Three Democrats are challenging the District 3 Pittsburgh Council incumbent in the upcoming primary election. Jeffrey Koch, Justin Phillips, and Gavin Robb all want the seat held by current Councilman Bruce Kraus. WDUQ has created profiles of the candidates, listed here in alphabetical order of last name.
Jeffrey Koch is a supervisor in the city’s Public Works Department and a former city Councilman for District 3. Koch served in that role for 18 months after a 2006 special election, but lost to Kraus the following year.
Koch says he’d like to see through some of the measures he began on City Council. He says the incumbent is intentionally contrary to the mayor, which has resulted in a deficiency of city services reaching his district.
“Last year, the City of Pittsburgh spent $5.6 million citywide to pave streets. Unfortunately, District 3 only received $200,000 of that,” says Koch. “That’s less than 5% of the total paving capital budget that went to our district, and our communities are showing it. I want to bring those services back to our community.”
In addition, Koch accuses Kraus of breaking the city’s Campaign Finance law by accepting more money than is allowed from campaign donors.
Incumbent Councilman Bruce Kraus says he’s not worried about a lack of support from the mayor’s office. Kraus says he’ll be reelected if his constituents think he’s been doing a good job in his office.
Kraus says some of the measures he’s implemented to that end include installing a satellite office in Arlington, renovating the East Carson Street library, and cleaning up abandoned properties in Beltzhoover. He says he’s also been the voice of his constituents on citywide matters, such as voting on a plan to lease the city’s parking assets.
“We labored over that issue for months. We held numerous public hearings [and] public meetings in the neighborhoods and in the Council Chamber, and that opinion never changed,” says Kraus. “And so when that piece of legislation came before me, I voted what my constituents wanted me to vote, and that was to say ‘no’ on that parking lease.”
Kraus says he welcomes an open, Democratic election with several challengers.
Jason Phillips is the manager of a South Side glass studio and a member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. He says he’s concerned about the direction of District 3 over the past six years, under Councilmen Koch and Kraus. Phillips says the current Councilman has burnt bridges to the mayor’s office.
“He has been a constant thorn in the side of the mayor,” says Phillips. “On the flipside to that, though, we have another candidate in the race [Koch] who, people consider him to be a mayoral rubber stamp. I feel that I’m the candidate that’s best positioned to be in the middle of those two extremes.”
Phillips says he supports the idea of a “Neighborhood Improvement District,” but he’d like a more detailed plan. The NID would pool money of business owners on the South Side to supplement city services in the area. The idea was a part of Kraus’s “Responsible Hospitality Initiative.”
Gavin Robb is a municipal attorney and President of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. He says he’s concerned about the leadership of District 3.
Robb says his experience as a lawyer familiarized him with many of the skills necessary for City Council, both in terms of technical legislative ability and capacity as a “mediator” between Council and the mayor.
Robb says he also supports the idea of a Neighborhood Improvement District, which he says Kraus has not followed through with.
“The neighborhood itself is pushing forward with this,” says Robb. “It’s not something he has emphasized during election time, of course, because no-one likes to run on the idea that, ‘Hey, elect me and you people in this district are going to get assessed X amount of additional dollars a year.”
Robb says Kraus’s consistent opposition to the mayor is getting in the way of District 3’s interests, especially in terms of receiving city services.
No Republicans have entered the primary election for District 3, so it is likely that whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary will take the election.