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Activist Randall Taylor Becomes Second Candidate To Seek City Council Seat Held By Ricky Burgess

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh City Council candidate Randall Taylor addresses a crowd protesting the destruction of the now-demolished Penn Plaza apartment complex on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.

There are now two declared candidates in the race to represent Pittsburgh’s 9th city council district in the East End. Former Pittsburgh Public school board member Randall Taylor announced this week that he’ll run for the Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary. He joins activist and police shooting survivor Leon Ford in seeking the party's nod.

Taylor once lived in Penn Plaza in East Liberty, but the apartment complex was demolished in 2017. Taylor was active in protesting the demolition, which was supposed to make way for new retail and office space. Taylor said Pittsburgh officials don’t do enough to rein in developers.

“They’ve been allowed to run around the city and do basically whatever they want to do wherever they want to do [it],” Taylor added. “And then the collateral damage: ‘Well, we’ll just deal with that, you know, after.’”

Taylor attributes higher rent and property taxes in the East End district to new development. He said the city should use at least a quarter of its Housing Opportunity Fund to build affordable homes.

The predominantly African-American 9th district includes all or part of East Hills, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, and Point Breeze North. Democrat Ricky Burgess has represented the district in city council since 2008.

Taylor said Burgess has not done enough to prevent long-time residents from losing their homes to development.

“What happened at Penn Plaza is the perfect example of where our government does not put the people first,” Taylor said. “So, councilman Burgess is a part of that culture, and that’s a part of culture that must change.”

Burgess has not said whether he will seek reelection this year. He did not return a request for comment on Taylor’s candidacy.

Taylor said his top priority is to get Burgess out of office. In the past, however, crowded fields have enabled the incumbent win re-election without earning a majority of the vote. In 2015, Burgess prevailed by winning a plurality of votes against three challengers. He also won with a plurality of the vote in 2011, when he had two challengers.

He beat the 50-percent threshold by less than one percent in 2007, when seven candidates sought the seat.

Taylor acknowledged that some have expressed concern that a split field could break in Burgess’ favor again. He said he plans to discuss the issue privately with other challengers. The candidate seemed open to unifying behind a single challenger.

Taylor said if challengers agree that Burgess benefits from a split field of opponents, “Then you should do what’s best for the district out there. And I intend to be one of those people who are going to put these people first and put this district first.”

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at
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