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Politics & Government

With County Council’s Blessing, Picklesburgh Is Back

Picklesburgh crowd.jpg
Matt Nemeth
/
90.5 WESA
Vendors sell Heinz memorabilia and offer free samples of pickle flavors at Picklesburgh on Friday, July 15, 2016. The annual festival was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In another sign that the threat of COVID-19 has abated, Allegheny County Council agreed Tuesday to bring the popular “Picklesburgh” festival back to town.

The body voted unanimously to grant the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership permission to host the pickle-themed celebration on the county-owned Andy Warhol Bridge next month. The council-approved licensing agreement will last from August 18 to 23.

The event was canceled last summer to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But on Tuesday, Republican Tom Baker welcomed the event’s return.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to come together,” he said. “You don’t have to like pickles.”

First held in 2015, Picklesburgh was believed to attract at least 100,000 people by its fourth year of operation. In the past, novelties on offer have ranged from pickle beer to chocolate-covered pickles and pickled corn on the cob.

Also on Tuesday, council voted 14-1 to accept grants to fund assistance for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness, and to support the expansion of electronic monitoring of adults who are serving probation.

The $10.8 million housing grant comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the county plans to spend the money over the next decade on affordable housing, rental assistance, and non-congregate shelters such as hotel rooms.

Democrat Bethany Hallam cast the lone dissenting vote because she opposed the funding for electronic monitoring. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded the $226,000 grant to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, with the goal of curbing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the jail population. The commission had previously given the court system more than half a million dollars to ramp up its electronic monitoring program.

But Hallam said, “I can’t support expanded funding that will increase the reach of the criminal legal system into people’s lives and is not guaranteed to reduce the jail population.”

Council grew more divided Tuesday when it took up two symbolic motions.

The first, sponsored by Hallam along with fellow Democrats Anita Prizio and Liv Bennett, urged the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to include low-producing gas wells in pending methane regulations. A draft of those rules would exempt low-producing wells, which produce less than 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Research has found that these wells account for more than half of all emissions in the state.

Council voted 12-3 to pass the resolution, with the body’s three Republicans — Baker, Sam DeMarco, and Cindy Kirk — opposed.

The second non-binding motion implored Congress to act as quickly as possible to advance several pieces of legislation that, the council motion said, would promote racial equity. The resolution listed two Democrat-backed voting rights bills that have failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

The motion also urged action on the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal hate crime, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, a police reform bill that has gained some bipartisan support.

Bennett and Hallam introduced the resolution with Democrat Tom Duerr. Council voted 11-3-1 to approve it.

Democrat Bob Macey joined DeMarco and Kirk in dissenting. Baker abstained, citing a lack of knowledge about the issues in question.