Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

4 VIE FOR COUNCIL PRESIDENT POSITION [Corrected 12/04/13]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

4 VIE FOR COUNCIL PRESIDENT POSITION [Corrected 12/04/13]

Article excerpt

The selection for council president is often fraught with drama and acrimony as new alliances are brokered and old ones dissolve. And it's usually a process hashed out behind closed doors.

But Wednesday, Councilman Ricky Burgess brought the fight to lead council into the public eye, declaring that if the current president, Darlene Harris, were to lose her bid, the next president should be an African-American -- either himself or Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle.

Councilman Bruce Kraus, a longtime ally of Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, followed suit, announcing he has his "hat in the ring" and acknowledged he had been campaigning to get other council members to back him. And Ms. Harris, who has held the job for four years, affirmed her desire to keep the post.

Council, which chooses a president every two years, is set to take a vote on its new leader at the start of 2014 with two new members. Dan Gilman, chief of staff in Mr. Peduto's council office, will take his boss' former seat. Deb Gross will be sworn in next month to replace former Councilman Patrick Dowd, who resigned over the summer to take another job.

The council president has a number of administrative responsibilities, including scheduling meetings and overseeing the clerk's office and council budget office.

The president is also first in line if the mayor doesn't complete his term.

But the vote is often the best indicator of which council members form the majority coalition. And who becomes council president can signal whether the body will be supportive or combative with the mayoral administration.

Given that Mr. Peduto will take office next year, the vote is especially critical, even if the mayor-elect said through his spokeswoman that it is "not his business" who is the next council president.

Mr. Burgess, one of two African-Americans on council, read a statement at the end of Wednesday's standing committee meeting saying that council should be "prioritizing diversity in council leadership" by either retaining Ms. …

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