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Veteran Doug Shields opposes organizer Barb Warwick for 5th District council seat | The Homepage

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

By Juliet Martinez

Doug Shields (at the microphone) announced his campaign for the District 5 council seat on July 14 at the corner of Lytle Street and Hazelwood Avenue. Photo by Ray Gerard

When Corey O’Connor resigned as District 5 Councilman on July 10 to become the Allegheny County Controller, the only contender for the newly vacant seat on City Council was Barb Warwick. The community organizer from Four Mile Run announced her candidacy in late May as rumors swirled that Mr. O’Connor would be moving on.

On July 14, the race got a little more interesting with the entrance of Doug Shields, who held the seat from 2004 to 2012, and was council president from 2008 to 2010. Since leaving public service he has taught at Duquesne University and done outreach for environmental nonprofit Food & Water Watch.

Doug Shields: “We still have a lot of work to do.”

I spoke with Mr. Shields in July and asked him why he decided to run.

“While the city is a great place to live,” he said, “we still have a lot of work to do and especially in communities that have been left behind.”

To that end, he said he wants to help the city address the housing crisis and economic development by making use of nonprofit community development corporations, which he said the past couple of mayors did not fully take advantage of.

He said he respects Ms. Warwick and anyone who puts themself out there and runs for office. But he said his decades of community organizing and public service make him a stronger candidate.

Mr. Shields’ approach to policy is a cerebral one.

“Policy without benefit of analysis is folly,” he said. “And once you have done your analysis and arrived at a policy, if you don't organize the capital to serve the policy, you have no policy at all.”

Once a helmsman on offshore oilfield boats, Mr. Shields started night school at age 30 to become a paralegal. He spent several years at the law firm Reed Smith before becoming chief of staff for former Council President and then Mayor Bob O’Connor (Corey O’Connor’s father) in 1992. Mr. Shields’ years working with lawyers and helping write laws and budgets gave him a preference for established facts over beliefs or conclusions unsupported by evidence.

“Let's make Pittsburgh a city that works for the people,” he told me. “Sometimes cities don't do that.”

Barb Warwick: “We all need to have access.”

The city not working for its people was a force that drove Ms. Warwick into community organizing and her Council run. When I spoke with her in July, she named the Mon-Oakland Connector fight as a big reason she got involved in politics. The development of the tech industry - and soon housing - at Hazelwood Green have put Hazelwood and Four Mile Run on what she called “the next frontier for gentrification in Pittsburgh.”

Barb Warwick launched her campaign for the District 5 council seat on May 24 in Four Mile Run.

Photo by Ray Gerard

Residents in Four Mile Run and surrounding communities opposed the shuttle road through Schenley Park and Four Mile Run supported by Mayor Peduto, Carnegie Mellon University and Hazelwood Green owner Almono Partners. The Almono Partners are three foundations: the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and The Heinz Endowments. Ms. Warwick acknowledged that these foundations do a lot of good, but said small, local community groups still need to have someone representing them.

“It’s very important that whoever is in that City Council seat is someone who can voice those concerns... when the interests of the development are coming into conflict with the community,” she said.

As Ms. Warwick has been knocking on doors and talking to residents since launching her campaign, she said she hears a lot of repeated complaints.

“Traffic calming. Traffic traffic traffic,” she said. “It’s a major issue. Everyone is frustrated with speeding drivers and feels like the city is not doing enough about it.”

Responsiveness is a high priority to Ms. Warwick, who said it’s not uncommon for Pittsburghers to feel they need to know someone in City Hall in order to get a call back.

“That may be natural when you've been in politics a long time, but it isn't how the office is supposed to work. We all need to have access,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel like they have to fight to get what they need.”

The filing deadline for the 5th District council seat is September 19. Allegheny County Democratic Committee chair, Sam Hens-Greco, said committee members in the district will vote on the party nominee about a week before then. Candidates who wish to run without the nomination will have to collect at least 166 signatures of registered voters in the district and pay $50 to be on the ballot on November 8.

Juliet Martinez is the managing editor of The Homepage.

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