Bill Peduto and Dan Gilman see the future of Pittsburgh tied inextricably to the success or failure of the East End, the part of town where a majority of the city’s Jewish residents live.
Both Peduto, the current city councilman from District 8 and the now Democratic nominee for mayor, and Gilman, the party’s nominee for District 8 city councilman, identified quality of life issues as high priorities for Jewish voters.
“Within the city, we have one of the largest Jewish communities that still lives in a city and if the quality of life does not remain high you can see it leave,” said Peduto, who will face Republican nominee Josh Wander in the November general election.
Peduto called the East End “the model of what we should expect in all parts of the city.” He especially pointed to educational opportunities that Jewish families, who have lived in the city for generations, can find here, as an enticement to stay.
“Everything we achieved [in the East End], we’ve worked hard to do,” Peduto said. “It wasn’t the government that did it, it was the community; we need to replicate that in triplicate” across the city.
Gilman, chief of staff for Councilman Peduto, who will be the only Jew on council next year if he is elected, said quality of life issues translate into the way the city provides services.
“We have a city government that is not responsive to the neighborhoods’ needs, not updated in terms of technology and not efficient in how we provide services,” Gilman said. “As a result, people have lost faith in government.”
If that doesn’t change, he warned, the East End will suffer.
“People within our district continue to chose to live in our city because of a passion for urban life,” Gilman said. “If the city cannot provide services to residents in a way that’s more efficient, more effective and more equitable, we’ll continue to lose residents from the city.”
Continuing, he said, “the horror stories after a decade in city government of what residents go through for everything from renovating their homes to starting a business to getting a pothole filled should be embarrassing to anyone in City Hall, and these are problems we can fix rather easily and on our own without the help of the county and state.”
Voter turnout was light in last week’s primary. To Gilman, that is symptomatic of the lack of confidence Pittsburghers have in their government.
“I think people have become disheartened with city government,” he said. “People think it doesn’t matter who is in charge; the same monster exists beneath the head. I think the opposite is true, but now is the chance for Bill, me and others to prove them wrong.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)