Oakland resident seeks to unseat City Council president


Photo courtesy of Jacob Nixon

Pittsburgh native and Oakland resident Jacob Nixon announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat as an independent in September.

By Natalie Frank, For The Pitt News

After almost 12 years of City Council President Bruce Kraus representing District 3, a 28-year-old Pittsburgh native and Oakland resident said he is fighting for new leadership and community change.

Jacob Nixon announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat last month as an independent against Kraus, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 general election with the goal of improving the “safety and economic security” that compose the council district.

“As community and economic development occur throughout our district, I will work day and night to make sure that the people who live here see the benefits, in the form of jobs, workforce development and support services,” Nixon said.

Nixon’s main areas of concern for his campaign include strengthening small businesses, cleaning up the Oakland neighborhood and repairing EMS and fire and police stations in the area. Nixon said he wants to work with residents to understand their needs and help the Oakland community evolve.

Nixon is currently the director of development for the Pennsylvania College Access Program, a nonprofit that provides disadvantaged high school students and veterans with college preparatory services. Before that, he served as an administrative officer for the Pennsylvania Expungement and Pardons Program, where he helped expedite the process of clearing Pittsburgh community members’ backgrounds and criminal records to help them reintegrate into society.

Nixon said his accessibility and his interest in the needs of the community are the reasons why he jumped into the race.

You call me, you will get a call back. If there is something happening in our community, I won’t be there with a letter, I will be there in person, saying ‘What do we have to do to change that?’” Nixon said.

Through his work with community members involved in higher education, Nixon said he understands students’ needs and will work to fix laws he thinks are targeted toward students in Oakland. He cited the City’s “predatory” parking laws, which he said are only enforced in Oakland and nearby South Side from 7 a.m. to midnight. Pittsburgh’s Residential Parking Program gives residents a “better chance to park near their homes,” but only allows only one visitor pass per household.

These parking laws currently have strict regulations for one-hour parking, causing residents to receive an increased amount of tickets almost every day of the week, according to Nixon’s campaign website.

“This predatory enforcement allows for students to receive numerous tickets and some towed,” Nixon said. “Oakland makes the City millions from predatory parking enforcement by making residents pay for parking passes and no more than one guest.”

Nixon said he plans to combat this problem by first meeting with residents to understand their thoughts on the matter.

“This must be done during the academic year while the students and residents are present, not in the summer when the students are not present to voice their concerns,” Nixon said.

Nixon also criticized a 2018 move by the Council to hike taxes on real estate transfers, which Kraus said was “intended to make housing more affordable.” Nixon said the higher tax rate “hurts residents and businesses as a whole.” Kraus voted for the legislation, which passed in a 7-2 vote.

He said, if elected, he will work to repeal this legislation to develop small business within the community by providing opportunities for them to “complement the big chains” and push “legislation that will empower our residents.”

“I would meet with our community Chamber of Commerce and individual business owners to address their concerns on what they need,” Nixon said.

He added that he wants to clean up parts of Oakland through promoting different Pitt volunteer organizations and renovate local EMS, police and firefighter stations with the City’s budget surplus.

“We have numerous Pitt organizations that currently volunteer to pick up trash throughout our neighborhoods,” Nixon said. “These issues can be addressed by encouraging tenants and residents to call our City’s code enforcement officers.”

Nixon said he would also like to avoid giving nonprofit organizations control over City parks — which he said are already paid for via the City’s Public Works Department — as well as reform the process of selling City-owned or vacant buildings and land.

“This will be done through new rules and regulations giving the City-owned property deadlines to sell and or demo the property that is deemed noninhabitant,” Nixon said.

Nixon is not the only person to try and unseat Kraus. Pitt student Chris Kumanchik and former chief of staff Kenneth Wolfe ran against Kraus in May’s Democratic primary, but were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to unseat him.

Nixon said four more years of Kraus in office will not accomplish anything that has not already been accomplished and District 3 has the opportunity “to elect new leadership, with new ideas, a new vision that will advocate for the community.”

But despite Nixon’s push for new leadership, Kraus said leadership skills need to be developed over time.

“Leadership is evolved and engaged,” Kraus said. “I’m not sure how one learns what’s important to the community or to the constituency if they don’t have a history of being engaged.”

Kraus added that he has only met and talked with Nixon on one occasion and has yet to notice Nixon’s involvement in the community and the Council to discuss pertinent topics and community needs.

“There are special meetings of Council that are open to the public. There are public hearings that are required by law that we have to conduct to take those things under consideration,” Kraus said. “And I would argue those were the times Jacob needed to be present to let his views be known.”

Nixon said a large part of his focus is on the Oakland community, its needs and what he can do to best serve it.

“We are there to advocate for our residents and our communities. We need to be an advocate for small businesses,” Nixon said. “We need to secure our community as it develops and provide an opportunity for them — not just for big chains, but for small businesses that can complement the big chains, so that we have an opportunity to grow our communities.”