North Side residents will vote for a new Pittsburgh City Council representative next week. But while outgoing District 1 councilor Darlene Harris frequently butted heads with the Peduto administration, the three candidates on the ballot offer voters three very different choices when it comes to the kind of relationship their representative will have with the mayor.
“People are ready for a change where we’re going to have a relationship that’s going to be productive,” said Democrat Bobby Wilson, who ousted Harris in the primary.
Wilson is an emphysema/COPD researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and received Mayor Bill Peduto’s endorsement this spring. Wilson plans to prioritize affordable housing and push for big capital improvements in the district.
“The North Side has been left behind,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re building these neighborhoods.”
Independent candidate Chris Rosselot is also pushing for affordable housing, as well as a balanced approach to new development.
Rosselot is a community development consultant and previously worked for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Rosselot said it’s important for new development projects to create improvements that residents can feel, whether that’s employment opportunities or street beautification.
But while there are similarities between Rosselot and Wilson, Rosselot was quick to point out what he sees as an important difference – that Wilson is too cozy with the Peduto administration.
“When the time comes to maybe push back on something, I don’t have the confidence that [Wilson will] be in the position to do that,” Rosselot said. “I'll be more independent.”
Wilson believes the district will benefit from his good relationship with Peduto.
“A lot of people are concerned about 15-20 feet from their door,” Wilson said. “They want to actually see a plan so the neighborhoods are actually getting better, and having a real relationship with the current administration is going to go a long way.”
Rosselot is also critical of the parks referendum, which would raise property taxes by $50 for every $100,000 in home value. The proposal, if passed by voters next week, is expected to create some $10 million in new revenue to improve and maintain city parks.
“To add an extra burden for our citizens is what it is, an extra burden,” Rosselot said. “I just have a hard time justifying that when our largest nonprofits like UPMC aren't paying any taxes whatsoever. To ask homeowners to bear another tax ... is not right.”
Wilson wouldn’t weigh in on the initiative, saying it was for the voters to decide.
The third candidate is Malcolm Jarrett, a catering company cook who is running with the Socialist Workers Party.
“That’s what the other candidates aren’t – they’re not a member of the working class,” Jarrett said. “They want to help run this system and that’s vastly different from me. They think that the 50 or more years that the Democrats have run Pittsburgh has been good and it should continue. I say they’ve done a lousy job for working people and it shows.”
Jarrett supports amnesty for all undocumented workers and is a strong advocate for unions. But he views his campaign as a small step in a much larger revolution in which working people rise up and take over the country’s entire political system.
“We’ve got to get away from the idea that somebody gets elected and they’re going to change your life,” Jarrett said. “That has not happened ever.”