Five-way race: East End voters should elect Gross to council

Originally published on October 24, 2013 6:20 PM
Originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Voters in the city’s East End turned out for Bill Peduto in May’s Democratic primary, and he’s looking for another show of support next month. Sure, he wants their votes in his mayoral bid, but his victory is a given. Where he really needs the help is in the five-way race for Pittsburgh City Council’s District 7.

He’s not on that ballot, of course, but he is hoping that Deb Gross, a Highland Park consultant, will win the special election to finish out the term of Patrick Dowd, who resigned in June. District 7 includes Highland Park, Morningside, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Polish Hill, the Strip District and parts of Stanton Heights and Friendship.

Odds favor Ms. Gross, 47, who has endorsements from a host of Democratic officials, labor unions and progressive groups. She is not a shoo-in, however. She won the city Democratic Committee’s backing by just four votes over Tony Ceoffe Jr., 29, of Lawrenceville, a former city Housing Authority employee, former board member of the Lawrenceville United community group and son of the neighborhood’s district judge. He ran but lost to Mr. Dowd in 2011.

Also on the ballot are:

* Tom Fallon, 51, of Morningside, a one-time aide to state Sen. Jim Ferlo who now is the head of Urban Green Development, a firm that rebuilds dilapidated homes and makes them energy efficient;

* James Wudarczyk, 61, of Bloomfield, a customer service representative for a Strip District packing company who is active in the Lawrenceville Historical Society;

* Dave Powell, 42, of Morningside, a system administrator for the Falk Library at the University of Pittsburgh and chairman of the Allegheny County Libertarian Party.

The top candidates in this race are Ms. Gross, Mr. Ceoffe and Mr. Fallon, mostly due to their direct involvement in community affairs. During an interview with members of the Post-Gazette editorial board, each one demonstrated a detailed knowledge of city government and community issues.

Mr. Ceoffe and Mr. Fallon disappointed us on a paramount issue, however.

On whether Pittsburgh should remain under the state’s fiscal oversight through the Act 47 program, Mr. Ceoffe and Mr. Fallon said it’s time for the city to take charge of its own finances. In contrast, Ms. Gross said she was not eager to end state oversight since Act 47 has helped the city live within its means.

Ms. Gross’ political work has included campaigning for both Mr. Peduto and Mr. Dowd and the Run Baby Run Initiative, which supports women running for office. Her professional work, as a community organizer and strategic planner primarily with nonprofit organizations, has been focused on smart growth, urban revitalization, environmental stewardship and women’s issues. She was the founding executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance and she is a board member of the Landmarks Development Corp., the for-profit subsidiary of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

This variety of work, over a range of issues and for a broad sweep of constituents, has given her experience with different interest groups and, we hope, skills as a consensus builder.

The Post-Gazette endorses Deb Gross, the candidate most likely to work productively with the city’s new mayoral administration on citywide issues.

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