Category: Metro Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
MAKING THEIR CASE—Pittsburgh Mayoral hopefuls, left to right, Bill Peduto, Jack Wagner and Jake Wheatley, respond to questions at the African American Chamber of Commerce candidate forum. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Aside from the fact that as of the scheduled start time for the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania Mayoral Forum, only one of the four Democratic Primary contenders, Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto, had arrived, there were no real startling surprises.
Republican candidate Josh Wander did attend, and was on time, but did not participate, saying he will wait to debate the winner of the Democratic race.
Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams was relieved to see state Rep. Jake Wheatley, arrive just as Peduto prepared to make his opening remarks, former Auditor General Jack Wagner walked in a few moments later. She thanked the crowd of about 75 for their patience and sponsor Comcast before turning things over to moderator Rod Doss, editor and publisher of the New Pittsburgh Courier.
When asked what they had done and would do to improve conditions for African-American businesses, Wagner said he would work to make sure the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission actually monitored minority contracting, Peduto said he’d authored living wage legislation and responsible banking legislation that he said would help Blacks. He wants to create a small business office and break up contracts into pieces small that Black-owned businesses can compete for.
Wheatley shook his head and said, “I’m wondering why were having this same conversation, when it’s the same one we were having when I came here in 1997. We need a new process based on what you know, not who you know.”
Asked what they would do if allegations made in an American Civil Liberties Union law suit—that Pittsburgh Bureau of Police personnel are actively removing Black applicants from the police academy candidate pool—are true, Peduto said he would professionalize the department.
“It isn’t rocket science,” he said. “There is discrimination and I’ll work on that.”
Wagner said that he would better prepare candidates to pass the tests and would recruit more from the military.
Wheatley was the only one who addressed the criminality issue.
“If that is going on, we have anti-discrimination laws on the books. Those people will be brought to justice,” he said. “As mayor I will make that call.”
When asked about charges in a TV ad that he had voted against funding a senior housing development in Homewood and against earmarking half the parking taxes on the old Civic Arena site for the Hill District, Peduto admitted the charges were accurate.
“I voted against the first one because people asked for a public hearing and didn’t get one,” he said. “And Danny’s parking bill ran counter to the efforts of Carl Redwood’s ‘dollar per car’ proposal.”
He also repeated that the most significant thing he’d done for African-Americans in his district was renovating Mellon Park.
Asked about suing the city’s largest employer for more taxes, Peduto objected to the arbitrary nature of the challenge to UPMC’s nonprofit status.
“You can’t selectively punish one entity,” he said. “I suspect UPMC will prevail for that reason.”
Wagner said the city has the right to challenge.
“Profitable nonprofits need to pay more. It’s been estimated that in UPMC’s case it should be about $20 million a year,” he said. “That would do a lot for the city.”
All three candidates again said education and employment initiatives are the best way to eliminate the violence and drugs in the city’s poor and Black neighborhoods. And all three agreed that the city’s long-term, no-bid professional service contracts have to be reopened and publicly bid.
“No bid contracts are anti-American,” said Wagner. “It’s prime for political mischief.”
Wheatley said all contracts would be openly bid if he were elected.
Every contract will have minority and women participation,” he said. “And I will enforce that.”
Peduto said he’s already written legislation to eliminate no-bid contracts, but the language needs to change.
“We need ‘no solo bid’ legislation to keep these things from just being renewed year after year,” he said. “It’s pay-to-play on Grant Street. I’ve been lucky to not have needed that kind of support.”
The Primary Election is May 21.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 10:40
Category: Metro Written by Kathleen Yocum
If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. That remains state Rep. Jake Wheatley’s overarching theme in his race to become Pittsburgh’s next mayor.
His front-running opponents, city Councilman Bill Peduto and former Councilman, state Senator and Auditor General Jack Wagner, he will tell you have a record of maintaining the status quo. But, he will also tell you that enough voters appear disenchanted enough with business as usual to give him the support he needs to pull off the Primary Election upset on May 21.
“My campaign won’t be crippled by the old-style politics of telling segments of the public how to vote. I’m not running just to run, just to be a Black face. Win, lose or draw, all the people we talked to before getting in were ready for it,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board April 26. “And with polls saying 48 percent of the voters are still undecided, I think the city is ready for change.”
One of the changes he would like to employ here is an idea called social impact bonding. It could simultaneously address educational shortcoming and unemployment, especially in some Black communities where drop-out rates exceed 50 percent and unemployment is running three times the average.
“We’re the only campaign talking about this. Get engineers and business people from companies like Google in the classrooms. Teach the kids what they need to know to get a job,” he said. “Tell our business leaders that if they invest in improving job skills, we’ll pay you back based on the percentage of employment improved.”
Wheatley said the city can’t do everything, and can’t afford to. But that means it could provide opportunities for small businesses and community nonprofits to do so, and thereby further improve the employment climate.
“Open up government services and contract with small businesses and nonprofits,” he said. “The mayor shouldn’t be in the social service business. But he should support and be a cheerleader for those organizations that do it better.”
Wheatley wants to open up the police force too, not just to African-American applicants, but to the community. He said the bureau can help reduce tensions by being more involved with neighborhood youth.
“I’d like to see a police athletic league, working with kids,” he said. “It would give the community a better image of the police and vice versa, and it would help with recruiting.”
Wheatley agrees that the city needs to increase its efforts to recruit from the military so it can attract more minority and women candidates. He would also negotiate changes with the union that could improve actual minority hiring and retention.
Though he would keep the requirement that applicants have 60 hours of college credit, he would extend the time they have to complete the schooling.
“There has to be a cultural change in the bureau. Assignments and promotions can’t be based on popularity,” he said. “I told the (Fraternal Order of Police) I want negotiations on pensions and work rules. And I will insist on merit-based promotions. In exchange, I would waive residency requirements.”
Wheatley said his campaign is the only one that presents a vision and the best plan to include every city neighborhood. And he is not as big a long-shot some claim.
“I want your vote, I need your vote. But I’m not just a Black candidate. Like Speaker (K. Leroy) Irvis reminded me years ago, I represent all the people and I have a lot of White support,” he said. “So, if 20,000 African-Americans vote and I get 60 percent of that, that’s huge in a three-way race.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 10:37
Category: Metro Written by Public Source
GREGORY BURRELL - MESTA
by Emily DeMarco
The Hillcrest light-rail stop is not easy to find.
There is no sign at either entrance. Tucked between two hills in Bethel Park, it’s barely visible from nearby roads. The closest landmark is a Walgreens.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 14:49
Category: Metro Written by Courier Newsroom
MAY 9—The Alzheimer Disease Research Center and Alzheimer Outreach Center of the University of Pittsburgh will host the Walter Allen Memorial Seminar Series at 1 p.m. at the Hill House Kaufmann Center, 1835 Centre Ave., Hill District. The topic will be “Informed Consent: What We Need to Know about Participating in Clinical Research.” Ishan C. Williams, PhD, of the University of Virginia will discuss her current research. Registration is requested. For more information, call Marita Garrett at 412-692-2722.
Ladies’ Night Out
MAY 10—Allen Place Community Services Inc. will host Ladies’ Night Out from 6-10 p.m. at 227 Bonvue St., North Side. This is a celebration in honor of Mother’s Day and of women. The evening will include medical screenings, topic discussions, a silent auction, line dancing lessons and more. Registration is requested. For more information, call 412-231-1531 or visit www.allenplacecommunity.org.
Absentee Ballot Application Deadline
MAY 14—Applications are due for Absentee Ballots by 5 p.m. to the Allegheny County Elections Division for the May 21 primary election. Ballots are available to registered voters who will be absent from their municipality on the day of the election or who cannot get to the polls due to illness or disability. For more information, call 412-350-4520 or visit www.votespa.com.
Monthly NAACP Meeting
MAY 14—The NAACP Pittsburgh Unit will host its monthly Executive/ General Meeting at 7 p.m. at Freedom Unlimited, 2201 Wylie Ave., Hill District. All members are encouraged to attend. For more information, call 412-471-1024.
Get Out the Vote
MAY 18—The Black Political Empowerment Project, The Western Pa Black Political Assembly, Talk Magazine and others will host the Get Out the Vote Non-Partisan Rally and free Concert from 1-4 p.m. at the Hill House Auditorium, Hill District. The event will feature various artists, vocalists, choirs and various community leaders speaking.
A Sure Bet
MAY 19—The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School will host the “Date with an Angel” Mom Prom from 5-8 p.m. at the Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Oakland. The special guest will be children’s author Sharon Flake, along with DJ Mac Daddy. For more information, call 412867-5457.
Miss Black Pageants
MAY 19—Willie Gee’s Designer Collection will host their 4th annual Redline Fashion Show at 6:15 p.m. at the Priory Hotel, the Pittsburgh Grand Hotel, 614 Pressley St., North Side. Designs from Malcolm Anthony Williams, Cherie Jackson and Sofiya Mozley will be displayed. The show will benefit the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. For more information, call 412-254-3570.
(To have items listed on Community Calendar, send information at least two weeks in advance to: 315 E. Carson St., Pittsburgh, PA 15219; Fax: 412-481-1360 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 10:33
Category: Metro Written by Associated Press
JOAN ORIE MELVIN (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
by Joe Mandak
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister avoided prison time for their corruption convictions but were sentenced Tuesday to house arrest for what a judge called crimes of "arrogance."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 12:58
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!