Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

Peduto, left, defeated by Gainey.

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

History was made on May 18, 2021. Ed Gainey secured the Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor, almost certain to become the city’s firstever Black mayor. He ran on progressive policies, and to the left of incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto on policing. He focused his campaign on racial and economic inequalities, promising to do more to address these glaring issues in the Steel City.

While this moment is truly historic for Pittsburgh — a city and region that are overwhelmingly white, and have many documented instances of racism against Black people — there are also several other impressive electoral wins that deserve recognition.

Criminal justice reforms

Pittsburgh voters overwhelmingly passed a ban on no-knock warrants for Pittsburgh Police officers. “Yes” on the ban secured more than 81% of the vote. This initiative was inspired by Breonna Taylor, who was shot five times and killed by police officers after police entered her apartment on a noknock warrant.

Allegheny County voters also approved a ballot initiative that would limit the use of solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail. A “yes” on that question received 69% of the vote.

Additionally, out of nine open seats for Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, voters selected five candidates who were endorsed by a coalition of criminaljustice reform groups. Common Pleas Judges are responsible for overseeing trials for criminal, civil, and family cases and delivering sentencing.

The coalition said back in March that electing these candidates would help move reforms like reducing the use of cash bail, increasing diversionary programs and alternatives to carceral punishment, and other mechanisms to combat mass incarceration and racial and other demographic disparities in the system.

There were also victories at the Magisterial District Judge level. The Magisterial District Judge court is directly below Common Pleas and is responsible for assigning bail conditions, deciding eviction cases, and is a defendant’s first introduction to the state’s criminal judicial system. In Lawrenceville, candidate Xander Orenstein narrowly defeated incumbent Anthony Ceoffe on a platform of being more compassionate in eviction cases and limiting cash bail. Orenstein, if they were to win the general election, would become the state’s first nonbinary magistrate judge.

Jehosha Wright also won his race for Magisterial District Judge in the North Side, after receiving the backing of some criminal justice reformminded politicians.

Progressive victories over incumbents

On top of celebrating Gainey’s victory, which many progressive advocates are boosting, there were a series of other wins in smaller races that portend more momentum for progressives in Pittsburgh.

In Mount Oliver, JoAnna Taylor ousted Mount Oliver Mayor Frank Bernardini, a conservative Democratic incumbent who was seen last year with Democratic Mount Oliver council member Nick Viglione, who was sporting a MAGA hat at a Allegheny County Democratic Committee meeting. State Rep. Jessica Benham (DSouth Side) also congratulated Lisa Pietrusza for winning a spot on Mount Oliver Council, and Jamie Piotrowski for winning her election for Pittsburgh Public Schools board member.

“I am so thrilled about the progressive movement we are building in South Pittsburgh JoAnna, Jamie, & Lisa represent the hard organizing work we are doing in areas that don’t get much progressive political attention,” tweeted Benham on May 19.

Continue reading Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

U.S. Steel Cancels $1 Billion Upgrades to Local Facilities; Plans to Close High Emissions Batteries at Clairton Coke Works

Clairton Coke Works

By Kimberly Rooney
Pittsburgh City Paper

April 30, 2021 – U.S. Steel Corporation is cancelling its $1 billion upgrades to its Mon Valley Works facilities, which includes Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, and the Clairton Coke Works in Clairton. While the cancellation will likely result in some job losses in the region, it will also reduce the levels of harmful air pollution in the Mon Valley and beyond.

The upgrades, which were announced May 2019, would have included a casting and rolling facility and a cogeneration plant. After several delays due to COVID in 2020 that increased the upgrade costs to a promised $1.5 billion, U.S. Steel pushed the start date of those upgrades to the fourth quarter of 2022. But today, the company announced it would be scrapping those plans entirely.

In addition to cancelling these updates, U.S. Steel plans to permanently idle batteries one through three at Clairton Coke Works by the first quarter of 2023. Batteries one through three are the oldest at the Coke Works and can allow twotothree times more emissions than the rest of the facility, according to environmental groups.

According to the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, toxic air pollution contributes to high risk of cancer, and Clairton Coke Works is responsible for many of the airborne carcinogens in the region. Asthma rates among children in Clairton are three times higher than in the rest of the county.

“For too long, U.S. Steel has run roughshod over our environmental protections and churned out dangerous levels of harmful air pollution,” says PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center clean air advocate Zachary Barber. “Closing these batteries is a necessary and longoverdue step toward reducing that damage and cleaning our region’s air.”

Clairton Coke Works received a $1 million fine from the Allegheny County Health Department in 2019, as well as another $383,450 fine in March 2021. A study from the University of Pittsburgh also confirmed this week that the fire at the Coke Works in December 2018, which destroyed pollution controls, increased asthma exacerbations for residents in the surrounding area.

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt cites the goal for the company to become carbon neutral by 2050 as a motivation for canceling the plan upgrades. As part of that goal, U.S. Steel will shift toward electric arc furnaces, such as Big River Steel, of which U.S. Steel bought a minority share in 2019, in Arkansas.

There are currently about 130 fulltime workers at the three Clairton Coke Works batteries that will be idled. U.S. Steel plans to avoid layoffs by reducing the workforce through retirements and reassignments. According to Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture mostly comprised of fossilfuel companies and the labor unions that represent their workers, the closures will result in the loss of hundreds of potential construction jobs for the region.

“I am deeply disappointed that the company has broken its promise to the Mon Valley and its own workers by scrapping a plan that would have made the Mon Valley Works the first project of its kind, provided cleaner air for our community and good jobs that would have helped this area prosper for decades,” says state Rep. Austin Davis (DMckeesport), whose district includes the Clairton Coke Works. “I believe that we can create familysustaining jobs and a clean environment.”

From March 30 to April 7, the Mon Valley was one of the top10 worst places for air quality in America. Advocates such as Barber have long criticized Clairton Coke Works’ dangerous emissions, and PennEnvironment had previously called for the batteries to be taken offline when air quality was poor.

“While we are pleased by this development, we still must remain vigilant — especially in light of U.S. Steel’s decadeslong history of legal violations and broken promises,” Barber says. “Local leaders must keep working to ratchet down industrial pollution to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

And it’s possible these upgrade cancellations will have longterm effects on U.S. Steel’s future in the Mon Valley and the Pittsburgh region. As University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem notes on Twitter, the status of the Clairton Coke Works and the Edgar Thompson Works is bleak without any upgrades to those legacy facilities.

Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running

By Candy Woodall
Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
via Beaver County Times

Feb 8, 2021 – Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Monday officially entered the 2022 U.S. Senate race, vying for a hotly contested seat that could determine the chamber’s balance of power in the midterms.

The formal bid comes after Fetterman raised more than a $1 million in less than a month after he said he was eyeing a run.

“Thank you to all 35,000 of the folks who chipped in a few dollars and encouraged me to run for Senate, today I am excited to announce that I am running, and I am glad to have the support of people in all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties,” Fetterman, 51, said in a statement Monday.

He is running for a seat that will be left vacant by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, RLehigh Valley, who is retiring upon a selfimposed term limit.

Analysts say it’s the top U.S. Senate race to watch in the 2022 midterms.

“The sole tossup Senate race to start the 2022 cycle is Pennsylvania,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the nonpartisan newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country and could eclipse the $164 million spent in 2016 when Toomey was challenged by Democrat Katie McGinty.

McGinty defeated Fetterman in the 2016 Democratic primary.

A rising profile for Fetterman

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman went on a tour of all 67 Pennsylvania counties to get feedback from residents on recreational marijuana legalization. He is in favor of legalizing the drug.

At the time, he was mostly known in western Pennsylvania, where he was the mayor of Braddock, an old, bluecollar industrial town Fetterman was working to rehabilitate.

Since then, Fetterman has become better known to voters statewide after running a successful campaign to become Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor in 2018. He was also a frequent guest on national news programs during the pandemic and 2020 presidential election, and he has built a robust social media following.

Continue reading Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running

In ‘Marshall Plan’ For Region, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto Hopes Biden Can Pull Spending Plan From Dysfunctional Washington

By Daniel Moore
PostGazette Washington Bureau

DEC 8, 2020 – WASHINGTON — The architects of a newly unveiled 10year, $600 billion climate plan to revitalize Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley region are moving forward with a difficult task of building political willpower in Washington while gaining the trust of rural communities tied to the coal and natural gas industries, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told a group of sustainable development advocates Tuesday.

That coalitionbuilding — a communications strategy to be forged over the next six weeks among academic institutions in Pittsburgh and seven other cities — is a critical step toward executing the plan Mr. Peduto described as both idealistic and grounded in reality.

It is also necessary as a divided Congress gears up for a fight next year over PresidentElect Joe Biden’s proposal to pull the country out of an economic downturn while investing in clean energy development. Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans for a COVID19 relief bill have dragged for months, raising the question of whether Mr. Biden’s plan could garner enough support.

“We have been in touch during the [plan’s] research phase with the Biden campaign and their ‘Build Back Better’ authors,” Mr. Peduto said, referring to PresidentElect Joe Biden’s jobs and economic recovery plan.

Peduto joins mayors from W.Va., Ohio, Ky. to call for public/private support in climate-friendly industrial growth

Since Mr. Biden won the White House last month, Mr. Peduto and other local officials “have had contact with the transition team,” he said, “working to see what we can try to be able to get on the radar in Washington during the first 100 days of a new administration, while simultaneously working with grassroots organizations.”

Continue reading In ‘Marshall Plan’ For Region, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Peduto Hopes Biden Can Pull Spending Plan From Dysfunctional Washington

FBI Declared Pittsburgh A New White Supremacy Hub, But It Has Been This Way For Decades

Pittsburghers marching in protest in October 2018 through Squirrel Hill towards the Tree of Life synagogue, where President Trump was making an appearance, three days after a mass shooting took place. CP photo: Jared Wickerham

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

Nov 15. 2020 – This week at a symposium on domestic terrorism held at Duquesne University, an analyst at the FBI said the Pittsburgh region has now “become a hub for white supremacy” and that it is “important to understand that it is here.”

Considering that the white nationalist group Patriot Front marched down Boulevard of the Allies last weekend, the Ku Klux Klan distributed mailers in Greene County last month, and there have been other selfdescribed militia groups meeting in the area, sporting symbols linked to whitenationalism, acknowledgment from the FBI is a positive sign for those looking to combat hate groups.

However, declarations that Pittsburgh is a new hub for white supremacy ignore decades of history and scores of documented cases of white supremacists gathering and organizing over the years.

Dennis Roddy is a former reporter with the Greensburg TribuneReview and Pittsburgh PostGazette and has written about extremist movements in the region for decades. He says Pittsburgh has always been a hub for white supremacy.

“No, this is not new,” says Roddy. “Just because the FBI is noticing this now, doesn’t make this new.”

Roddy was a reporter for 40 years, and he attended his first KKK rally as a reporter in Fayette County in 1979. He said the rhetoric he heard then was not much different than what he heard among neighbors growing up in Johnstown.

But it’s not just rural parts of Southwestern Pennsylvania where white supremacy has had a significant presence. The National Alliance, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says “was for decades the most dangerous and best organized neoNazi formation in America,” grew out of the Youth for Wallace group that backed Governor George Wallace’s 1968 presidential campaign. Wallace was a prosegregationist and considered one of the most openly racist presidential candidates of the postcivil rights era.

Continue reading FBI Declared Pittsburgh A New White Supremacy Hub, But It Has Been This Way For Decades

How Allegheny County delivered Pennsylvania to Biden

Crowds march across the 10th Street Bridge in celebration of Joe Biden’s victory on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Nick Childers/PublicSource)
Crowds march across the 10th Street Bridge in celebration of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Nick Childers/PublicSource)

While the national media has pointed to voters in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania’s small population centers, Allegheny County was crucial in putting Biden over the top.

By Oliver Morrison
Public Source

Nov 12, 2020 – oe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election after the Associated Press and other outlets declared him the winner of Pennsylvania. Although the vote margins are close in Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, Pennsylvania was the state that tipped the scale enough to call the election.

So, how did he win Pennsylvania? The New York Times attributed Biden’s win to “counties east of the Appalachians [that] shifted left.” The Washington Post argued that “it wasn’t Pennsylvania’s major urban centers that set the result in 2020.” Instead, they wrote, “It was Erie County and other places like it, where relatively minor shifts across a wide swath of small, industrial cities, growing suburbs and sprawling exurbs.”

But if Allegheny County voted for Biden as predictably as it had for Democratic candidates the past five elections, the results this year could still be uncertain. It was Biden’s unusual, historic performance in Allegheny County, alongside one suburban Philadelphia county, Montgomery County, which provided enough of a margin for Biden to definitively win.

As of Wednesday evening, Allegheny County had already recorded the vast majority of its votes, more than 717,000, the largest number of ballots cast since more than 719,000 votes were cast when Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964. And the 1964 election was near the peak of the county’s population boom when about 30% more people called Allegheny County home. There are still some provisional and overseas ballots that haven’t yet been included and just under 1,000 additional ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and arrived within three days.

PublicSource looked at how each of the 1,323 precincts in the county voted to tell the story of how Biden won. As the last ballots are counted, it could change the results in single precincts that are close. We’ll update this piece with any changes once all the votes are tabulated.

Five takeaways:

–Allegheny County was one of two counties in Pennsylvania, along with Montgomery County, where Democratic votes increased enough to give Biden a definitive win.


–Both presidential candidates increased the number of votes their party received compared to 2016.

–Biden is winning by nearly 146,000 votes, the biggest margin in Allegheny County since 1964. The urban core and most of the suburbs voted for Biden. Trump’s wins came largely on the edges of the county such as in Findlay, Fawn and Elizabeth townships.


–Some of the biggest gains for Biden from 2016 were in suburban and rural precincts, some of which he still lost. Some of Trump’s biggest improvements were in primarily Black neighborhoods in the urban core, as well as in patches of the Mon Valley. While Trump expanded to the urban core, Biden expanded almost everywhere else and ultimately won the county by the largest percentage since 1992.


–Allegheny County was one of the two most important counties for Biden


As of Wednesday night, Biden led Donald Trump by 51,301 votes in Pennsylvania, according to the state tally, enough votes to prevent an automatic recount and likely enough votes to survive any legal challenges that Trump attempts.

Continue reading How Allegheny County delivered Pennsylvania to Biden

Over A Week Of Black Lives Matter Protests Expose Pittsburgh Police’a Weakness In Safely Managing Demonstrations

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

June 10, 2020 – There have now been more than a dozen protests across the Pittsburgh region for George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis Police, and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by Louisville police. The protests are condemning police brutality against Black people; the tens of thousands of Pittsburghers who have marched are calling for swift and decisive reforms to police departments.

The vast majority of the protests have concluded without incident or serious confrontation with police. But there has been a lot of confusion around what happened during protests that took place on May 30 and June 1, both of which ended in confrontations with police and police firing tear gas and sponge rounds or rubber bullets.

Many reports have largely relied on information solely from police. And considering that police admitted lying about using tear gas during the protest on June 1, Pittsburgh City Paper is attempting to document what happened on May 30 and June 1 through its own reporting, videos on social media, and other reports from journalists on the ground during these events.

University of Pittsburgh criminology professor and national policing expert David Harris also provided insight after CP informed him in detail of both what has been reported and what CP witnessed on both May 30 and June 1.

Here is what is known from the protest and events following on May 30:

More than 3,000 people marched for about two hours Downtown to PPG Paints Arena without incident. Shortly after they arrived outside the arena, a 20-year-old white Shaler man allegedly damaged an empty police vehicle, spray-painting it and smashing its windows. Shortly after, more young men, both white and Black, continued to damage the vehicle with blunt instruments like baseball bats. Then, several police officers arrived on horseback and surrounded the vehicle, causing the crowd to recede. Some protesters threw a few water bottles at the officers, hitting at least one in the back. The police officers then rode away from the car toward Downtown.

After mounted officers left, more damage was done to the empty vehicle and then it was set on fire. Calls began for the protest to disperse from some apparent protest organizers. At this point, the vast majority of the crowd left. However, about 200 people remained and began demonstrating on Washington Place in front of several police officers, who had already lined up, in riot gear such as face shields, helmets, and batons. Protesters kneeled en masse, and then were instructed to disperse. Then, one or two tear-gas canisters were fired in front of protesters. Many retreated, but then shortly returned. At that point, police broke their line and retreated from the scene entirely. One empty undercover police vehicle was left behind. A small group of protesters then smashed it and set it on fire.

After this, more protesters dispersed and left the scene, but a group of about 100 remained and marched back Downtown. WESA reported that “store windows were shattered along Smithfield Street, and some looting was reported” and that “police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, as demonstrators again used signage to erect barricades.” Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto tweeted at the time that “those vandalizing Downtown … will be arrested” and protesters who continued Downtown had “turned on the very mission, and more importantly — the people, you supposedly marched for two hours ago.”

Continue reading Over A Week Of Black Lives Matter Protests Expose Pittsburgh Police’a Weakness In Safely Managing Demonstrations

Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

Sara Innamorato:  Our Democratic Socialist in Harrisburg  Sticking Up for All of Us.

By Sara Innamorato
Pittsburgh City Paper

Frb 14, 2020 – Everyone who grows up in Pittsburgh can narrate the rise and fall of the steel industry: the mills grew as immigrants arrived to take jobs in the blast furnaces, then the Great Strike occurred where industry titans ordered deadly violence upon workers calling for better wages and working conditions; later, the series of federal trade agreements were created, culminating with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that sold out the workers and shut down the mills.

Our city’s population declined by half. Our family-sustaining union jobs crumbled, and our neighborhoods with them. But Pittsburghers are tough — we don’t like to complain, we’ve seen worse. And so we persevered and we adapted, and now Pittsburgh is widely seen as a success story. There is a sense of collective pride in our story of resiliency.

But as I knocked on doors during my 2018 bid for office, my neighbors told a more nuanced story. They told me they were working harder, but making less — getting by day-to-day was a stretch. They told me they were worried about their futures and their children’s futures.

The voters I spoke with, like so many of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania, had watched as previous trade agreements, like NAFTA, pushed local jobs overseas and drove down wages for the jobs that remained. People were fed up, and many voted for President Trump because he said he would “never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers.”

I am no supporter of President Trump, but for the sake of the people I represent in Allegheny County, I had hoped this was a promise he would keep. Unfortunately, when he signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday, he broke that promise, betrayed those voters, and sold out Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Continue reading Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

Breaking: State Rep. Austin Davis Resigns As Vice-Chair Of Allegheny County Democratic Committee

jessica Benham
Jessica Benham and Austin Davis. (Photo from the candidate’s Twitter.)

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

Last week, several elected officials called for the resignation of Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Eileen Kelly for press-conference-turned-shit-show in which she defended the endorsement of a candidate who thinks all addicts should OD and then making offensive comments about the past addiction struggles of County Councilor Bethany Hallam.

And while Kelly has refused to step down, there was a resignation today from a high-ranking party official, Vice-Chair Austin Davis of Mckeesport. Since last Sunday’s endorsement, Davis has thrown his support behind two unendorsed candidates, Jessica Benham and Summer Lee, which is a violation of the ACDC charter.

In a letter to Kelly, first reported by WESA’s Chris Potter, Davis said:

“I believe in the Democratic Party and the people that make up the party! It has become clear that I cannot best serve the party and its people as the vice-chairman of the ACDC. Please Accept this letter as my official resignation as vice-chairman of the ACDC, effective immediately.

The events of recent days have crystalized that we do not share the same values and hold vastly different views in the direction that this party should be moving!

“I will always be committed to the values of the Democratic Party and I will work tirelessly to support and elect people who support those values.

“However, I can not remain in this position under your leadership.”

The issues surrounding the party began in mid-January when Heather Kass, a little-known South Hills Democrat was hand-picked by retiring, Conservative state Democratic state Rep.Harry Readshaw to run for his seat. However, hours after the endorsement, the Pittsburgh Current found several Facebook posts from Kass that not only supported Trump but also called people on public assistance “lazy idiots,” and said addicts needed to “OD” so there would be “less shit in the world.”

 

Her posts began in 2015 but she continued to post offensive content as recent as last summer when she posted this image of her husband:

The party endorsed Kass, angering many in the party, not just those considered progressive. But under party bylaws, ACDC committee members were expected to support the endorsed candidate without fail, however, many quickly defected to Kass’ progressive opponent, Jessica Benham., including Davis, the then-vice-chair. Then last week, Kelly had a press conference in which she doubled down her support for Kass and said this about County Councilor Bethany Hallam:

Kelly says that Bethany Hallam went through a hard time with drug addiction and was forgiven … but when Heather Kass apologized for posting critcisms of Obamacare, etc. in a moment of hardship, no one forgives her: “Why is it good for them and not for her?”

Davis’ resignation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those following this story. This past weekend, Davis spent time knocking doors and canvassing with Jessica Benham:

But this isn’t the only issue to rise out of the Feb. 16 endorsement process. At that meeting, only one incumbent did not receive the endorsement and that was Summer Lee, the region’s first black woman elected to the state legislature. She faced an opponent backed by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald. And while Kelly supported Kass, she ripped Fitzgerald for damaging the party for not backing Lee. Many people are upset about Lee’s treatment by the committee, however, there were some voices who couldn’t understand why Kelly supported Kass,

Since then Support around lee has been growing. In a Monday press release, Lee reported a surge in endorsements and fundraising from organizations, unions and many long-time elected officials. The complete release is below:

“Western Pennsylvanian State Rep. Summer Lee (D-34) has received a surge in donations and a growing list of new support from labor unions, community organizations, and elected officials following news of her primary challenge by Chris Roland, a North Braddock councilman. Rep. Lee won her seat by defeating a long-term incumbent in 2018 and is the first Black woman to represent Western Pennsylvania in the state house. 

Last week the Working Families Party endorsed Rep. Lee, and is providing strategic support to her race. She has received a surge of grassroots contributions. To date, she has raised $108,176 for her reelection, with an average donation of $83.45. 

“Rep. Summer Lee is committed to fighting for working families in western Pennsylvania, and that is why we’re committed to fighting for her,” said Nicolas O’Rourke, Organizing Director for Pennsylvania Working Families Party. “We need allies in Harrisburg who support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, who care about fighting climate change in our backyard, and who run for office because they genuinely care about the communities they serve, not just their high-dollar donors.” 

Lisa Rhodes, Chair of the PA Democratic Black Caucus, State Senators Katie Muth (D-44), Larry Farnese (D- 1), Lindsey Williams (D-38)  and state representatives Frank Dermody (D-33), Dan Frankel (D-23), Austin Davis (D-35), Ed Gainey (D-24), Jake Wheatley (D-19), Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181), Joe Hohenstein (D-177), Chris Rabb (D-200), Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184), Danielle Otten (D-155), Sara Innamorato (D-21) have also endorsed Lee

“I enthusiastically support Rep. Summer Lee because she is a bold new progressive voice in Harrisburg. In her first term in office, she has unwaveringly lifted up the concerns and priorities of poor and working class people, and all Pennsylvanians who value racial, economic and environmental justice,” said Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200).

“Rep. Summer Lee is a strong Democratic legislator who inspires us to do better things in Harrisburg. She made history by winning two years ago and her voice is needed at the Pennsylvania Capitol.” said Rep. Frank Dermody (D-33). 

Amongst labor, Rep. Lee is endorsed by several labor unions, including SEIU HCPA, SEIU 32BJ, and SEIU State Council. “We will not let such a champion of everyday working people get pushed out of office,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU for Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Rep. Summer Lee is committed to making sure that workers across this state have the right to organize and join a union, and that workers get fair wages and strong contracts. 32BJ will knock on thousands of doors to ensure Rep. Lee returns to the Pennsylvania State House.”

Rep. Summer Lee has received the support from progressive groups like Democracy for America, Collective PAC, Make the Road Action, Free The Ballot, One Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Stands Up, Pennslyvania Young Democrats, Young Democrats of Allegheny County, and Black Voters Matter. While many of these groups have not gone through their endorsement process, all are voicing their support for Lee’s performance in office so far. 

“We support Rep Summer Lee because she is a champion of criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania,”  said Robert Saleem Holbrook, Free The Ballot, which has endorsed Lee. “It is important that our communities have a representative who believes in the values of restorative justice, and recognizes that the communities most impacted by violence are also the ones most impacted by mass incarceration.”

“One PA members knocked on thousands of doors in 2018 to support Summer Lee because of her clear vision for Western PA. In the short time she’s been in Harrisburg, she has established a track record of alignment with our members’ values,” said Erin Kramer, Executive Director at One Pennsylvania. “Summer makes sure that underserved and under resourced communities in Allegheny County get the resources and representation they need to thrive. Our members are headed back into their endorsement process soon and we will only support candidates who are accountable to the people and not corporate interests.” 

Rep. Lee has been a champion on the issues that matter most to working families since before taking office, and she’s continued to champion issues like ending mass incarceration, full and fair funding for our schools, labor rights, $15 as a minimum wage, immigration rights. Since taking office in 2018, Rep.Lee has sponsored over 71 bills and helped generate over two million in state grants to her community.

The Working Families Party is a grassroots political party that recruits, trains, and elects the next generation of progressive leaders to office. In 2018, the WFP helped Rep. Rabb in his first bid for reelection, defeating a very well funded Democratic primary opponent, and going on to earning the most votes of any state representative in the general election. In 2017 the WFP knocked on 70,000 doors to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner. And in 2018, the WFP helped Liz Fiedler win her 4-way primary race with 51% of the vote. In 2019 the WFP recruited and helped elect Kendra Brooks for City Council At-Large, the first city-wide third-party victory in Philadelphia history. 

In 2019, the WFP helped elect longtime tenants organizer and progressive champion Jumaane Williams as Public Advocate in New York City, swelled the ranks of Chicago city council progressive caucus, helped make Stephen Mason the first Black mayor of Cedar Hill, Texas, helped insurgent Latinx LGBTQ social worker Candi CdeBaca oust a longtime incumbent on the Denver City Council, and elected other council members from Morgantown, W.Va., to Phoenix, Ariz. 

Continue reading More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

You Asked Questions on Climate Change in Pittsburgh. We Got Answers.

A recycling container in Construction Junction’s drop-off lot in North Point Breeze. The poster shows the bottles, cans, tubs, jugs and jars that can be recycled in the City of Pittsburgh. (Photo by Teake Zuidema/PublicSource)

From what’s being done to support electric vehicles and composting to how the Green New Deal would affect Pittsburgh’s historic buildings and churches, this Q&A covers it all.

By Juliette Rihl
Public Source

Sept 18, 2019 – As part of the Covering Climate Now global reporting initiative, we asked you, our PublicSource readers, to tell us what you wanted to know about climate change in Pittsburgh. We selected six of your questions and answered them for you below.

1. Is there any chance of a plastic bag ban? How big of a difference would it make?

It’s difficult to evaluate chances for a plastic bag ban but the chances of it happening before 2021 are slim. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that prevents municipalities from banning or taxing plastic bags until the end of 2020. In the interim, state agencies are researching the potential impact of such bans. Pittsburgh City Council unanimously opposed the legislation in a letter to Wolf on June 27.

Councilwoman Erika Strassburger said city council is looking into ways to decrease plastic bag consumption. If legislation is enacted at the city level after the end of 2020, a focus would be on equity, she said. “If there’s a [plastic bag] fee involved, we don’t want the burden to be on those who have the least ability to pay a fee,” Strassburger said.

Some local organizations and businesses are taking matters into their own hands.

Animal welfare organization HUMANE ACTION Pittsburgh, for example, started an initiative called “no plastic please” to encourage local residents and businesses to reduce their consumption of plastic. Although the initiative has broad community support, director Sabrina Culyba said getting retailers to opt in has been challenging. “A lot of businesses, their bottom line is at stake when it comes to making these switches,” she said. HUMANE ACTION Pittsburgh’s website lists participating restaurants and retailers.

Giant Eagle is currently conducting its own research on how to decrease the use of plastic bags in its stores. “Historically, Giant Eagle’s focus has been on recycling… But as an organization committed to our communities and our planet, we recognize that we have a responsibility to do more,” Dan Donovan, director of corporate communications, wrote in an email to PublicSource.

In a 2019 report by the environmental campaigning organization Green Peace on grocery store chains and plastic pollution, Giant Eagle scored poorly; it was ranked No. 16 out of 20 retailers for its overall practices regarding single-use plastics. Giant Eagle operates nearly 500 grocery and convenience stores.

While reducing plastic bags is one step toward sustainability, it’s not a fix-all solution. Sustainable Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable development in the region, is facilitating cross-sector conversations on how to tackle the problem of single-use plastics in the region. “It’s going to take more conversations to figure out what we can do here,” Executive Director Joylette Portlock said. “Because it’s not just straws, and it’s not just plastic bags.”

And, reusable bags aren’t a perfect solution. Studies show that the environmental impact of producing one reusable bag is the same as producing 131 plastic bags.

2. How much interest or investigation has there been into starting a compost waste program in the city?

The City of Pittsburgh accepts yard debris and Christmas trees at certain drop-off locations, but does not provide disposal of other forms of organic waste. Department of Public Works Director Mike Gable wrote in an email to PublicSource that the idea of a citywide compost program is being discussed, but no plans have been made yet. The City’s “Zero Waste” program aims to divert 90% of waste from landfills by 2030.

The absence of a citywide compost program isn’t due to a lack of interest. Laura Codori, founder of the local vermicompost company Worm Return, said she often gets calls from people asking if there is a compost drop-off site or pickup service. “People want to do this,” Codori said. She recently co-proposed a compost drop-off program to the Department of Innovation with Anthony Stewart of the environmental consulting firm DECO Resources.

3. If the Green New Deal or a similar proposal were to be enacted, what would that mean for Pittsburgh’s historic buildings and churches?

While the version of the Green New Deal that was struck down by the Senate in March doesn’t address historic buildings specifically, it does call for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States.” However, buildings with historic designation are exempt from the International Building Code’s energy code at this time. They’re not subject to the same energy standards. It’s hard to say if, or how, future legislation could change that. Continue reading You Asked Questions on Climate Change in Pittsburgh. We Got Answers.

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