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Politics & Government
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

County Councilman Proposes Independent, 3rd Party Representation

When Allegheny County’s Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1999, it established a council comprised of 13 members elected by districts and two at-large members: one Democrat and one Republican.

Now, Republican County Councilman Edward Kress of Shaler wants to increase the number of at-large members to three, to account for citizens who might not affiliate with either of the main parties.

“I thought it only fair to add a seat to independents and those wishing not to be affiliated with any major party, because I thought that, hey since two seats are dedicated, one to a Republican, one to a Democrat, why not have a seat for an independent?” Kress said.

The proposal would allow county residents to vote this fall to amend the Home Rule Charter to add another councilman, according to Kress.

“We’re trying to improve and reform this government, and give a voice to people who traditionally have been shut out of making decisions in Allegheny County and across America, and that is independents,” he said.

If enacted, the ordinance would be the first of its kind, according to Kress.

“I mean, we can make history here,” he said. “I am not aware of any seat reserved for an independent or third party member anywhere in the United States of America. So I want to be unique and historic here by adding a seat.”

He said the number of independents in the county has increased over the last decade.

“In 2005, there was 90,500 people who were registered as independent or unaffiliated with any major political party,” he said. “Today, there’s 112,737 people registered that way. That’s a 20% increase in the last 10 years.”

Kress first introduced the bill in 2011, but it was never brought up for a vote. The reintroduction comes the same year the Government Review Commission, which convenes every 10 years, makes its recommendations on how to improve the county charter.

“Why not give government a seat for a person who normally hasn’t had representation in this country?” Kress said. “Everyone talks about diversity, what about diversity of registration for voters and parties?”

Kress said many clarifications must still be added to the proposition, and he is open to any input his fellow lawmakers or residents of Allegheny County have to offer.

The council has referred the bill to committee.