Thursday, April 9, 2009
No bones about it: Richard Weaver is the dark horse in City Council District 4.
"I know I've got an uphill climb," says Weaver, 66, a demolition inspector in the city's Bureau of Building Inspection. "Not being endorsed, not being known, is against me."
But Weaver, a native of Clarion who now lives in Brookline, isn't your typical vanity candidate. For one thing, while he has considerable first-hand knowledge of the district's problems, he doesn't pretend to have more knowledge than he really does.
At a recent candidate's forum, for example, he and the other District 4 candidates were asked whether changes to the police zones had improved public safety. It's clear what the "right" answer was -- somebody in the back row shouted out "Yes!" and murmurs of assent echoed throughout the room. But Weaver allowed that, while he sensed conditions were improving, "I don't have any statistics."
Motivated in part by the deaths of his two sons in separate incidents, Weaver left a career in sales to "do community service, which I've always enjoyed." He took a job in city zoning in 2002. This is his first run for public office.
"I like my job," he says, "and whether I win or lose, I'll be accountable to these residents, because they pay may salary. I'm not a politician, but being on council would give me a chance to serve in a larger way."
Like the other candidates, Weaver puts a priority on improving the neighborhood business districts in Carrick, Brookline, and Beechview. He cites a lack of parking as a problem: "In order to attract businesses, you have to be prepared for them," he says. In addition, he says, Brookline desperately needs a grocery store, and the whole district needs more programs for youth.
Unlike the other candidates, though, the city already pays Weaver to reckon with such challenges. For example, he's cleared the demolitions of properties owned by Bernardo Katz, whose vacant properties and broken promises have made him the bete noir of Beechview. And he knows the district's problems down to the individual block, since he's probably cited them. He can tell you, for example, about the Brookline home that people only realized was
Weaver says that the vast majority of the buildings he condemns -- between 75 and 90 percent -- are rental properties. He warmly supports the city's efforts to register landlords, and says that city staff should be "more aggressive" in pursuing violators.
"If we can police this from stage one, then we're not going to end up with a demolition down the road."
As someone who's come up through the ranks, Weaver says the city can achieve that goal without hiring more staff. "It's a matter of the people already working here being more agressive," he says. And if elected, "I'd hold the management of departments accountable. There are great people who work for the city, but there are areas that need to be tweaked too."
Weaver himself has bona fides. He touts the backing of Ron Graziano, his former boss at BBI who was pushed out during the tumultuous days of the Pat Ford regime.
Weaver is also a diplomat, who has warm words for his rivals ... especially Natalia Rudiak, whom he praises as being a "great girl, well-versed in the issues."
That diplomacy seems likely to continue should Weaver somehow pull off this election. One the one hand, he thinks Luke Ravenstahl has "matured" as mayor, and Weaver praises the mayor for hiring folks like Weaver's boss, public safety director Michael Huss. ("Some people don't like [Huss] because he's tough -- but he's doing a good job," Weaver says.) But ask Weaver who he most admires on council, and he names Ravenstahl's most frequent opponents: Bill Peduto, Bruce Kraus, Doug Shields, and Patrick Dowd.
Weaver, who is financing his own campaign, supports limits on campaign contributions: "People would be forced to do a little research on a candidate and judge the person for who he or she is."
Weaver welcomes such scrutiny. In fact, he has no chance of winning without it.
Tags: Slag Heap