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Facilitator, Liaison, Listener: How Candidate Leon Ford Wants To Reimagine Himself And District 9

Megan Harris
City Council Candidate Leon Ford poses outside of the WESA Studios.


After building a reputation as a well-known activist in Pittsburgh, Leon Ford is ready to take what he considers the next step: running for office.

Ford, now 25, was critically wounded by a Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop nearly six years ago. Since then, he’s traveled the country holding speaking events and participating in demonstrations like protests this summer for slain teenager Antwon Rose.

He announced his candidacy for City Council District 9 in October. Incumbent Rev. Ricky Burgess has represented the district, including neighborhoods like Homewood, East Liberty and Garfield, for nearly 12 years; he has not officially declared his intent to run again. Ford says Burgess can be difficult to talk to.

“I’m not saying that I know it all. I’m not saying that I have all the answers. I’m not saying I have all of the solutions,” he says. “But I’m a listener, because I know that the residents of District 9 and the residents of Pittsburgh – they know what they need.”

Ford is hosting a “listening tour” across District 9 to get a better sense of the issues his would-be constituents care about most. So far, Ford says affordable housing, youth engagement and curbing violent crime top their lists.

Credit Andy Kubis / The Allegheny Front
Stained glass windows overlook the US Steel Clairton Coke Works, one of the largest sources of air pollution in Pennsylvania.

Later in the program, a security officer at Pittsburgh Brashear High School is going above and beyond her job title. Hear Nikkia Ingram, founder of Cultivating Resilient Youth, talk about how her informal mentoring sessions during lunch breaks and weekends have grown into a nonprofit.  

In the third and final collection from The Allegheny Front, hear about an Environmental Protection Agency program trains volunteers to become certified emissions observers. These smoke readers can identify differences between a plume of steam and a plume of smoke.

Kara Holsopple talks to Nicholas Muller, environmental economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, whose research found that air pollution contributes to the widening gap between Pittsburgh’s haves and have-nots. Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett also connects the dots between pollution, equity and health.

And Abby Goldstein, general manager of WYEP, talks to WESA’s Megan Harris about the Concert for the Tree of Life. The star-studded benefit takes place Tuesday at Stage AE. All proceeds benefit survivors of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life in October.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program, guest hosted today by Megan Harris. Tune in most other weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
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