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Politics & Government

2015 City Council Preview: Burgess, O'Connor, Kail-Smith

This is the first in a three-part series looking ahead to the 2015 priorities with members of Pittsburgh City Council.Most members of City Council are interested in issues around development, but three members in particular — Ricky Burgess, Corey O’Connor and Theresa Kail-Smith — have important development projects they’re hoping to make great strides on in 2015.

Councilman Ricky Burgess

District 9: Stanton Heights, Garfield, East Liberty, Larimer, Point Breeze, Homewood, East Hills, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar

Development: Burgess said he wants to see continued economic development in some of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods in 2015. He said he’ll be heavily involved as the Housing Authority begins to spend the $30 million grant it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for redevelopment in Larimer.

“I will be overseeing and continue to cheerlead for the Larimer development, but I’m hoping to expand the Larimer development into Homewood. We’ve done Garfield, we’ve done Larimer, now it’s time to focus on Homewood and rebuild that historic community.”

Police Community Relations: Nearly every member of City Council cited police community relations as a major priority for 2015, but Burgess has been pressing the issue for years. He said he has confidence in Police Chief Cameron McLay and looks forward to implementing more community-oriented policing initiatives.

“That means not just doing what is legal, but doing what is right and just, so the people in the community view (the police) as a legitimate force, instead of viewing them as an occupying force,” Burgess said.

Councilman Corey O’Connor

District 5: Greenfield, Glen Hazel, Hays, Hazelwood, Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Swisshelm Park, Schenley Park, Frick Park

Development: It’s been more than a year since City Council unanimously approved tax increment financing for a development on the former LTV coke works site in Hazelwood. O’Connor said the 178-acre project along Second Avenue will likely generate $1 billion in economic activity during the construction phase.

“It’s going to create thousands upon thousands of jobs and new residents into the city of Pittsburgh," O’Connor said. "Not only just new residents, but new headquarters for large companies. That’s the benefit to this site, which is why we want to continue to see it succeed and move forward as quickly as we possibly can.”

Quality of Life: O’Connor is chair of the Parks & Recreation committee, and said he’ll continue to advocate for improvements to the city’s parks and trail systems. Additionally, he wants to see the city step up its efforts to hire people with disabilities.

“I know the county has done an assessment on it and now we’re working … to continue to push and strive to get a higher percentage hired in the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "That’s a quality of life issue that we’re going to constantly talk about in Pittsburgh.”

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith

District 2: Fairywood, Windgap, Sheraden, Chartiers City, Westwood, South Shore, West End, Ridgemont, Banksville, Crafton Heights, Duquesne Heights, East Carnegie, Elliott, Esplen, Mt. Washington, Oakwood

Development: West End neighborhoods are finally getting their own community development corporation, called the West End Alliance. Kail-Smith said a priority for 2015 will be making sure proposed development projects come to fruition, including a Family Dollar and farmer’s market in Sheraden and the repurposing of shuttered school buildings throughout the district.

“There’s a store in Sheraden that we’ve been working on for quite some time, we’d like to see that happen," she said. "There’s some warehouses in Fairywood that are supposed to open, we’d like to see those happen. And we’d like to continue the conversations about Parkway Center Mall and what needs to happen there.”

Quality of Life: Kail-Smith is part of the newly formed Council Women’s Caucus, and said they’ll continue to focus on quality of life issues in 2015, which means looking out for some of Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable residents.

“In our district, we do a grass cutting program that’s free to seniors, veterans and disabled folks," she said. "We’d like to expand on those kinds of programs citywide, because I think there’s a lot of need across the city for those, even if it’s on a volunteer basis.”