Dem candidates appear at Hill District forum
Voters at a candidate forum in the Hill District on Monday wanted to know how Pittsburgh's next mayor would pull their neighborhood out of economic despair and create jobs for minorities.
More than 150 people filled the pews of Wesley Center AME Zion Church during a two-hour forum and question-and-answer session hosted by the Hill District Ministers Alliance, a group of clergy from 20 churches.
Much of the discussion focused on plans by the Pittsburgh Penguins to redevelop a 28-acre site where the Civic Arena once stood on Centre Avenue.
“If all we do is develop 28 acres, we've failed,” said City Councilman Bill Peduto, who earned an endorsement Monday from the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. “The development has to include the community around it.”
Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze; former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, 65, of Beechview; state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District; and school bus monitor A.J. Richardson, 36, of Sheraden, are running in the May 21 Democratic primary for mayor.
Richardson did not attend. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is not running for re-election.
Wagner said he believes there are many opportunities to redevelop the Hill, but he said it won't happen if crippling acrimony between City Council and the Mayor's Office continues.
“We need to work with each other, and that's something that hasn't happened in city government for a number of years,” he said.
Wagner, if he becomes mayor, said he hopes to work with Wheatley.
“Jake Wheatley is a tremendous asset in Harrisburg and, Jake, I hope you stay there,” Wagner told his opponent.
All three candidates agreed minorities should play a larger role in overseeing city authorities and departments. They said minorities deserve to work in jobs related to the Penguins development.
“When you're contracting with the city, you need to reflect the diversity of the city,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley touted his Hill District roots and efforts to encourage minority employment in the state contracting process.
“I'm the only one on this stage that can show consistent and long-term advocacy for inclusion and diversity,” he said.
Peduto said he supports a plan espoused by the Hill District Consensus Group to dedicate $1 from every car that parks in lots near Consol Energy Center and put it toward improving the Hill District. His opponents didn't address the $1-per-car idea.
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.