City Council Hears From Experts On How To Address Racial Inequality

Dec 5, 2019

Emotions ran high at times as Pittsburgh City Council on Thursday held a post-agenda meeting on proposed legislation to acknowledge and address racial inequalities in the city.

Members of Pittsburgh City Council proposed three resolutions, one would recognize racism as a public health crisis. Another would create an All-In Cities Leadership Forum, where council would partner with the mayor's office and other community organizations, including the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition, to oversee the implementation of the group's recommendations. They also want council to form an All-In Cities investment fund that would financially support the group’s future policy recommendations.

This legislation was introduced months after the city's Gender Equity Commission report came out and showed significant inequality for black women in Pittsburgh. It was co-sponsored by councilors Ricky Burgess, Daniel Lavelle and Bruce Kraus. Burgess and Lavelle are the only black members on council. 

During the post-agenda meeting, LuAnn Brink with the Allegheny County Health Department provided more information illustrating the racial disparity in Pittsburgh. When it comes to poverty, Brink said that 45 percent of black children live in poverty compared to 8.7 percent of white children. 

Councilor Deb Gross said the number was overwhelming. 

"We need to do better," she said. "Let us change what we're doing to get different outcomes." 

She also said she wants the city to work on the cost burden of childcare for African American families. 

Councilor Daniel Lavelle said council would take into consideration some of the recommendations made by the speakers, including Dara Mendez, who made eight suggestions for the council to improve the proposed legislation, including that the black community be part of the forum. 

"A council of citizens from specific communities most impacted should be involved in co-lead all processes from beginning to end," Mendez said. 

"Absolutely we will do it with you, not for you," Lavelle said, referring to her suggestion that leaders reach out to the community on what their needs are, rather than passing policy without involving them. "Your point was heard." 

The city will also hold a public hearing Thursday evening at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District, where residents can weigh in on their own experiences of racial inequality in the city of Pittsburgh.