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Pittsburgh mayoral candidates address concerns of black community

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:20 a.m.
The four candidates for Mayor of Pittsburgh listen to a question at a forum for candidates in Pittsburgh's mayoral race at Pittsburgh Obama High School, Saturday. The forum was an opportunity for candidates for Mayor, City Council Districts 6 & 8, and School Board District 1 to address questions and issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s African American community.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Revie
Pittsburgh City Councilman and candidate for mayor, Bill Peduto answers a question at a forum for candidates in Pittsburgh's mayoral race at Pittsburgh Obama High School, Saturday. The forum was an opportunity for candidates for Mayor, City Council Districts 6 & 8, and School Board District 1 to address questions and issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s African American community.
State Representative and mayoral candidate, Jake Wheatley answers a question at a forum for candidates in Pittsburgh's mayoral race at Pittsburgh Obama High School, Saturday. The forum was an opportunity for candidates for Mayor, City Council Districts 6 & 8, and School Board District 1 to address questions and issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s African American community.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Revie
Pittsburgh resident and mayoral candidate, A. J. Richardson answers a question at a forum for candidates in Pittsburgh's mayoral race at Pittsburgh Obama High School, Saturday. The forum was an opportunity for candidates for Mayor, City Council Districts 6 & 8, and School Board District 1 to address questions and issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s African American community.
Former Pennsylvania Auditor General and mayoral candidate, Jack Wagner answers a question at a forum for candidates in Pittsburgh's mayoral race at Pittsburgh Obama High School, Saturday. The forum was an opportunity for candidates for Mayor, City Council Districts 6 & 8, and School Board District 1 to address questions and issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s African American community.

Each of the four Democratic candidates for Pittsburgh mayor told a mostly black audience on Saturday that concerns of the black community would be heard if he were elected mayor.

Nearly 125 people attended the forum in Pittsburgh Public School's Obama Academy in East Liberty.

The forum let the candidates know the black community is an important constituency that has been taken for granted, said audience member, Johnnie Monroe, 71, of Stanton Heights.

“I think in this election, the message is that has to change,” he said.

Last week, a new group called the Pittsburgh Black Political Convention announced that it will be conduct a political convention on April 20, in which black voters would endorse one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, and released an agenda for candidates seeking the endorsement. Blacks make up 26.1 percent of the city's population.

People attending the forum submitted written questions on issues ranging from transportation to reducing crime. Candidates were asked to explain issues they think are important to the black community.

“First and foremost, you need to make sure that the people that work for you represent the community,” said former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, 65, of Beechview.

“As mayor, I will make certain that the African American community is well represented in my administration,” he said.

In addition, Wagner said, he would be “strong advocate” for improving public education, which he thinks is critical to helping the black community.

Community organizer A.J. Richardson, 36, of Sheraden, who is black, said the city needs “leadership that represents all people.”

“Not just leadership that you see during election time, but even when the election is way over,” he said.

“We need leadership that will diversify the city of Pittsburgh ... create programs that encourage and build our young people,” he said. “If you want to know what the black agenda is, you're looking at the black agenda.”

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District said the black agenda is “an agenda of social and economic equality and justice.”“It's about how government responds to all people,” said Wheatley, who is black.

Wheatley said his administration would focus on improving opportunity “not only for black families, but for all families.”

City Councilman Bill Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze said defining the agenda comes down to “one word — opportunity.”

He said he would work to bolster opportunity by being an advocate for early-childhood education to “give every child an equal start” as well as promoting after-school and summer employment.

Peduto said he would help create opportunity by reducing violent crime and enforcing laws that require that city contracts use local labor.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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