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Peduto ally likely will lead Pittsburgh City Council

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Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

City Council members say they want an independent, experienced council president who can be a legislative counterpart to Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, not an acolyte.

Peduto ally Bruce Kraus appears to have enough votes to win when the nine-person, all-Democrat body on Monday elects a president to a two-year post that is second in line to the Mayor's Office if there's a vacancy.

Councilman Corey O'Connor, 28, of Swisshelm Park said he plans to nominate Kraus, 59, of the South Side with the understanding that at least five council members support him.

“I have spoken with the members that have confirmed their support for me, and I am both humbled and excited about the possibilities of leading this council,” Kraus said.

He declined to comment further.

The number of votes he has might change before the meeting. It's often a game-time decision for at least a few holdouts.

“At the end of the day, we'd love to have a unanimous vote,” O'Connor said. “Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't.”

In 2010, President Darlene Harris won a split 5-4 vote over Councilwoman Theresa Smith. She won re-election, 6-3, in 2012.

The council president becomes mayor in the event of a vacancy. That's how Mayor Sophie Masloff and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl assumed their roles.

Kraus often supported Peduto on council, but he's not a “rubber stamp,” said incoming Councilman Dan Gilman, 31, of Shadyside, Peduto's former chief of staff.

“He's a very strong-willed individual and passionate about causes he believes in,” Gilman said of Kraus. “He has no problem speaking up, disagreeing or fighting for it.”

Gilman will be sworn in as a council member at 10 a.m. He will represent Peduto's former council district.

Kraus, who is openly gay, joined council in 2008. He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2011.

Kraus has focused his time in office on trying to reduce violence, public intoxication and nuisance crimes in the South Side, a nighttime hotspot that's flooded with college students and other revellers on the weekends.

Gilman and Councilwomen Natalia Rudiak, 34, of Carrick and Theresa Kail-Smith, 54, of Westwood said they plan to vote for Kraus. Rudiak said she's looking forward to a more collaborative relationship between council and the administration.

New Councilwoman Deborah Gross, 47, of Highland Park did not return calls for comment. Peduto heavily supported her campaign, meaning she could represent a critical fifth vote in favor of Kraus.

Harris, 61, of Spring Hill declined to comment on how she plans to vote. She said any council president candidate should have the ability to collaborate, a strong work ethic and an independent streak.

“You have to work with the mayor, but you also have to make sure you're doing what's best for the city of Pittsburgh,” she said.

Councilman Ricky Burgess, 56, of Homewood said it's important the candidate has the education and qualifications to become mayor. He said he'd like to see a black man chosen as council president. Burgess and Councilman Daniel Lavelle, 36, of the Hill District, are the only black members of council.

Lavelle said he hasn't chosen a candidate.

“It's their job from a council perspective to work to hold the administration accountable,” Lavelle said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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