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With Warwick sworn in, Pittsburgh City Council is back to full strength

Greenfield community advocate Barbara Warwick taking the oath of office in Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2022.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Greenfield community advocate Barbara Warwick taking the oath of office in Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2022.

For the first time since the summer, Pittsburgh City Council has a full body of nine members. District 5 Councilor Barb Warwick was sworn in Monday after a special election this fall.

“As we embark on this new chapter for Greenfield, Hazelwood, Glen Hazel, Squirrel Hill, Swisshelm Park, Regent Square, Lincoln Place, Hayes and New Homestead… I want you to know that my door is always open,” Warwick said during her address in council chambers. “And while I can't promise that we'll always agree or that we'll get everything all at once, what I can promise is that you will always know exactly where I stand.”

The Democrat from Greenfield won a landslide victory in a November special election to replace Corey O’Connor as the Pittsburgh City Councilor for District 5. O’Connor resigned the seat after he became Allegheny County Controller this summer. O’Connor held the council seat for 12 years.

Warwick will finish out the remainder of O’Connor’s term, which ends in 2023. She told WESA Monday that she plans to run for the seat again next year.

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She launched her campaign before O’Connor’s resignation even became official. Driven by her work as a community advocate, Warwick said that change is coming to her neighborhood quickly and that residents need to have their voices heard now.

She was galvanized by the fight over the Mon Oakland Connector, a controversial proposal to create a roadway for a shuttle-bus system between Oakland and Hazelwood. Residents strongly opposed the program as a waste of other uses for the green space. Warwick said that fight showed her a need for advocates inside city government.

Warwick said Monday that stopping the shuttle road and winning a seat on council is just the beginning.

“There's still so much to do,” she said. “We've got a grocery store to build in Hazelwood. We've got a playground to build at Greenfield School. We need a rec center for our kids and seniors in the 31st ward. And we need traffic-calming and accessible sidewalks and better public transit, so people can get to work and school and wherever they need to be safely and quickly without getting in a car.”

Warwick takes over the vacant District 5 council seat, making Pittsburgh City Council a whole body for the first time since the summer.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Warwick takes over the vacant District 5 council seat, making Pittsburgh City Council a whole body for the first time since the summer.

Warwick has already made clear some of her other stances on issues that are before council. She spoke in favor of the city launching a $10 million food justice fund in September. She’s also keen on community involvement in planning the future of the city’s Hazelwood neighborhood, where a massive mixed-use redevelopment is in the works.

“We do need to build the Hazelwood Green, but we need to do it in a way that includes the surrounding communities,” Warwick said Monday. “And ensures well-paid, family-sustaining jobs for every worker in every building, whether they have a college degree or not.”

In recent decades, the district has been led by officials elected from Squirrel Hill — either O'Connor or his late father, Bob, or the elder O'Connor's one-time aide, Doug Shields.

Though she was sworn in Monday, other Council members pointed out that Warwick has been faithfully attending council meetings over the last month, sitting in the audience.

“I think she has better attendance than any single one of us already,” District 7 Councilor Deb Gross said.

Councilor Erika Strassburger and Council president Theresa Kail-Smith also remarked that Warwick’s election adds another woman to the council body. “It’s nice to have four women on council again,” Strassburger said.

The last time there were four women on council was 2018. District 4 Councilor Natalia Rudiak served eight years before deciding not to seek re-election in 2017. She was replaced by Anthony Coghill in 2018.

During her remarks, Warwick said she has been meeting with council members, department heads and other city officials to talk about issues city-wide and in District 5. She said she was impressed by how receptive people have been so far, noting that the city was able to distribute $40,000 in community grants in the district before she took office.

She stressed that she would be a strong advocate for her diverse constituency, calling her district a “microcosm of the city as a whole.”

“We’ve got some of the wealthiest and most powerful people all the way to some of the poorest and most vulnerable,” said Warwick.

She thanked community members, activists, campaign staff, family and friends for supporting her and encouraged residents in her district to continue bringing their concerns and ideas to her.

“We know that building the Pittsburgh of the future doesn't mean anything if it ignores the voices and the needs of the people living in Pittsburgh today.”

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.