Robert Frank plans to run this coming May

By Lindsay Carroll

‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt alumnus and City Council candidate Robert Frank remembers the moment that inspired… ‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt alumnus and City Council candidate Robert Frank remembers the moment that inspired him to become a Pittsburgh politician. ‘ ‘ ‘ When he moved to Pittsburgh as a teenager more than 20 years ago, someone died while riding a bicycle across the street. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘There needed to be a stop sign there,’ said Frank. ‘I went to [a] City Council meeting with 200 signatures from neighbors.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ It was the birth of Frank’s political career. At age 17, he became the youngest member of Brookline’s neighborhood board. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank tried to run to fill former city councilman Dan Deasy’s vacant seat in District 2. Deasy plans to replace retiring state representative Thomas Petrone. ‘ ‘ ‘ Theresa Smith, a campaign manager for Deasy, won the slot for the district’s Democratic candidate for a special election on Feb. 3 ‘mdash; winning 56 out of 75 committee votes over the other four candidates, including Frank. ‘ ‘ ‘ The district will vote for a candidate to serve a one-year term as councilman. Frank said he plans on running for the full four-year term in the May Democratic primary. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank, 40, of Mt. Washington, graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School and the Community College of Allegheny County. He later enrolled in Pitt’s College of General Studies to pursue a degree in public administration. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Pitt, because Pitt plays such an important part in Pittsburgh,’ said Frank. ‘The education is of great value. And Pitt has a great reputation around the country as being an excellent educational institution.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ At Pitt, Frank wrote for The Pitt News and served as vice president of the College of General Studies’ student government board. He was actively involved in University Democrats at Pitt and once drove a motorcade with both former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. ‘ ‘ ‘ With the University Democrats, Frank also worked with mayoral and senate campaigns, along with voter registration. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘But the motorcade was probably the best experience with the University Democrats,’ said Frank. ‘I had Wolf Blitzer in my car.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank said he used this experience with young people when he became a statewide college director of the Young Democrats. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘My job was to unite the two warring factions,’ said Frank. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank, the first of his family to graduate from college, worked for several local politicians, including Mayor Bob O’Connor, who once owned a Roy Rogers restaurant where Frank worked as a cashier and cook. ‘ ‘ ‘ After graduating from Pitt, Frank served as a campaign scheduler for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer in the late 1980s. Since then, he has worked with nonprofits such as Breachmenders, Inc., an after-school program that recruits Pitt students to volunteer to tutor, and the Multiple Sclerosis Service Society. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank also worked for labor unions, such as the transit union AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers of America. In late 1998, when Nabisco announced it would close its bakery in Pittsburgh, Frank helped organize the Boycott Nabisco campaign. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I passed out over 5,000 fliers at grocery stores with Nabisco products to boycott,’ said Frank. ‘ ‘ ‘ He then worked as an administrative assistant for former city councilman Gene Ricciardi. In 2004, he became a volunteer coordinator for the Young Voter Alliance, which worked to increase youth turnout. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank said his management helped the alliance increase the turnout of Oakland area voters ages 18 to 35. Some say this helped then-presidential candidate John Kerry win Pennsylvania. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘We would knock on doors and say where the candidates stood on the issues,’ said Frank. ‘The No. 1 reason young people say that they don’t vote is that they don’t know enough about the candidates or the issues. We would educate them and empower them so they felt like they had enough information to make a decision.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘That’s what I’m doing on my campaign,’ he added. ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank said keeping young people in Pittsburgh is a major challenge. He said he hopes to address it by preventing crime, preserving green space and encouraging community-based development. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘In 10, 15 years, who will be left in our city?’ asked Frank. ‘We need to do something about the population decline. We need to work with the county to find a solution for the Port Authority.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank said that if he’s elected as a councilman, he’d like to target crime in three ways. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘The first is [to] lobby the Obama administration to put more officers on the street with community-oriented policing,’ he said. ‘The second is after-school programs that help with homework and job training. And the third is supporting block watches.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Frank said he thinks he has a good shot at winning the election because he has been working on various community activities for the past 18 years and has been on the ballot three times in District 2. ‘ ‘ ‘ He said he learned how to use the Internet while working on Obama’s campaign. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I’m getting small donations online from people who have e-mailed me and said they never donated to a campaign before,’ said Frank. ‘In the end, I think that will be what makes me win.’