Two challengers are looking to unseat Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess in District 9. The 54 year old Burgess, a senior pastor at Nazarene Baptist Church in Homewood and an associate professor at Community College of Allegheny County, is seeking a second 4-year term in office.
Burgess is one of the founders of PIRC, the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime,
where local and federal authorities hold face to face meetings with members of violent groups in the city in an effort to reduce the number of homicides and youth crime.
Burgess is also the sponsor of several police accountability measures including one that has been approved that most police cars be equipped with video and audio recorders.
Burgess has the support of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl but the Democratic Committee endorsed one of the challengers: Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell, a 54 year old social worker from Lincoln-Lemington.
Shortly after winning the party endorsement, Copeland-Mitchell lost her job as residential correction facility manager for The Program for Offenders, a government-funded treatment facility. The executive director Carol Hertz sent Copeland-Mitchell a letter giving her a choice.....her job or campaigning. The letter said if she continued her candidacy, the program would consider that to be her resignation.
Copeland-Mitchell is suing for wrongful dismissal.
She says people asked her to run "because of the conditions in the neighborhood" and because "he (Burgess) is unapproachable."
Copeland-Mitchell says the high crime rate in the community is her number one issue. She says the beating of then high school student Jordan Miles by 3 police officers highlights a community need....
"We do need our police officers in the community to help us. But anytime there is a misjustice (injustice), it needs to be dealt with and investigated further."
54 year old Lucille Prater-Holliday is also seeking the Democratic nomination in Council District 9. Prater-Holliday is a community activist who lives in Homewood.
"I have more than 25 years working with people. For the most part, there's been no paycheck attached to that work, it's all volunteer because I know it needs to be done and it's my responsibility to try to provide a better future for coming generations."
Prater-Holliday says the biggest complaint she's heard about Burgess is "that he is unapproachable and he's absent from the community."
But she says she can identify with residents, in part, because she raised 2 young children after her husband died when she was 34...
"I have lived in low-income housing. I've been on food stamps. I've been on welfare. I've been unemployed. I've lived in sub-standard housing so I've lived the same life of so many people in the district so I can related to what the people in the district are going through."
The victor of the Democratic Primary will likely win the council seat because no Republican candidate is filed.