Anthony Coghill faces Green Party challenger in district 4 council race
In Pittsburgh's only contested city council race this fall, voters have a choice between an incumbent who says things are improving in the community, and a Green Party challenger who says change needs to come more quickly.
District 4 Councilor Anthony Coghill said that problems in the district have been addressed in his first term, but still has a ways to go. He said the top priority in the district — which includes South Hills city neighborhoods like Beechview, Brookline, Overbrook, and Carrick — is still infrastructure.
"Roads still need paving, buildings are abandoned," he said. "I ran on that as a platform. I'm very proud of all the infrastructure work we've gotten done. However, I still feel like we've got a long way to go."
Coghill originally ran on a "back to basics" platform, promising to emphasize safe neighborhoods, sustainable infrastructure, clean water, and equal distribution of residents' tax dollars.
Coghill, who has a background in construction, said he approaches the council seat like he does his roofing company.
"I notice and see things that need addressing, especially infrastructurally, and we address them," he said. "My biggest improvements have been rebuilding and getting rid of the decay. I always say, 'it's not what you see but what you don't see.' And in many instances buildings and homes that I've had taken down, I'll continue to advocate for [tearing down decay]."
Coghill's challenger is 28-year-old Green Party candidate Connor Mulvaney. Mulvaney said a bigger focus should go into housing in District 4.
"We've had people being pushed out. Pittsburgh has a reputation for ... gentrifying," he said. "This district especially we need to make sure that people who call Pittsburgh home continue to call Pittsburgh home. And protect renters and encourage people to be able to buy homes."
Mulvaney said he has heard from residents who have lots of concerns about infrastructure that aren't being addressed.
"People need a listener, but they also need someone who is going to do something about what they hear," he said.
One concern that gets amplified in the district during this time of year is snow plowing. Last year during Christmas, a snow storm caused some residents to be stuck in their homes, or unable to drive.
Coghill said earlier this year that he is "confident but not overly confident" that the city would be prepared for upcoming snowfalls. One reason he said is because the district still needs its own public works facility, which is being built on Bausman Street in Knoxville. Coghill has complained in the past that snow plows had to come from other parts of the city to treat his district. Having the new facility to provide trucks with salt and other support would cut down on that travel time.
"I can't say it has improved yet, but it is improving," he said. "The first thing I did as councilor was argue that I need the department works facility back in my district."
Coghill said the building opening will be a "crowning achievement" for him.
"It's a difficult issue, especially in my district," he said. "We have a regulated system that I'm changing. It would decide the distribution of salt, which is absurd to me. We had trucks breaking down. We've hired 50 more employees through the ARP funds."
Mulvaney said the issue of snowplowing is "a lot more simple than those in power would have you believe." Echoing criticisms lodged against Coghill by his challenger in the Democratic primary, Bethani Cameron, Mulvaney said plow trick drivers should be paid more.
Mulvaney noted that Coghill chairs council's public works committee, and it is "inexcusable" for residents in the district to have trouble with plowing.
"There's very clearly, I think, a staffing and morale, and motivational issue," Mulvaney said. "We can blame removal of a salt dome, algorithms ... it's a revolving door of excuses down here."
But Coghill said he has stuck true to his promise of "back to basics."
"My community told me what they wanted, I followed the need, and no one fights harder than me for them to get the services that they want."