Mayor urges McKeesporters to show pride
By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Published: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, 4:41 a.m.
Mayor Michael Cherepko is embracing a local campaign that encourages McKeesport residents to take pride in their hometown.
“All too often, it seems like some individuals thrive on negativity,” the mayor explained. “I've found, in my position, that most residents and even former residents have this city in their hearts. We're proud of McKeesport.”
During council's September meeting, Cherepko distributed buttons promoting a grassroots effort to build support for the city he believes is on an upswing. The buttons read, “Pride in McKeesport? Yes, and it starts with me.”
Tube City Community Media founder Jason Togyer, who in the city serves on boards for the G.C. Murphy Foundation and McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center, developed the buttons during his publicity efforts for the 53rd annual International Village.
“They were a promotional item,” Togyer said of the buttons, noting Tube City had produced maps during the past two years' events. “I thought we could give away something that had more meaning to it. People aren't going to wear a button unless they support the cause.”
As a product that appealed to youth as well as adults, Togyer said he was surprised to see dozens of International Village attendees coming back to the event's mobile broadcast location for more buttons. Since then, he has received several emails requesting more.
Togyer said he was flattered to receive a positive response from the city's administration.
“It becomes a symbol for what our entire theme has been in McKeesport since my administration took office — working together to build a better McKeesport,” Cherepko said. “We've been asking for everyone to put political and personal agendas aside to truly focus on the best interest of the city of McKeesport.”
State Sen. James R. Brewster, who served as the city's mayor before taking that post, said it's refreshing to see Cherepko embrace a campaign of hometown pride.
“It's the only way to unify the city and work for common goals,” Brewster said. “As elected officials, our job is to give people hope first.”
McKeesport Councilman Dan Carr often has touted McKeesport as the hub of the Mon Valley.
“This administration is dedicated to once again making McKeesport a place to go instead of go through,” Carr said. “Our recent events this summer have proven to our neighboring communities that we are still a leader by having a positive attitude and proving we can work together.”
Togyer, who calls the McKeesport region home, said the city is doing its part to generate an interest for activities at Renziehausen Park, the Marina at McKees Point and other regional assets.
“I was born in Versailles, grew up in Liberty borough, and now I live across the river,” he said. “It frustrates me to see how many people turn their back on McKeesport, and they don't do anything to make things better.”
Togyer said pride in McKeesport has to start with someone, and it's up to those who already have pride in the town to share it. He suggested an emphasis on the arts, culture and small business while maintaining one basic, yet critical concept — a positive attitude.
“If Lawrenceville can do this, if East Liberty can do this, if the Steel Valley can do this, McKeesport can do this,” Togyer said. “But it has to start on the grassroots level. The city — the government — can't do it alone. It's got to start with the same things that are driving it in other areas.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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