Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Civility Predominates at Debate for District 8 City Council Seat Candidates Show Different Styles, Tone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Civility Predominates at Debate for District 8 City Council Seat Candidates Show Different Styles, Tone

Article excerpt

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 such as snow removal and the presence of lead pipes in the city's aging water system. Mostly, the audience of more than 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.

"How is it helping us when we have a huge cost to cover here?" he asked.

Mr. Healey also expressed misgivings about Mr. Peduto's recent move to create a nominating committee to select board members for the troubled Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Supporters say that approach will depoliticize the agency, but Mr. Healey said, "All the sudden, city council has nothing to say about who is on the authority."

Rennick Remley, a Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre executive, may have had the toughest sell: He was, after all, the Republican at an event hosted by the decidedly liberal 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club. …

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