Two days after a shooting in Homewood drew a SWAT team to the neighborhood's streets, District 9 Pittsburgh City Council candidate Judith Ginyard drew a standing ovation at an election forum for her criticism of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and police brutality.
"When there's an incident of police violence, we have to stand up and make sure we say, 'We're not behind you police officer,'" Ginyard said. "I don't care if you're an elected official or not. Wrong is wrong and right is right. We don't have people standing up in our legislative branches."
But at the end of the forum, held April 16, support for Ginyard shifted. During the candidate's closing statement, a woman interrupted from the crowd. Her inaudible remarks eventually drew Ginyard into the audience, where a shouting match ensued and other audience members closed in to physically restrain the two women.
From left: Andre Young, Judith Ginyard, Twanda Carlisle, Ricky Burgess
Until then, Ginyard, a decades-long community-development activist, had been the star of the event, eliciting the most applause from the audience. The four candidates for District 9 — Ginyard, entrepreneur Andre Young, former city councilor Twanda Carlisle and incumbent councilor Rev. Ricky Burgess — differed only slightly in their solutions for addressing the problems plaguing the district's neighborhoods.
Priorities for the district — which encompasses East Liberty, Garfield, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln, Lemington, Belmar, Friendship, East Hills and Point Breeze — are well known: increase residential and commercial development; improve community and police relationships; decrease violence; and raise employment.
What set Ginyard apart at the forum was her history working to address those priorities. As a workforce development coordinator for the Community Empowerment Association in Homewood, she has experience helping people find jobs. And as a real-estate developer, she's helped build new houses on vacant land.
"We have construction workers, we have construction companies in our community. We have vacant and abandoned property, " said Ginyard. "We don't have to wait for a developer to come — we can do this ourselves."
Burgess also demonstrated a strong record in the areas of housing and employment. He claimed to be responsible for the largest investment the district has seen in 50 years, referring to the 400-home Larimer development being supported by a $30 million federal grant. He also said his tenure has seen the highest rates of minority participation in contracts.
"We've had some of the largest development opportunities in the history of this council district," said Burgess. "We're looking forward to continuing that development. This is just the beginning. Our community is about to be rebuilt."
Carlisle also cited her record on council. During her tenure, she spearheaded a development in Garfield and ensured a minority developer worked on the project. However, Carlisle's time on council was more infamously marked by her troubles: An indictment and conviction for the misappropriation of pubic money while a councilor
, and her subsequent resignation. In her closing statement, Carlisle told the crowd: “I’m asking you for an opportunity to serve you once again. I’m asking you to go into your heart and look in the mirror, and ask yourself if you’ve ever made a mistake.” There is, however, an outstanding question of whether Carlisle will be able to serve if elected.
Young said he'd be an advocate for home-ownership, and that he has employed more than 200 employees through his various businesses.
In the area of public safety, Burgess cited the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime and Shotspotter technology, two pieces of legislation he introduced on council that have since been implemented. He also touted efforts to get cameras in police cars and on police officers.
Ginyard criticized these initiatives saying they haven't produced results.
"[PIRC] didn't save one life. It didn't stop one crime," Ginyard said. "And the cameras, how are you going to have police cameras in every car and on everybody, but [officers] aren't getting reprimanded for not turning them on."
All of the candidates said they would advocate for more diversity on the police force.
The forum was hosted at the Carnegie Library, in Homewood, by the organization African Americans for Good Government.