With a folder of surveys in hand, Lucille Prater-Holliday, a candidate for City Council, has been walking the streets of District 9 to get feedback from those who could be her future constituents. On Feb. 9 she visited Misha’s, a restaurant on Frankstown Avenue in Homewood where she is a regular.
“Because of my background in social services, I have worked with all kinds of people and I have lived the life of many people in District 9. I have lived in poverty and know what it’s like to raise children in this environment,” Prater-Holliday said. “I’m visible in the district; I’ve always been visible in the district and I have a history of changing people’s lives.”
Over her decades as a Homewood resident, Prater-Holliday has been a vocal activist at public forums. Now, in her position as chair of Action United, a membership organization of low- and moderate-income Pennsylvanians, she has widened her scope of activism beyond her neighborhood to the state as a whole.
“I moved to Homewood when I was 12 years old and one of my most vibrant memories was when my sister told me we were going to the store. You didn’t have to leave Homewood for anything,” Prater-Holliday said. “I just remember this feeling of pride and I want every child to feel that sense of pride in District 9.”
Prater-Holliday knows the key to improving District 9 is no secret—decrease crime and increase community development. To tackle crime she said she would partner with community groups who are already making a positive impact as opposed to going outside of the community as she said District 9 Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess did with his formation of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime.
“I would have addressed the issue of crime differently. When you address crime you have to address the issues in the family that is being left behind,” Prater-Holliday said. “I don’t know that you can tackle any of those issues without addressing issues with families. If you increase opportunities for families, you will decrease crime and increase community development.”
If elected to council, Prater-Holliday will have large shoes to fill as Burgess has proposed more legislation this year than any other councilperson. Still, Burgess has had trouble getting some of his legislation passed because some on council disprove of a perceived alliance between Burgess and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
“I’m looking forward to working with the people on council,” Prater-Holliday said. “I’m interested in working with anyone who has the best interests of District 9 and the city as a whole.”
Working with community organizations should be a key factor in the job of a city council representative according to Prater-Holliday. She said she would also use this approach to improve education in her district by working with programs such as the Lighthouse Project and the Homewood Children’s Village.
“I’m a graduate of Westinghouse and I’m proud to say that. I plan to work with, the school board, parents and students to do whatever we can to increase the academic levels at Westinghouse,” Prater-Holliday said. “I would try to organize parents to get them more involved in the process.”
Although Prater-Holliday admitted addressing issues such as home ownership and employment would improve the reputation of her district, she said neighborhoods like Homewood often appear worse than they really are because of the media.
“Often times the media shows a very negative side of Homewood and not the positives,” Prater-Holliday said. “I think there are a lot positive things in Homewood that don’t get the same amount of attention as the negative things.”