Black Elected Officials Release Policy Report

Photo by J.L. Martello

Pittsburgh Courier
February 9, 2017

Last year, State Reps. Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey, Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess, and Allegheny County Councilman DeWitt Walton met with the New Pittsburgh Courier to say they had put aside any differences and formed a coalition that would create a unified Black agenda for the city.

Last week, the first fruit of this union—and multiple community meetings—was presented Feb. 2 when the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition released its 61-page Pittsburgh Peace and Justice Initiative Report, detailing its community-driven policy agenda for improving African American outcomes in public safety, affordable housing, family outcomes, businesses and organizations, education and employment.

But, Wheatley said, it is just the first step.

“Several months ago we came together and talked about a journey we wanted to take to transform many of the under performing, under resourced, high minority neighborhoods in the city. We made a commitment to talk direct to our community and try to gain from them what collective agenda should look like and what we could do together to address these longstanding issues,” he said.

“We have finished that part of our journey—we have a report. But this is one phase of the journey. This is a two-step dance. We started out by saying this is historic in nature. We’re doing something very different than what’s happened before where you may have gotten a document and that was the end of the journey, then you got some paper behind it and maybe we got a little change, but not the drastic change we were looking for. We’re looking for a total redo of how we do business as it relates to those communities that have been traditionally left out of the process.”

Lavelle said this first phase collected feedback from more than 400 people.

“This has been six months in the making, where we had six citywide meetings and also met with various interest groups,” he said. “We also reviewed all the various reports that came before. And I have to thank the Homewood Children’s village, who staffed this process and did a lot of the research behind this, and put this report together.”

While some of the report’s recommendations are very targeted, like, “Expand ShottSpotter and camera surveillance to other low-and moderate-income neighborhoods.” Others, like “Creating additional minority business opportunities” are less so.

And nowhere does it contain any indication of coordinated legislative action on local, county and state levels.

“This is not just a legislative process, though we are legislators,” said Wheatley. “This is a community transformation process. Some things may require legislation, others just a change in how we do business.”

The second phase, he said, will involve taking the report back to the community, making sure they got it right, and then holding a series of issue- and action-focused working meetings on the report’s specific policy areas.

Those meetings, Rev. Burgess noted, will be posted on the coalition’s web page:

“We’re in the midst of creating a calendar. This document is there anyone can download it right now,” he said. “The site will be our communications vehicle. It will have a calendar of activities, a calendar of meetings, topics of meeting and we’re hope to have that calendar out by the end of the month.”


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