May 21st Pittsburgh will be choosing its next mayor for all practical purposes since the Democratic primary is tantamount to the election given the decades long weakness of the city’s Republican Party.
Having choices is not the problem, having four candidates to choose from, City Councilman Bill Peduto, former Pa. Auditor General Jack Wagner, State Representative Jake Wheatley and political newcomer A.J. Richardson Pittsburgh’s African-American community has options.
The problem is that the options present a Hobbesian choice, named after the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the term ‘Hobbesian Choice’ is often used in modern parlance to indicate a choice between two extremes, usually equally unacceptable. We’ll talk about false riches the Black community is presented with having two African-Americans and two non-Black aspirants to the Grant Street throne.
The Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly (WPBPA), celebrating ten years of existence this year, has conducted a candidates’ forum and numerous community dialogues to offer the African-American community an analysis of what is at stake in this important election to determine the city leadership that will take us into the future.
Mr. Richardson enters the race with no name recognition, but his highly visible facial tattoos may remedy that, but he has neither visible organization nor a financial war chest. Also, he was recently charged with a DUI and according to our collective analysis should not be taken seriously.
Mr. Peduto has an established liberal/progressive track record on city council but his candidacy raises questions as to whether bike trails and racks and green economy jobs which are substantially a projection for the future has the right program and focus to meet the needs of our community. For 79 years some ‘type’ of Democrat has been mayor of Pittsburgh and what has our community have to show for undying loyalty and support? His future looking prescriptions do offer some hope for change.
Mr. Wagner who has been a city councilman representing the entire city under the old at large system, a state senator, and state auditor general has an impressive track record of public service at two levels of government. However the abrupt exit of the endorsed Democratic candidate for mayor Controller Mike Lamb and the endorsement of the city government’s three public employee unions, the FOP, EMS and Operating Engineers hardly inspires confidence in our community which has consistently suffered from a lack of equably distributed services. Further causing concern is the chatter that the retiring Mayor Ravenstahl is supporting him as well as former mayor Sophie Masloff, controller Lamb, and the city council president it strikes us as the establishment uniting to preserve the old order. Wagner often speaks of his past accomplishments but not nearly as extensively about his future vision.
Mr. Wheatley is an incumbent state representative and a competent legislator who hails from K. Leroy Irvis’ old district dominated by the Hill District. He almost always takes the right position on the issues in our estimation. At the April 20th Pittsburgh Black Political Convention (PBPC), which the Assembly supported, he received 52 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Peduto, 12 percent for Wagner and 3 percent for Wander the Republican candidate. With 30 days left to the election this noble undertaking is a day late and a dollar short. The issues raised by Wheatley’s candidacy are that he is not well known outside his 19th legislative district in other areas of the Black community and given an unsubstantiated ability to raise funds and the roughly one month he has to raise funds and become better known he faces a daunting uphill climb. In short can he win? It is worth noting here that Black people do not vote for African-American candidates simply because of their ethnicity; this goes for a President Obama or a Lynn Swann (who Black people did not support because of his policy positions).