Living wage, revitalization, crime; Burgess priorities

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District 9 City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess sprinted into another year of his term without missing a beat. Before the first month was through he introduced legislation to activate Pittsburgh’s Living Wage Ordinance and laid the groundwork for several other initiatives.

RickyBurgess
AT WORK—Reverend Ricky Burgess reviews legislation for an upcoming city council meeting.

“Workers who mop the floors of our buildings, who guard our buildings, who empty the trash or pick up the garbage, they are saying ‘enough’ to poverty wages, the lack of respect, the bad working conditions,” Burgess said. “No matter what people do—whether they take care of the elderly, or they are teachers, or they make the beds in our hotels—people who do work should be rewarded, and rewarded with a living wage.”

The Pittsburgh Living Wage ordinance would make a living wage, estimated at $11.50 plus health benefits, mandatory for most development projects that receive city financing and most companies that contract with the city of Pittsburgh. It also includes a provision that makes it more likely that a resident of Pittsburgh will receive new employment opportunities.

The bill is currently being reviewed by council and will be up for vote Feb. 17. If the bill is passed, Burgess believes it will have a major impact on reducing crime and improving economic development in his district.

“If you want to reduce violence and poverty, you have to provide good paying jobs,” Burgess said.

Neighborhood revitalization will continue to be one of Burgess’ major priorities in 2010, beginning with a new housing development set for Garfield. He said he is proud of the direction his district is headed in and feels they will be seeing serious improvements.

“I think you have to make the place safe if you want economic development,” Burgess said. “I think crime is down all across our city so I think there are things being done. I think we are being primed for economic dollars.”

Despite his preparation, the first month of Burgess’ term also brought an unexpected challenge, when 17-year-old Jordan Miles, a constituent in Burgess’ district was badly beaten in an altercation with three police officers.

Burgess called for the officers to be placed on administrative leave immediately, which occurred on Feb. 1 by the mayor. He is also asking that the charges against Miles be dropped and will be introducing legislation that mandates the Pittsburgh Police to fully implement the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Policy.

“If (the officers) acted inappropriately we should do whatever is in our power to punish them,” Burgess said. “I will also mandate legislation that all cases that involve possible abuse of power cases or police brutality that the accused officers be automatically placed on administrative leave.”

Crystal Sumpter, director of Public Affairs, said the councilman is also working on a series of amendments to zoning codes. She said the amendments will give more power to residents to decide what kind of developments and institutions come into their neighborhood.

Sumpter also addressed critics who claim Burgess is too close to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

“He understands having a relationship with the mayor is imperative to bringing resources to his district. He doesn’t do what the mayor tells him to,” Sumpter said. “He follows the beat of his own drum. What he’s done is establish a relationship where the mayor signs on to what he wants to do.”

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