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Special feature: District 5 Democratic city council candidates' Q&A | The Homepage

A horizontal strip shows four photos. From the left, a smiling light-skinned woman with gray hair pulled back from her face wears a black suit coat and holds a microphone behind a dais bearing a black sign that says "BARB WARWICK CITY COUNCIL" in white letters with a gold border, all in front of a grassy green background; a smiling dark-skinned man with sunglasses and a straw cowboy hat wears a lavender polo shirt with the top button fastened before a background of a commercial building with large windows; a bald light-skinned man with a bushy gray goatee and mustache wears a light blue button-down shirt with a strap for glasses or a lanyard around the outside of the collar, which is unbuttoned at the top, in front of a background of green leafy trees; a light-skinned woman with brown hair, eyes and eyebrows, wearing a black suit coat, stands in front of a blurred background of leafy trees and a grassy area.
Democratic contenders for the District 5 city council seat. From left: Barb Warwick, Rev. Michael Murray, J. Mac McCafferty, Kristi Heigel. Photos by or courtesy of Ray Gerard, Juliet Martinez, J. Mac McCafferty and Kristi Heidel

We invited reader questions for the District 5 council seat candidates on the Hazelwood Initiative Facebook page. Here are three of the top questions you wanted to hear about from your next representative on city council. The answers have been edited for length.

Note: Rev. Michael Murray declined to participate in the Q&A feature. See this article for more information about Rev. Murray.

Why do you think you're a good candidate to represent District 5?

Photo courtesy of Kristi Heidel

Kristi Heidel of Greenfield

My multi-faceted background makes me the best candidate to represent District 5. I work with people to solve problems and will ensure decisions that impact our community are made through community-driven decision making with - and in the best interests of - our neighbors.

I have spent my career working in local government and the nonprofit sector. I have volunteered throughout the community and helped grow the GCA into what it is today. A product of that work is the relationships I have developed. We must work with our leaders in civil society to ensure our decisions last longer than election cycles. This is about meeting in the moment and creating a better community together.

J. Mac McCafferty of Swisshelm Park

As a lifelong Pittsburgher with 40 years in District 5, I feel comfortable identifying issues important to the 5th District. I am an educator with 33 years in Pittsburgh Public Schools; I understand the concerns of parents and the education of children. My two adult children attended public schools and went on to successful careers in education. My educational experience shaped me: four years at a Historically Black College (Lincoln University of Missouri), a bachelor’s in secondary education from the University of Pittsburgh and master's from Duquesne University. I have over 20 years with the Pittsburgh Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee; the past seven as committee chairman. It is the largest annual one-day event in Pittsburgh and the top Saint Patrick's Day parade in the United States.

Barb Warwick of Four Mile Run

In The Run, we live with chronic flooding, crumbling bridges, and a broken playground. But we’re not alone in feeling forgotten. That’s why, with friends, neighbors and organizations across District 5, I’ve worked to get our communities the resources they need. Since 2020, we stopped the Mon-Oakland Connector, extended weekend bus service in the district, expanded after school programming in Glen Hazel and raised $90K for a Greenfield School playground. I continue to push for traffic calming on our streets. We need a councilperson who listens, understands what people need and works hard to make it happen. That’s what I’ve been doing and will continue to do for District 5.

What will you do to prevent displacement and address the need for affordable housing?

Kristi Heidel of Greenfield

I will work to make sure affordable housing is accessible. To me, that means working with communities with on-the-ground expertise and insights that can benefit our communities. It means advocating for better protections from unjust landlords and property managers through data management and tracking systems for repeat offenders, prosecuting bad actors and encouraging community-driven solutions. We need better support for groups doing what Hazelwood did, finding a way to develop the former Gladstone Elementary School according to the community’s values. A lot of community-level folks fought for what needed to be done, in the courts and in the media, and I will work to safeguard and support good-faith efforts of our neighbors who know what’s best.

J. Mac McCafferty of Swisshelm Park

In today's world, movement of populations is constant. But Pittsburgh’s uniqueness is its sense of community and belonging. Affordable housing is more relevant today than ever. Housing projects have been shown as a failed policy. Promoting property ownership allows people to take pride in where they live. I will promote property ownership through programs that are designed to help all income levels own a home. If the city could make use of vacant and tax-delinquent properties to provide housing for people of all levels of income it would increase the property tax base, while building greater pride in the community. Improvement of these properties would also provide income to those working on them.

Barb Warwick of Four Mile Run

As councilperson, I will increase URA rent and utility relief available for qualifying residents, push to raise the percentage of URA staff time spent on community-facing – not developer-facing – activities; improve Housing Authority landlord outreach and education to combat the stigma of Section 8 and get more landlords signed up with the program; enact inclusionary zoning requirements to ensure a percentage of new housing units are reserved for low-income residents; offer developer tax breaks and prioritize permitting and license applications for projects that include genuinely affordable units; lift liens and clear titles for Land Bank properties and transfer them to individuals, organizations and developers for rehabilitation as affordable housing.

How do you plan to improve public transit access and safety of roads and sidewalks, as well as connectivity between the different neighborhoods and employment opportunities?

Kristi Heidel of Greenfield

The infrastructure decisions from decades past are forcing us now to reshape how we think of conventional mobility. Today, it can mean many different things, from scooters to buses to autonomous vehicles to rideshare services. We should be leveraging the innovation and technology of today to ensure that our elderly can get to the grocery store, our kids can get to the park safely whether by bike or on foot and our neighbors on the road are fully and genuinely engaged.

J. Mac McCafferty of Swisshelm Park

Public transit is vital to each community in Pittsburgh. My father was a retired Port Authority trolley driver that started working in 1947 with Pittsburgh Railways. Public transportation is the thread that sews our city together. It promotes using less energy for private automobiles and a cleaner environment. It is important that the city work alongside the county and Pittsburgh Regional Transit.

Barb Warwick of Four Mile Run

As a councilperson, I will include low-cost traffic calming and pedestrian access as part of every routine street evaluation and maintenance project, build accessible, comfortable bus stops citywide for riders of all abilities; add public transit access and street safety to City Planning and Zoning requirements for new developments; include a dedicated bus lane to the plan to widen Bates Street to speed transit to and from Oakland; work with Almono Partners to fund a pilot extending the 75 bus into Hazelwood to improve connectivity to Oakland; and fund free fares for EBT cardholders, giving them the same no-cost access to public transit as seniors, PPS students, and university students and staff.

The Homepage learned late in August that the Republican nominee is Eugene Bokor of Lincoln Place. Learn more about Mr. Bokor and find more election coverage in the October issue of The Homepage.

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