Pittsburgh School Board Director Mark Brentley Sr. has long said the city’s North Side residents are perennially ignored by their city council and state House representatives because both offices are located in the Hill District. So, once again, he is trying to change that by challenging incumbent state Rep. Jake Wheatley for the District 19 seat in the Democratic primary May 18.
Brentley is also, again, running against former city councilwoman and Democrat-endorsed Tonya Payne, whom he challenged last year for the city council seat she eventually lost to Daniel Lavelle.
Brentley is trying to bank on anti-insider sentiment noting both Payne and Wheatley are former aides to longtime Hill councilman Sala Udin, even though Payne ousted Udin from his council seat in 2005.
“If Jake wins, we get a continuation of the dynasty. If Tonya wins, we get a continuation of the feud between the city council and state districts,” said Brentley. “The people are tired of it, we’re embarrassed by it.”
As for his platform, Brentley said his first priority is to break down neighborhood barriers.
“We need to work together as a district to secure the resources that will bring equity to the entire district,” he said. “The North Side is always left out, that has to change.”
Brentley said he would also work to set up an emergency preparedness program that would assist residents with obtaining social services in the event of another state budget delay or cuts to community aid.
“Last year it was devastating for a lot of nonprofits in the district, some had to close their doors,” he said. “My program would tie people in to the basics; food shelter and water, and help tide people over. I would also hold regular budget updates on issues important to the district.”
Finally, Brentley wants to create a district-wide entrepreneurship program that would encourage product development and job growth.
“We need new sources of money to create jobs. Government can’t create jobs, but it can make it easier for start up companies to get rolling and start hiring people,” he said. “I would create the resource center for that young man who has a design for the next electric-powered, solar turtleneck, whatever gizmo. We need to encourage that.”
Brentley said he would also build on his experience as an 11-year school director to create statewide voter education programs for students and fatherhood programs for young men coming out of high school.
State House representatives are elected for two-year terms and are paid $73,613 per year. The 19th Legislative District includes the Hill District, North Side, Uptown, parts of Downtown and the South Side, and parts of Oakland.
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