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Ricky Burgess Announces Re-Election Bid In Pittsburgh City Council District 9

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess made it official Thursday, announcing that he is running for a fourth term in office this year.

“I believe my work's not done. I think there's more work to do,” he told 90.5 WESA's The Confluence on Thursday. "And so, I look forward to working with community organizations and residents to give them the power to rebuild and restore their communities."

Listen to Rev. Ricky Burgess' full interview with The Confluence here.

Burgess had previously kept quiet about his intentions, though he’s been widely expected to run. His campaign finance committee had $7,540.20 as of the end of 2018, a year in which he raised no money but spent more than $4,900.

Burgess was first elected to the office in 2007, after a primary battle in which he faced seven other rivals. He was reelected in 2011 and 2015, facing split opposition that secured his victory even though he failed to win an outright majority.

The 2019 race may prove to have similar dynamics. Two rivals – police-shooting victim and activist Leon Ford, and former Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Randall Taylor – have already declared their candidacy. Others may also jump into the race.

Burgess largely declined to comment on his opponents Thursday. 

"I just focus on trying to get every voter and every vote," he told The Confluence. "And I work to, in terms of campaigning, I simply take my message directly to the voters. And hopefully, my record speaks for itself, and I look forward to continue to work with them if it's their choice. I'm a servant."

The 9th District includes Homewood and neighborhoods in the eastern portion of the city, including all or parts of East Hills, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, and Point Breeze North. Many of its communities are mostly black, and include some of the city’s most concentrated areas of poverty.

Burgess came to politics late in his career. For more than three decades he has been the pastor of Homewood's Nazarene Baptist Church, and he's also taught at Community College of Allegheny County. 

During his time on council, Burgess has pushed for affordable-housing initiatives, and he serves on the city Housing Authority. On Thursday, he predicted that economic development will spread to the north and east from East Liberty, Larimer, and North Point Breeze. That would add to the need for affordable housing in the area, he said. 

"But progress is being made," he added. "And if we work together smartly, we can rebuild communities." He said every resident deserves "clean, decent affordable housing, housing they can afford. Everyone deserves a job. Everyone deserves to be safe."

Burgess has also promoted violence-prevention efforts, joining with a recent bid to add a “Stop the Violence” coordinator to the city police bureau. He has at times been at odds with police, as with a 2013 referendum effort to maintain a requirement that police live in the city. The state Supreme Court later set aside the city’s residency requirement.

A full interview with Burgess will air on The Confluence Friday morning at 9 a.m. 

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.