Tom Baker, Daniel A. McClain Jr., Jim Barr vie for Allegheny Council Council District 1 seat
Aside from their backgrounds, little distinguishes the Republican and Democrat candidates running for the District 1 seat on Allegheny County Council.
Tom Baker, 34, of Ross is a limited-government conservative Republican who believes county council members should be diligent stewards of the taxpayers' money.
Daniel A. McClain Jr., 35, of Ross is a fiscally conservative Democrat who believes the spending of taxpayers' money should be scrutinized and audited.
Both want to keep taxes as low as possible. Both want to expand and improve the county's transit system. Both would favor drilling for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park as long as it does not harm the environment.
Jim Barr, 60, of West View is on the ballot as a Constitution Party candidate.
The winner will replace two-term Councilman Matt Drozd, who lost in the Republic primary to Baker.
“I think that I have a pretty good sense of what's going on in our communities just from the work I do with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Baker, who is a mentor with the organization and serves as its chief community affairs officer. “Through my work, I'm literally in just about every neighborhood in our county on a regular basis.”
As a member of the North Hills School District board, Baker said he votes to keep taxes low, votes he plans to mirror if elected to council. He looks for efficiencies in the district to save money, including adjusting the busing and bells schedule to save about $1 million over three years, he said. Baker said he would continue to serve on the school board if elected to council.
McClain has worked for U.S. Steel for 14 years, including a one-year assignment to Belgrade, Serbia, where he was the company's representative on the city's FC Smederevo soccer club. As an internal audit manager, McClain said he has helped the company save millions.
“We need to be doing auditing,” McClain said of his potential role on council, praising ongoing investigations by the county into nonprofit and homestead tax exemptions. “As an auditor, I always base my conclusions on a lot of inquiries and factual evidence.”
As a third-party candidate, Barr said he gives voters a choice outside the two major parties.
“We're printing money out of thin air, and it trickles down,” said Barr, adding that Allegheny County should reject all federal funding unless the government pays in gold or silver. “People may think I'm a kook, but I have to do what's in my heart.”
He is concerned with the level of federal debt, redundancies between state, county and municipal services and embarking on ambitious infrastructure projects — such as building a bus rapid transit system between Downtown and Oakland — while he says crumbling roads and bridges are ignored.
McClain's image took a hit when police arrested him for drunken driving on April 20 a few blocks from his house after meeting friends at a nearby bar.
“It was a bad decision,” he said. “Certainly I will learn from the lesson and never repeat it.”
He did not fight the charge, paid his fines and will begin serving a 30-day suspension of his driver's license after the election.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.