Pittsburgh councilmen want racism to be treated as public health crisis
Two Pittsburgh councilmen introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at combating racism in the city.
The trio of bills would declare racism a public health crisis in the city and establish a leadership forum and investment fund to eliminate racial inequalities and barriers.
“I think the time for talk is past. It’s time for specific actions to address this problem,” said Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze. “We have to specifically attack this problem.”
Burgess and Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle of the Hill District introduced the legislation.
“The mayor looks forward to working with Councilmen Lavelle and Rev. Burgess on the legislation,” Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said in a statement.
The All-In Cities Leadership Forum would meet quarterly with an annual conference. It would help implement actions to address racism in the city and encourage minority economic development and home ownership, according to Burgess.
The investment fund would be managed by the Poise Foundation, a Downtown-based community foundation that aims to improve the lives of African-Americans in Pittsburgh, and it would be used to develop mixed-income housing and encourage black-owned businesses in the city.
Burgess and Lavelle urged “large nonprofits, banks and education institutions that have profited and continue to profit from the Pittsburgh’s inequalities” to contribute to the fund, according to a release the councilmen put out announcing the legislation. Burgess declined to say what institutions he thought should contribute.
The proposal comes on the heels of a September report, “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race,” conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh for the city’s Gender Equity Commission. It found stark inequities based on race in the city.
It also comes five months after Lavelle and Burgess spearheaded the city’s All-In initiatives to increase diversity in city government.
Treating racism as a public health crisis would mimic a similar effort in Milwaukee earlier this year, Burgess said.
He called racism a “severe and systemic problem” in Pittsburgh that requires a coordinated response to address it.
The resolutions will need to pass a first vote next week and could be adopted at the Nov. 4 council meeting, according to Burgess.
Lavelle didn’t respond to requests for further comment.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .