As R. Daniel Lavelle begins his first term as the new councilman for District 6, he has begun reconnecting with those he heard from during his campaign. After being sworn in Jan. 4, Lavelle is already beginning to plan a series of discussions to create a blueprint of what residents envision for their neighborhoods.
|I SOLEMNLY SWEAR— Judge Dwayne Woodruff swears in Daniel Lavelle as District 6 councilman as Rachael Lavelle holds the Bible.
“Immediately we’re going to reach out to all the community groups, non-profits and corporations and have discussions with them to come up with an agreed upon agenda,” Lavelle said. “We’ll get a better sense of what the top priorities are once we go out and meet with the groups.”
However, even before these conversations take place, Lavelle has a sense of what his top priorities will be. He has taken over the seat from former councilwoman Tonya Payne in the middle of a long journey to build a grocery store in the Hill District.
The struggle, headed by the Hill House Association, recently hit a rough patch when it was revealed that an operator still has not agreed to build a grocery store in the neighborhood.
“I know that the Hill House has been doing a lot of work and I know they reached out to a number of operators,” Lavelle said. “From my seat I also want to be able to meet with (the operators) to show the viability of the community, that we can sustain a full service grocery store.”
Lavelle’s other priorities include working on a master plan, putting people back to work and focusing on housing initiatives. Some of these issues will be addressed through enforcement of the Hill District’s community benefits agreement, which Lavelle will have to monitor.
“We will also have to work collectively with my office and the community to make sure what is put in the CBA is upheld,” Lavelle said. “I believe we will be successful in doing so. I think they will see we won’t settle for any less.”
In order to give equal attention to the North Side, whose residents have often expressed feelings of neglect by their council representative, Lavelle said he will open an office in the neighborhood.
“I believe anyone that knows my history, and even when we ran our campaign, we spent a tremendous amount of time in the North Side,” Lavelle said. “I don’t believe it will be hard at all to maintain the North Side presence.”
Of North Side’s many issues, Lavelle said reducing violence, particularly in the Perry Hilltop area, is a top priority. He said employment will be a key component of addressing this issue and he will work closely with Allegheny General Hospital to create opportunities for Northsiders.
“I think for violence you have to have a multi-faceted approach,” Lavelle said. “I believe education is a key component to this, as well as afterschool programs and we have to be able to support those kinds of initiatives.”
Lavelle is also working on finding solutions to citywide issues such as the declining pension fund and vacant property. He said he does not predict any clashes with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl or other council representatives when working on these issues.
“What I’ve articulated with everyone is we will naturally disagree at times, but we can disagree without being disagreeable,” Lavelle said. “I would hope we would be able to put personality differences aside and work together to address some of our long range issues.”