Category Archives: District 9

D-9 Voter Guide

Comet report of 4/12 Candidates Forum

Comet interview with Ricky Burgess

Comet interview with Leah Kirkland

Twanda Carlisle did not return our request for an interview. The Comet would like to apologize to all of the other candidates, to whom we did not reach out.

New YouTubage: The Park Place Blog has posted extensive video from a more recent candidates forum, featuring Judith K. Ginyard, Leah Kirkland, Ricky Burgess, and ACDC committeeman Furman Johnson speaking on behalf of Twanda Carlisle.

MSM Coverage:

Courier, Morrow 3/29: ACDC-endorsed Rachel Cooper removed from ballot

Courier, Todd 4/05: The ACDC endorses Ricky Burgess

P-G, Lord and Trib, Kerlik & Boren 4/11: Twanda Carlisle arraigned on charges of theft and conspiracy

Trib, Boren 4/19: Ricky Burgess responds to anonymous e-mails

P-G OpEd 5/01: Post-Gazette endorsement of Ricky Burgess

P-G Lord 5/08: Wide-ranging coverage of D9 contest

Trib OpEd 5/09: Tribune-Review endorsement of Randall Taylor

More Endorsements

The P-G editorial board gives incumbent Darlene Harris the nod in District One, over challengers Valerie Coleman and Robin Rosemary Miller. They cited her “decades of volunteer work” and “overarching depth of knowledge about the community and its problems.”

Editorial Comment: Fair enough.

The TRIB editorial board endorses challenger Patrick Dowd for District 7, because his opponent Len Bodack “is the epitome of the ward healer.”

Comment: What?

The TRIB also endorses Randall Taylor in the race for Council District 9 because he would be “a good point-of-order councilman who would be engaged with his constituents.”

Comment: Taylor has been frequently described in recent press accounts as “not campaigning.”

A Look At D9

Rich Lord of the P-G delves into the District 9 council race today. Money quote, care of Leah Kirkland:

You have a community that just looks like it’s in so much disarray that it’s kind of a turnoff.

That’s pretty much been the consensus, unfortunately. At times it can be uncomfortably like reading this guy: LINK.

Most of the candidates get a plug in, except Twanda Carlisle, who continues not to respond to media inquiries.

Buried way down low, Lord condescends to report on the anonymous negative e-mail campaign being waged against Ricky Burgess, and on the substance of its claims.

Shadowy anti-Burgess activity is not limited to the internet, we would like to add. Ricky Burgess for City Council yard signs have recently gone missing — wait for it, wait for it — from the home of Burgess’s own deputy campaign manager.

Tuesday Bullet Points

Anita Srikameswaran of the P-G gets to announce that yes, Virginia, there is a smoking ban. James G. Mitchell of Mitchell’s Restaurant goes into history-onics:

“We faced the Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Great Flood and now we’re facing another possible threat to the survival of the oldest restaurant in Pittsburgh.”

The new most popular resource on the blurghsophere can be found HERE.


The P-G’s Mark Belko previews the showdown at the Planning Commission today, and reveals what the Steelers may be getting at:

He added that if some accommodation can’t be reached, one solution could be to close the casino during major events while a more in-depth traffic study is done. The science center now closes during Steelers game days.


The P-G editorial board endorses Ricky Burgess in District 9, calling him “head and shoulders above the rest of the field” because of his attention to our “massive debt and pension obligations.”

Meanwhile, the TRIB editorial board mercilessly cheers on the Port Authortity cutbacks.

Stonewall Democrat Endorsements

District 3: Kraus
District 7: Dowd
Controller: Lamb
County Exec: Swartz

This may not be an exhaustive slate. For example, Ricky Burgess appeared as of last night to have narrowly won the endorsement for District 9. This would have been a bit of a shock, as the Reverend is first and foremost a Reverend, and was reportedly frank and honest with the GLBT group. However, there has since been some confusion; there will soon be a re-vote for District 9.

The selection of Rick Swartz will shock no one, as Dan Onorato not only declined to answer four of their questions, but somehow deleted them from the questionnaire. The questions were about gay marriage, sex education, and abortion. In light of a widely speculated gubernatorial run by Onorato in 2010, the Comet must classify this as An Issue.

Luke Ravenstahl did not return the questionnaire at all, although this did not result in an endorsement for the Pirogi.

Review: Candidate Forum in D9

The controller candidates served as the opening act, and maverick Mike Dawida was both the most dramatic (he quoted the Bible and Dr. King), and the most humorous (his suggestion that Shields, being an excellent City Council president, should remain that way). But he didn’t seem to make a strong connection.

Michael Lamb, conversely, seemed to go out of his way not to pander — he referenced Dickens novels, and pushed a more aggressive tax-collection regime. He returned to the theme “We’re all proud of our city, but we’re not proud of our local government,” burnishing his reformist credentials.

On minority hiring, Tony Pokora made the news of the night by promising outright to hire an African-American for deputy controller; he says he already has three good candidates in mind.

We discovered that Doug Shields used to milk cows, and more importantly, that he’s against the $52 occupation tax because “regressive taxes hurt poor people.” He got some applause, but on the whole failed to mesmerize this time around.

DaMon Macklin was late to arrive, but he did get to stress that qualifications matter (is he the only candidate with a degree in finance?), and also the importance of freeing up city contracts for minority-owned companies.


Patrick Dowd visited briefly (we suppose in the event that Len Bodack got lost in Larimer, and had to stop to ask directions). He advocated reinvesting in aging homes instead of boarding them up and tearing them down. He also advocated a ballot referendum on term limits for city council positions.


Incumbent councilperson Twanda Carlisle stood proudly before the cameras to repeatedly demand more accountability in city government, because “we have to account for every dollar!” Miraculously, no one in the room was seen to crack a smirk. No questions and no candidates would touch even obliquely upon her legal woes.

The key issues were gun violence, drug dealing, economic opportunity, and transportation cuts. The Comet underscores that if the voters of D9 deem Carlisle the most capable leader on these issues, then rumors of corruption and incompetence will not matter one whit.

She was obviously the most seasoned and talented political speaker on the panel. She called out Ed Rendell for breaking promises on public transportation, which seemed to resonate well. However, there was a very conspicuous “Twanda Table” that would chime in with “Mmmhmm!” and “Tell it, sister!” to say nothing of standing ovations; some in the audience seemed resentful of the disruption.

Endorsed candidate Ricky Burgess came across as soft-spoken and moderate; this obviously served him well among the party committee, but it may not be what the rank and file is looking for. (The benediction at the event’s conclusion featured the plea “We don’t need a Solomon, we need a David!”) Burgess stressed recovery programs for drug abusers, job training, and economic development.

Leah Kirkland spoke with both eloquence and emotion, and at times anger. “The 9th Council District has lost its way,” she said, and “We are lacking morals within the homes,” and “Parents are burying their children.” She said the problem with D9 is “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” and that “We have churches and nonprofits on every corner; if they were doing their jobs, there wouldn’t be eight people in this race!” She came down pretty hard on do-nothing nonprofits.

Eric Smith was notable for casting the problem not as wayward youth, but of “organized crime,” which when you think about it is really a revelation.

The most interesting candidate, in our humble opinion, was David Adams — a Republican with a military background who calls himself a progressive and speaks comfortably about Black Power. He urged his district not to remain “beggars,” and spoke of a crime prevention plan for Pennsylvania for which Pittsburgh would be a model. He also took some potshots at the Allegheny Conference.

With the exception of Adams, no candidate spoke of improved policing. Instead, there was much positive talk about the “One Hood” coalition, whose community and religious leaders patrol their own neighborhoods. Similarly, there was little talk of cooperating with government in regards to public transportation, but rather of boycotting the Port Authority and beefing up jitney service in the interim.

All in all, we came away with an impression of a far more radical and activist District 9, although this might have been a reflection of who chose to attend this particular event.

From the Courier

Christian Morrow gets in-depth with the Oak Hill Development compromise.

Apparently, the Black Political Empowerment Project put the heat on Mayor Ravenstahl, and in turn the Mayor stuck it to the University of Pittsburgh.

“It was an exhausting, up-hill battle, but after 18 months we finally struck a deal and it worked out well for us,” said Resident Council President Eloise McDonald. “Pitt got Robinson Court, but we got everything else. The residents are very happy.”

Note to our friends: Robinson Court, apparently, will involve a soccer field!!

Morrow also gives a behind-the-scenes account of Rachel “Winnie” Cooper’s removal from the District 9 ballot.

Deborah M. Todd covers the 3rd Annual African American convention, at which Dan Onorato gave an introduction, and casino owner Don Barden gave the keynote address.

Money quote from K. Chase Patterson: “It was a fantastic event, but not all young people are down for galas.”

Interview: Leah Kirkland

“With respect for the process … and with respect for the headquarters … and with respect for Jim Burn …”

Leah Kirkland did not care for the decision to open the District 9 party endorsement up to a second vote. The first vote found her in second place, to a disqualified candidate. She saw the ruling as a sharp break with precedent.

“Not only that, but it’s very hurtful to the candidates — we’re all back to square one.” Candidates for council had been courting the same pool of committee members and ward chairs since January; the election is fast approaching. She was impatient to focus on the community at large.

Kirkland met us late at night; she was wearing a tracksuit and a Leah Kirkland for City Council tee-shirt.

The following afternoon, she would once again finish second, this time to Ricky Burgess — but not by much, and well ahead of incumbent Twanda Carlisle.


The District 9 of Leah Kirkland isn’t described by wards — or even neighborhoods. She goes by streets. Derry figures prominently, as does Lincoln.

“I remember back when kids would play in the street …” she stops herself and smiles sweetly. “Yes, I’m only 25. But I remember kids playing, and adults watching over them, out on the porches.”

She recalls many aunties and uncles keeping an informal, effective Neighborhood Watch. She couldn’t quite define what happened, but she wants to use the office of city councilwoman to bring it back.

“The last thing we need are new empty community centers” she insists. “We have enough of those.” She describes a very service-oriented office, that connects and harnesses existing community assets.

For example, Kirkland has been active with a young preservationist society (unaffiliated with Preservation Pittsburgh) that is reclaiming on Apple St. what it describes as the First Negro Opera House in the country. She also helped to bring a Family Dollar store to a problem street corner, and continues to crusade against nuisance bars.

She says her community is tired of broken promises and pipe dreams; there’s been no development in her community, she says, in 20 years. Economic development tops her list of priorities along with senior citizens, children and youth, and crime prevention.

When asked about policing, and the use of the BEAR, she said “It leaves a sweet and sour taste in my mouth.” She readily concedes that there is a war in the streets, but “we can’t come in like we’re in Iraq. You’re going to get that defense mechanism, you don’t get that trust.”

“You don’t see them on foot patrol” she says of the police department. “You don’t see that friendliness. There’s a lack of a relationship.”

When asked about city finances, she said there is certainly no “one cure”, but we must get more efficient, and we must make sure more money is coming in than going out. She favors some kind of system for those who simply work in Pittsburgh, and enjoy its many services, to make contributions.

So, you mean a commuter tax? “Yes.”

She says she has nothing against Carlisle, whom she describes as “a wonderful person,” but she politely demurred when asked about Burgess.

Showdown in District 9

We were going to hustle to get one more Interview up, before the big vote tomorrow, in the event that anyone is interested. But we didn’t. It’ll be up soon.

UPDATE: Burgess 39, Kirkland 32, Carlisle 21, Taylor 3

Aside from that, have a great weekend.

Interview: Ricky Burgess

Two of his opponents from a formerly crowded field are now working on his own campaign. He says he has contributions totalling $20,000 in the bank, which is real money for a city council race. And this Saturday, the Democratic Committee of District 9 will meet once again to decide the party’s official endorsement.

We asked Ricky Burgess about his experiences with the ACDC. “I have to commend the committee for putting the endorsement up to a vote once again” he said. After the original choice was disqualified, they could easily have anointed Leah Kirkland, the second-place vote-getter.

When asked what he hopes to accomplish on City Council, Burgess was forthright in aiming to win assets for his home district. He says a “layman’s glance” at the capital budget shows District 9 — including Homewood, Brushton, Lincoln-Lamirer, and parts of Friendship and Point Breeze — is grossly underrepresented.

This can be taken as egregious; minority districts enable the city to get Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs), either directly or indirectly, but then the city turns around and spreads the assets throughout its entirety.

We spoke much about poverty, violence, and relations with law enforcement. He has a four-point model for combating these problems — prevention, intervention, prosecution, and reintegration — and sees a special role for training and subsidized employment.

Burgess is windy and long-spoken like the community college professor and preacher that he is. When we touch a nerve, only a little eye-twitch clues us in. For example, when asked about the B.E.A.R., he chose his words very carefully. “We have to be careful we don’t traumatize the community.” he said.

He desperately seems to not to want to go negative. He says his neighborhoods could be helped a lot simply with “competent leadership and capable management.”

Burgess spoke much about consensus-building, and having the city respect the community consensus on issues of land-use and development. We asked, basically, how hard is it to reach that consensus? What if it never seems to materialize?

We got a little eye-twitch. A lifelong member of various community groups, both secular and spiritual, he just doesn’t see the difficulty the same way we do.

He goes so far as to promise a comprehensive, actionable “Capacity Plan” for public safety and economic development, within his first 100 days in office.

A fan of the burghoshere, Ricky Burgess says he regularly enjoys “The Carboholic Ball,” among others.