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Pittsburgh Black Political Convention details community issues next mayor must address

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh's black residents want a mayor who will reduce crime, poverty and unemployment in neighborhoods and promote diversity throughout city government, a newly formed black caucus said on Friday upon releasing an agenda for candidates seeking its endorsement.

The Pittsburgh Black Political Convention said it will decide whom to endorse based on the candidates' responses to issues affecting blacks.

“They are the most important issues, as best we can discern and as it relates to what the mayor of the city ought to give leadership to,” said Sala Udin, a former councilman from the Hill District who heads the convention.

The group scheduled a convention for April 20 at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Larimer, the largest black church in the city. It hopes to attract registered voters who would vote on an endorsement.

The candidates will state their positions on issues at a public forum on April 19.

The agenda cited a 2010 report by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and Center on Race and Social Problems, which concluded: “Some problems are worse today than they were during the turbulent times of the 1960s. … Indeed, racial disparities across a number of areas are blatant — family formation, employment, community violence, incarceration, education, and health and mental health.”

The agenda asks candidates how they would encourage employers to provide opportunities for black residents, ensure that the city workforce includes black employees at all levels, and develop job training and career opportunities for black youths.

The agenda notes that Pittsburgh's public schools suspend or expel more blacks than white students, and the dropout rate for black high school students is as high as 30 percent, it said.

“Most schools are ill-equipped to deal with issues like poverty, discrimination, and negative peer culture,” it said. “Research shows that cultural insensitivity, when displayed by teachers and administrators, has a negative effect on children's behavior and their ability to perform well.”

The agenda asks for candidates' stances on reducing gun violence and homicides, increasing police presence in predominantly black neighborhoods and reducing incidents of police brutality.

It wants to know how they would spur development in black neighborhoods.

“We discussed this among members of the convention committee and formed a committee to write up the agenda,” Udin said.

Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at Pitt, said the mayor and City Council can work to improve such things as diversity in government and police protection. Government, however, needs community help to fix deep-rooted problems such as poverty and gun trafficking.

Black Pittsburghers are not asking for anything different than they did 10 years ago, he said.

“I think it has to be a cooperative venture. The community has to help more than it does,” Shuster said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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