There has been a bit of a circus-like atmosphere surrounding this year’s mayoral primary election, which pits long-time rivals Mayor Bill Peduto and Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris against each other, along with local activist Rev. John Welch. But beyond the smoke and mirrors, there are major issues at the center of this race, and while the candidates agree on some things, they disagree on the best way for Pittsburgh to be a “city for all.”
Harris has represented District 1 on Pittsburgh City Council for a decade and served as council president from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, she served on the school board of the Pittsburgh Public School District from 1995 to 2003. She founded the North Side Leadership Conference and the North Side Public Safety Council.
Harris says she wouldn’t micromanage the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. She says morale on the force is low and a lot of officers are leaving the city, but she supports the police residency requirement. She doesn’t support marijuana decriminalization.
Harris is a vocal opponent of bike lanes. For several years, she has said they are a waste of the city’s resources. She says they hurt small-business owners by reducing available parking. And she also says they’ve decreased accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as hindering emergency vehicles.
Harris believes residents shouldn’t be forced out of their neighborhoods due to rising rents and housing prices. She says she wouldn’t make deals with developers looking to build market-rate housing. And Harris says the city’s land bank, which she voted against, hasn’t been successful.
Friends and Supporter
Harris has not publicized any endorsement in this race. She received 245 votes for the Allegheny County Democratic endorsement, but was beaten by Peduto.
Peduto is serving his first term as Pittsburgh mayor. He represented District 8 on Pittsburgh City Council from 2002 to 2014, during which time he was involved in the $2 billion of redevelopment in the East End. Prior to that, Peduto worked as chief of staff for his District 8 predecessor Dan Cohen.
Peduto touts the hiring of former Police Chief Cameron McLay, who was committed to improving community-police relations. He says the number of cases reviewed by the Citizens Police Review Board has gone down during his tenure. He also supports the police residency requirement and marijuana decriminalization.
Peduto is a vocal supporter of bike lanes and says they improve safety for those who can’t afford a car or those who don’t want to own one. He also emphasizes that the money the city spends on bike lanes is one-tenth of one percent of the city’s budget.
Peduto says the city is addressing the need for affordable housing with a low-income tax credit that allows the city to build hundreds of affordable-housing units every year. He also touts the affordable-housing trust fund and land bank, which are still being developed, as future initiatives that will increase affordable housing. And he cites the city’s work to relocate displaced Penn Plaza residents.
Friends and Supporters
Endorsed by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Planned Parenthood, the Allegheny County Central Labor Council and Steel City Stonewall Democrats.
For 22 years, Welch worked in computer technology and information systems. In 1999, he became the pastor of Bidwell Presbyterian Church. He is currently the vice president for student services and community engagement, and dean of students at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Welch also served as president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network for six years.
Welch says the key to improving community-police relations is to increase diversity on the force. He also helped the city construct its unbiased policing policy. He supports the police residency requirement and marijuana decriminalization.
Welch has been critical of bike lanes, saying the funds could be devoted to what he sees as more pressing issues like addressing the lead levels in the city’s water. But he also says Pittsburgh’s bike lanes aren’t always safe for cyclists and believes the city should re-evaluate where bike lanes are located and how they connect to the city’s trailways.
Welch supports mandatory inclusionary zoning, which would require a percentage of new construction to be affordable housing. He says the city hasn’t made affordable housing a priority or taken precautions to address the crisis low-income residents currently face. He also says raising wages is key to making sure residents can afford housing.
Friends and Supporters
Welch’s website features several testimonial endorsements from members of local religious organizations.