unlicensed firearm. He is still at large.
MARCH 30—Mark Rucker, a 21-year-old Black male from Monroeville, was found shot to death in the stairwell of a building in the Cambridge Square housing complex. He was shot in the chest and died at the scene. No one has been charged.
JANUARY HOMICIDES (6)
JAN. 1—Ka’Sandra Wade, a 33-year-old Black female from Larimer, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in her Lowell Street home when authorities visited her residence after receiving concerns from relatives. Wade was killed by her boyfriend, Anthony Brown, one day after authorities, who had answered a 9-1-1 call she placed, left without investigating the call when Brown came to the window and told them everything was okay. Brown later shot himself after a brief police standoff.
JAN. 10—Deondre Pace, a 16-year-old Black male from Beltzhoover, was found laying on the sidewalk with multiple shots to the torso in front of Sheffield Funeral Home near Beltzhoover Avenue and Climax Street, in Beltzhoover. He had been leaving a convenience store near his home, when two men approached him and opened fire. Pace was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital, where he later died. Ashanti Montgomery has been charged with criminal homicide, firearms not carried without a license and criminal conspiracy.
JAN. 11—Jayemond Bailey, a 34-year-old Black male from McKeesport, was shot to death at Street Stars bar, on Sixth Avenue in McKeesport. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
JAN. 13—Lou Auer, a 37-year-old White male from East Liberty, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the torso outside of 322 N. Negley Ave., in East Liberty. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
JAN. 23—Michael Andrews, a 27-year-old Black male from East Hills, was found fatally shot during an alleged home invasion in the 5300 block of Brown Way in Garfield. A masked man knocked on the door of the home that was occupied by two men. When one of the males answered the door, he was shot in the face. After hearing the shot, the other male in the residence got a gun and exchanged shots with the masked man. Andrews was found in front of the home and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where he later died. The other men were wounded. Authorities did not clarify if Andrews lived at the house or was the intruder. The investigation is ongoing.
JAN. 28—Isaiah Dent, a 61-year-old Black male from McKees Rocks, was found beaten to death in the bathroom of his Hays Manor apartment on Locust Street in McKees Rocks. Sean Overton has been charged with criminal homicide, robbery and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. He is awaiting trial.
FEBRUARY HOMICIDES (5)
FEB. 4—Maurice Bruce, a 32-year-old Black male from Pittsburgh, was found shot to death in the bushes near the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Sterrett Street, in Homewood, by an individual walking by. He was reportedly shot after leaving a local bar earlier in the day and had been in the bushes for hours. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
FEB. 19—Constance Johnston, a 76-year-old White female from Richland Township, was stabbed to death from behind by her grandson as she sat, eating breakfast, in the kitchen of her Richland Township home in the 3900 block of Gibson Road, with her husband. Her grandson, Levi Daniel Starver, allegedly stabbed her after the archangel Michael told him to kill her while he was on the computer. Starver has been charged with criminal homicide.
FEB. 23—Brian Wright Jr., a 26-year-old Black male from Homewood, was found with a gunshot wound to the chest at the intersection of Tangent Way and Enterprise Street in Larimer. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
FEB. 24—Andre Broadie, a 25-year-old Black male from Penn Hills, was shot in the head inside a home in the 5100 block of Columbo Street in Garfield when he and another male entered the home of a person they knew. It has been reported that Broadie was thought to be an intruder. Investigators are calling it a case of mistaken identity. It is unknown if charges will be filed. The investigation is ongoing.
FEB. 28—Tiona Jackson, a 28-year-old Black female from the Hill District, was shot to death while leaving Red’s Ringside Café near the intersection of East Warrington and Vincent Street in Beltzhoover. A male was also injured. Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene. No one has been charged; the investigation is ongoing.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:25
Category: Metro Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer
LEGACY—Derrick Bell's wife Janet Dewart Bell in the area of the Barco Law library dedicated to his memory. (Photo by Gail Manker)
In the 1950s, Derrick Bell attended the University of Pittsburgh in pursuit of his law degree. He would later go on to become the first tenured African-American Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and now, after a life of accomplishment, the Hill District native, who passed away in 2011 has been memorialized by his alma mater.
On March 20 the University of Pittsburgh’s Black Law Students Association announced the renaming of their annual community law clinic in Bell’s memory at a ceremony in the Barco Law Building. The newly named Derrick Bell Community Legal Clinic provides legal assistance to local low-income residents.
“I believe it honors Mr. Bell’s legacy as a member of the law community and the University of Pittsburgh,” said William Carter, dean of the school of law. “And it will remind us to redouble our efforts to social justice and access to justice.”
In 1957 when Bell graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he was the only African-American in his class and one of only three African-Americans in the school. He went on to work in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department and as assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he fought alongside Thurgood Marshall against school segregation.
“Derrick Bell means a lot to the law school and the University of Pittsburgh for what he did in the civil rights movement,” said Christopher Carter, vice president of the Black Law Students Association.
At the ceremony, the University of Pittsburgh also unveiled a section of the Barco Law Building library dedicated to Derrick Bell’s memory, the Derrick A. Bell Constitutional Law Commons.
“I think the struggle for justice continues and there are many challenges,” said Bell’s wife Janet Dewart Bell. “His legacy is one of continuing the work that needs to be done.”
Bell’s wife was among many family members and friends who attended the ceremony to honor Bell. Each had a story about how he shaped their views on civil rights and race relations.
“In spite of the void he left, this is a reminder that he’s with us yet,” said Derrick Bell’s sister Janet A. Bell. “This is such a blessing. At a very early age, he taught me that if someone treated me different, it wasn’t my fault.”
This Community Legal Clinic is a project of The University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law Black Law Students Association in partnership with the Duquesne University School of Law Black Law Students Association, the Homer S. Brown Law Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Center of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:27
Category: Metro Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
ED GAINEY and JAKE WHEATLEY
State House Republicans, spurred by Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-McCandless, have long complained that Pennsylvania residents should, like people in Ohio and West Virginia, be able to go to the convenience store to buy beer and wine, and that the state should not own liquor stores.
“We are moving the sale of wine and spirits to a place that is more convenient for the consumers, for the citizens of Pennsylvania, while maintaining responsibility throughout the state,” said Turzai on the house floor prior to the vote.
Except that is not true. Though HB 790’s passage in state house March 20 an historic first; no liquor privatization law has ever passed either house, if passed by the state senate, it would actually make it impossible to sell beer and wine at a convenience store or anywhere else.
Not only that, even though the bill prohibits anyone buying a license to sell liquor or wine, or both, from also selling beer, the only people who would be permitted to buy private liquor or wine licenses during the first 12 months after enactment, are licensed beer distributors.
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, D-Cheswick, gave perhaps the most succinct evaluation of the bill calling it chaotic.
“People want convenience. This legislation delivers chaos,” he said. “The amended bill is even more convoluted than the scheme that the governor proposed.”
The lack of convenience, however, seemed a lesser concern to house Democrats generally, who largely objected because the bill would cost thousands of union jobs. Though state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, and currently a candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh, echoed that concern, he was more adamant that enacting such a bill would “flood the city with liquor stores.”
“The liquor control chairman admitted that licenses could double from about 600 to 1200 statewide, and that it contains no provision for local control to protect against an oversaturation of liquor stores,” he said. “That would be devastating to our quality of life.”
The committee referring the bill to the floor estimated privatization would produce more than $170 million in annual tax revenue and more than $1 billion from the sale of both liquor and wine licenses.
In Pittsburgh the price for a wine-only license would be $187,000. A license to sell distilled spirits would cost $262,500. Someone wishing to sell both would pay the combined total fee of $449,500.
And though Gov. Tom Corbett championed the move as a way to augment education funding, the final bill did not earmark any income for education, instead dictating it go to the general fund.
State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, said the governor’s support was misguided.
“To suggest that education funding would be linked to the idea of selling the state’s liquor stores; the proposal on its face is wrong,” he said. “Why would we sell a money-making asset for the state when we’re talking about underfunding education because we don’t have enough money?”
The state senate, Corbett and Turzai acknowledged, is likely to make changes. State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said no one expects the senate to move the house legislation to the governor as it stands.
Several senate bills aimed at changing the state-controlled system are already being floated. Sate Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said he would reintroduce his plan that essentially turns all liquor sales over to the beer distributors, and allows them to sell less than a case of beer at a time. It keeps the state as the wholesaler for all alcohol sales.
State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said he’d push a plan to “modernize” the current system with better pricing, flexibility in hiring, acquisition of in-demand products, direct shipment of wine, and reform in beer sales system-wide. He said his plan would increase revenue by $100 million annually.
The senate returns to work in Harrisburg on April 8.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:23
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