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Candidates Vie For Only Contested City Council Seat In District Hit Hard By Opioids

An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
Voters in Pittsburgh's 4th District will choose between Democrat Anthony Coghill and Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate Nov., 7, 2017.

*UPDATED  Nov. 3, 2017 at 12:32 p.m.

Pittsburgh's only contested city council race this year pits Democrat Anthony Coghill against Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate for the District 4 seat.

While their party loyalties may differ – Coghill chairs his local Democratic committee and Cibrone-Abate actively campaigned for President Donald Trump – they share many priorities.

Cibrone-Abate, of Overbrook, and Coghill, of Beechview, both said they want to see economic revitalization, improved infrastructure and services and less crime in the six south Pittsburgh neighborhoods they seek to represent.

Carrick is one of those neighborhoods, and with the most overdose deaths in the city, it’s been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis.

Coghill, who has run for the seat three times before, is promoting a plan to install surveillance cameras owned and mainted by the District Attorney’s office as a way to discourage drug activity in the area.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid problem,” Coghill said, “but there are lots of things that we can do to curb it and deter people from coming into our neighborhoods.”

While Coghill also said he could get to know people who struggle with addiction and help them find treatment, Cibrone-Abate said she has witnessed the issue up close. Her father was addicted to heroin and died at age 39. Her younger brother and sister abused the drug for 15 years before entering recovery three years ago, according to Cibrone-Abate.

“If they stayed clean for six months or a year and they relapsed, we kept giving them chance after chance after chance,” Cibrone-Abate recalled. “But what saved both of my siblings was jail, when we couldn’t spare them anymore.”

Cibrone-Abate said that tougher consequences, such as spending a month in jail, are what it takes to motivate addicts to stop using drugs.

An alternative, she said, would be to send people who overdose to rehab if they cover the cost of treatment, possibly by completing community service. She, like Coghill, also supports opening more treatment centers in her district.

In the meantime, Cibrone-Abate said she goes to the homes of people who struggle with addiction and tells them where they can get help. She notes that her family's experience lends her a degree of credibility in these situations.

On other issues, Coghill and Cibrone-Abate agree that their district needs better roads and more business activity. They also want to ensure adequate snow removal service and to increase the number of police in their district.

Coghill and Cibrone-Abate both pledged to focus less on national matters than the outgoing incumbent, Natalia Rudiak. They said Rudiak devoted too much attention to the issue of sanctuary cities. A spokesperson for Rudiak disputed this characterization, saying that the council member "has not talked about sanctuary cities, nor has she advocated on either side of this issue."

Coghill is expected to win Tuesday’s election. Democrats have held the seat in District 4 for decades.

The district includes the neighborhoods of Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Mt. Washington and Overbrook.


*This post has been updated to reflect a comment from a spokesperson for Pittsburgh City Councilmember Natalia Rudiak.