Community members support Peduto at mayoral inauguration


By Natalie Daher / News Editor

Andre Ellis, a native of the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s East End, said attending college, let alone doing so far from home, is a challenge many in his neighborhood face.

Many of the peers Ellis grew up with haven’t left the streets of their hometown.

Ellis, a junior at Penn State University majoring in business and marketing, spent an afternoon of his winter break attending the inauguration of Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s 60th mayor.

The reinvigoration of Pittsburgh neighborhoods was a common theme at Peduto’s inaugural event on Jan. 6, which began at 1 p.m. Downtown in Heinz Hall. Retired Superior Court Judge Justin Johnson swore Peduto into office a bit before 2 p.m., in front of about 2,000 people. Peduto, in his subsequent address, promised to reinvent Pittsburgh from a “place to be from” into a “place where lives can be lived to their fullest measure.”

Peduto served three terms on Pittsburgh’s City Council, representing Pittsburgh’s 8th District for 12 years. The 8th District includes the Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Bloomfield and Friendship neighborhoods.

He ran for mayor in 2005, and conceded to his predecessor, Luke Ravenstahl, in 2007. Ravenstahl dropped his bid for mayor in March 2013.

Ellis said he hopes Peduto will help the black community in Pittsburgh through programs that provide inner-city youth with places to do homework and play that are off the streets.

“I was able to go outside of the city for school because my parents were able to do that,” he said. “A lot of inner-city students don’t have that opportunity.”

Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project in Pittsburgh, said he hopes Peduto will be “very responsive to the needs of the city, in general, and the many needs of the African American community.”

Stevens said Peduto’s attention to the Coalition Against Violence, a collaborative that aims to decrease violence and crime throughout the city, increases his confidence that the new mayor will enforce legislation against violence. He said Peduto has attended several of the group’s conferences and meetings.

Before Peduto’s inaugural address, several members of the community spoke on behalf of Pittsburgh’s future under a new regime.

Vanessa German, a Pittsburgh-based artist, performed spoken word poetry. Her passionate speech, which highlighted the human need for endless hope and love, catapulted audience members out of their seats at its conclusion.

“Let us bear forth the power of hope by simply saying, ‘hello,’” German spoke.

She encouraged the audience not to give up on the city of Pittsburgh.

“We will insist that this city is as livable for me as it is for you,” she said.

The Rev. Randy Bush, pastor of East Liberty Presbyterian Church, followed German with remarks that suggested the quality of a leader can be measured in photographs. He said he hopes the mayor’s duties, which will comprise administerial tasks that involve fixing potholes and plowing snowy streets, will not confine him to his office. He recalled legendary leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr., who are often featured in photographs surrounded by common people.

“What types of photos will hang on your walls?” Bush rhetorically asked Peduto.

Likewise, Bush said he hopes photographs will show Peduto “in the streets” and less often with celebrities or politicians.

“The secret of lasting success is not how tall you build things, but that you ensure a floor exists, below which no one is able to fall,” Bush said.

Peduto focused much of his campaign on platforms of accountability, responsibility and sustainability, which he reiterated in his address.

“Whatever we take from this place, be it wealth or success or happiness … we have a moral obligation to return with interest to generations yet unborn,” Peduto said.

Rachel Filippini, executive director of Group Against Smog and Pollution, a nonprofit located in Garfield, said she hopes Peduto will enforce laws and legislation to protect clean air and water.

Filippini worked with Peduto on several of the group’s projects, calling him a “champion of environmental efforts.”

Cecile Springer, who was a co-chair for Peduto’s campaign, said the “secret to his success” was the network of supporters and his own efforts.

“What I see is a mayor with a vision, a plan and a focus on our neighborhoods,” Springer said.

Peduto surprised Chuck Christen, executive director for Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and a resident of Hazelwood, at a holiday luncheon at Cafe Sam, located in East Liberty, in 2011. Peduto approached the table of Task Force employees to thank them for their work.

“Bill has been a promoter of neighborhoods as long as I’ve known him,” Christen said. “He’s promised the voices of the neighborhoods will be heard.”

Lucille Prater-Holliday, a resident of Homewood, said she was impressed by Peduto’s ability to involve Pittsburgh residents in the activities of local government.

Peduto held his victory party on the evening of Nov. 5, 2013, at the Homewood Coliseum on Frankstown Avenue. Prater-Holliday said the choice was instrumental in Peduto’s inclusivity of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. She attended the event, which she said was “short and sweet,” and filled more with dancing and eating than “political banter.”

“It shows he cares about everyone no matter how rich or how poor … no matter what race, creed or color or sexual orientation,” she said. “That is what government is about.”