Monday, May 16, 2011

Pgh Councilman Faces 3 Challengers

It's a four man race in Tuesday's Democratic Primary in Pittsburgh Council District 3. Three candidates are challenging incumbent Councilman Bruce Kraus who is seeking a second 4-year term.

Jeffrey Koch is a supervisor in the city's Public Works Department and served on Council for 18 months after winning a 2006 special election to fill out the term of Gene Ricciardi who resigned the seat to become a district magistrate.
Koch then lost in the 2007 Primary to Kraus. Koch says he'd like to see through some of the measure he began while on council. Koch, who has the backing of Mayor Ravenstahl, says Kraus is intentionally contrary to the mayor, which has led to a deficiency in services for District 3.
"Last year the city of Pittsburgh spent $5.6 million citywide to pave streets. Unfortunately, District 3 only received $200,000 of that. 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."

The incumbent 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. Kraus
says some of measure's he's implemented include creating a satellite office in Arlington, supporting the renovation of the library on East Carson Street, and cleaning up abandoned properties in Beltzhoover. He says he's 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. 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. One of those is Jason Phillips, the manager of a South Side glass studio and a member of the County Democratic Committee.
Phillips says he's concerned about the direction of District 3 over the past 6 years under both Koch and then Kraus. Phillips says Kraus has burned bridges to the mayor's office.

"He has been a constant thorn in the side of the mayor. 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 part of Kraus' "Responsible Hospitality Initiative."

The fourth candidate in the Democratic Primary is Gavin Robb who is a municipal attorney and President of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. He says he's concerned about the leadership in the council district. Robb says his experience as a lawyer familiarized him with many of the skills necessary for City Council in terms of technical legislative ability and capacity as a "mediator" between council and the mayor.

Robb says he also supports the ides of a Neighborhood Improvement District which he says Kraus has not followed through with implementing.
"The neighborhood itself is pushing forward with this. 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' consistent opposition to the mayor is getting in the way of District 3 interests especially in terms of receiving city services.

No Republicans have entered the primary election in this district so it's likely the winner of the Democratic primary will take the general election in November.

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