Your Voice On County Council
PRotecting your tax dollars & fighting for you
As I go door-to-door to meet the voters of my district, most of the voters I meet don’t know they have representation on council -- and quite frankly, they’re not wrong. Though every resident of Allegheny has a district representative and two at-large representatives, council has regularly refused to consider constituent-led proposals and routinely violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, a government transparency law.
Like clean water, our government should be transparent, accessible, and free of toxins.
Unfortunately, county council is more akin to our current water. Based on the council meetings that I’ve attended, legislation is either passed or referred to committee. Either way, there’s not much discussion or debate. Constituents gain no insight into the decision-making process because council representatives discuss little and approve legislation quietly. Even when debate should occur in front of public scrutiny, multiple violations of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act erode the trust between our council and us constituents.
No matter what council does, every action it takes must be transparent, and as a resident, you deserve to know how your tax dollars are being spent. Comprehensive details from each meeting of both the full body and subcommittees should be published online so that county residents can verify that each decision is made with integrity. As your voice, I will fight to make sure that council acts in the best interests of our community, not wealthy PACs. Unlike my incumbent opponent, I'm refusing all PAC money because of the possibility that it could cause even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Tax breaks should go to the hard-working families in our district, not multi-billion dollar corporation executives.
After immigrating from Europe, my parents met in night school while learning English and started the family engine parts business with just one crankshaft grinder. After retiring, they passed the business on to me, and today, Pittsburgh Crankshaft's engine parts warehouse is connected to an entire machine shop filled with all types of equipment and skilled employees.
As a small business owner, I see firsthand how government policies can help or hurt businesses like mine, every day.
For example, it's often hard to find job applicants with the skills necessary to work the high-paying jobs in the machine shop because council hasn't put enough resources in apprenticeship programs that connect local students and residents with these jobs through training programs.
Many students will find benefit in going to college, but there are many well-paying jobs in our region that don't need a college degree, and council must not forget about them when courting tech companies (that will also be an important part of our economic future). Small business owners like myself are struggling to find residents who are equipped to fill these jobs, and we need council to act.
Our economy is diverse, so council should make sure we have the workforce to support it.
We also need to make sure we're addressing the looming crises in our region, because we will never be able to support good jobs if our families are burdened by issues like the overdose epidemic or our water infrastructure problem.
The Overdose Epidemic
Tackling our opioid epidemic requires a coordinated effort between mental health professionals, the healthcare community, and our police force. We need to focus our efforts to curb the overdose epidemic on proper treatment, not incarceration. That means using our advanced healthcare resources in the region to ensure that every individual suffering addiction has access to the resources they need to recover. The cost-burden of the overdose epidemic should not fall on Allegheny County residents, it should fall on the misleading pharmaceutical companies and insurance "nonprofits" that started this crisis and refuse to fund the proper treatment for their patients.
We also need to investigate the Allegheny County Jail to make sure we're using the best practices in addiction treatment to reduce recidivism and post-release overdoses. Based on the unacceptable deaths and suicides that have occurred in our county jail, a systemic review that addresses its problems at their root-cause is necessary to reform it.
On county council, I will also work to reduce overprescription, increase pill disposal mechanisms, and fight against misguided policies that limit accessibility to the life-saving "opiate antidote" naloxone.
Our government has swept our water infrastructure problem under the rug for decades through improper management and inadequate upkeep. We need to work with our local legislators to pass State Senator Wayne Fontana’s legislation that could provide some state funding to offset the financial burden. We should prioritize homes of pregnant women and young children, but ultimately, every lead line needs to either be replaced or neutralized.
No amount of lead in our water is acceptable.
Pittsburgh’s water crisis demonstrates the danger of privatization, especially when residents don’t have the information they need to keep their families safe from lead-contaminated water. Council must take bolder action to gather information, inform the public, and prevent heavy metal poisoning before it occurs.
I also want to stress the need for a systematic approach to this systemic problem. The lead-testing for toddlers legislation was a political solution to an infrastructure and public health problem. It sounded good, and most people supported it (aside from my opponent). However, it didn’t go far enough, and it barely scratched the surface of the crisis we’re facing. We should be stopping this problem before, not after, toddlers are exposed.
The solution we need addresses this crisis at its root cause and at the system level. And we need to implement it before this crisis spirals even more out of control.
Politicians might benefit from sweeping this problem under the rug, but we won't.
Our district is home to areas prime for redevelopment. On County Council, I will fight for Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) and Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) grants to be used in the neighborhoods that need it, and I will be skeptical of luxury projects receiving taxpayer dollars, especially in areas that don't need those tax breaks. There’s a lot of development that would go on whether or not the county gives the developer a tax break.
I think projects should get tax breaks if they can actually bring something -- affordable housing, jobs, or infrastructure -- to the community. It’s important to note that those tax-breaks are revenues we’re going to have to recoup, somehow. We want to make sure our taxes help our communities instead of wealthy developers. On council, I’ll fight to make sure that happen by proposing strict TIF and LERTA requirements.
We need to make sure we have robust oversight of fracking companies and other polluters. For example, because of late Title-V permits, point source polluters in our area were able to exceed the legal limits for far too long. Proper oversight means ensuring that our agencies are equipped to maintain up-to-date permits and prevent companies from exceeding legal limits. But we shouldn’t just be striving to meet legal limits. We should be working with polluters to alleviate the barriers that prevent them from reducing their environmental impact. Council should strive to reach 100% renewable energy by working with energy-producers in our area.
If fracking is going to occur, then we better make sure we have the proper oversight and transparency to make sure it’s done as safely as possible. The goal of fracking oversight should be to minimize its risk to our water supply. That means that fracking fluid chemicals need thorough oversight. This can be done in a way that both protects proprietary fracking fluid compositions and informs the public of local contaminants. Improper oversight of fracking could have devastating consequences that would further complicate our looming water crisis. Heather Heidelbaugh was not an “obstructionist” when she fought for due diligence, and council should have included further protections in the original fracking ordinance.
We should also have an easy-to-use online database for mineral rights data. With a quick search, you can see who bought your neighbor’s home and for how much. You should be able to do the same to see who owns your neighbor’s mineral rights. On County Council, I will propose transparency in mineral rights ownership and an online database where all mineral rights ownership information is accessible.
Fracking, Energy Production, and Pollution
When you’re a 16 billion dollar entity paying out multi-million dollar salaries to your executives, you can afford to pay your fair share. I’m open to leveraging tax-exempt status as a bargaining chip for increased efforts to fight our overdose epidemic, including more comprehensive and accessible coverage for individuals experiencing an addiction problem. If these companies can clearly demonstrate that their tax-breaks do greater good than the equivalent public revenue would, then we should let them keep our lost revenue. However, if the tax-breaks are instead being used to fund multi-million dollar bonuses and efforts that don’t directly benefit our community, then they should be revoked. Council should sit down with the city and the school board to ensure these "nonprofits" are using our tax revenue appropriately.
Floodwater doesn’t recognize municipal boundaries, and when tackling this issue, neither should we. The problem isn’t at a municipal level, and neither is the solution, especially when 95% of Millvale’s rainwater originates from outside its borders. We need regionalized policy that operates at the watershed level, not the municipal level. On County Council, I will organize coordination between municipalities and seek grants for flood prevention.