Civility reigns at debate for District 8 City Council seat

Sun, 2018-01-28

How civil was a Sun­day de­bate be­tween the four can­di­dates for Pitts­burgh City Coun­cil in a March 6 spe­cial elec­tion to re­place Dis­trict 8’s Dan Gil­man? Civil enough that even the Re­pub­li­can hope­ful didn’t come to ar­gue.

The can­di­dates largely echoed each other’s con­cerns about is­sues like snow re­moval and the pres­ence of lead pipes in the city’s aging wa­ter sys­tem. Mostly, the au­di­ence of over 200 at Chatham Univer­sity’s Eddy Theater heard dif­fer­ences of style and tone — es­pe­cially over how to keep the city af­ford­able even as it grows.

Res­tau­rant owner Sonja Finn, the Dem­o­crat in the race, sounded the most pop­u­list note.

“We are fo­cus­ing on build­ing the city as a play­ground for rich, young pro­fes­sion­als,” she said.

To com­bat dis­place­ment, she backed fur­ther pro­tec­tions for rent­ers and some form of rent con­trol — though she later agreed that state law pre­cludes im­pos­ing such a pol­icy.

Ms. Finn also stressed her cre­den­tials as an in­de­pen­dent.

“Are you send­ing your rep­re­sen­ta­tive to city hall, or are you let­ting the mayor send his rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Dis­trict 8?” she asked in her clos­ing re­marks.

The ques­tion drew mur­murs. Mayor Bill Peduto is back­ing Erika Strass­burger in the race, as is Mr. Gil­man, who left the seat to be Mr. Peduto’s top aide.

Inde­pen­dent can­di­date Mar­tin Healey, a busi­ness­man who has been ac­tive in LGBT causes, spoke force­fully, if vaguely, for causes like mass tran­sit. And he ex­pressed con­cern that the city did not re­ceive enough fi­nan­cial sup­port from sub­ur­ban com­mut­ers who rely on its ser­vices.