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City Council Holds Meeting To Discuss Covid Aid, Many Call For Funding To Address Violence

council meeting south side.jpg
Ariel Worthy
/
WESA
Pittsburgh City Council held its first of four meetings in the South Side to discuss how to spend $335 million received for coronavirus relief aid.

Pittsburgh City Council held the first of four meetings to discuss the city's plans for $335 million in federal coronavirus aid Monday night. The sparsely-attended meeting took place at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, a couple of blocks from East Carson Street. Eight people spoke, and most mentioned concerns about a recent spate of shootings and other violence in the neighborhood.

Council passed a plan for spending the $335 million last month, and that plan currently does not invest directly in violence prevention. One speaker on Monday night, Ikhana Hal McKina, urged council to put money towards youth programs to curb violence.

“The violence is spilling over into areas that are not usually subject to this violence,” she said, referring to recent shootings on East Carson Street. “We must do something different. I urge you, city council members, to invest in the youth; to teach them skill sets that are reasonable for them to envision a brighter future. Allow the funds to support them, teach them trades. … If we focus in on the youth, perhaps we can save these future generations from the violence that plagues us in this city.”

Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith said there are funds that will go to athletic programs for youth. And the budget currently has $2 million set aside to enhance public safety facilities and help police better respond to violent crimes.

Tony Moreno, who is running as a Republican for mayor after finishing third in the Democratic primary this past spring, said the city needs to focus on funding police. He called out Councilor Ricky Burgess and the Stop the Violence Fund, a separate initiative that moved over $5 million from the police budget to an initiative that addresses violence. Moreno said the initiative isn’t working.

“We see this massive rash of violence happening across our city, specifically here in the South Side,” he said. “It is dangerous, we need to enact our law enforcement officers. We have the most highly trained officers in this country. … You need to utilize those officers."

Will Parker, who is also running for mayor as an independent, criticized council’s advertising of the meetings and said that there should have been more people at the meeting. Councilors spoke with residents after the meeting to address other concerns.

Council scheduled the meetings after criticism from residents who felt that city officials should have provided more opportunity for the public to shape the spending proposal. Officials have said there will be ample opportunity to adjust the plan in the months ahead.

The next meeting will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the West End Health Active Learning Center. Other meetings will be next Monday and Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Project and Kingsley Center, respectively.