The Empty Chair



  City Councilman Patrick Dowd is resigning his District 7 seat to run an Education based charity called “Allies for Children”, leaving a vacancy at City Hall until a special election in November. Many of my fellow Pittsburghers may not care too much; voter turnout in the 2013 Democratic Primary was at a dismal 23.12%. When it comes to politics, people can run the risk of either caring too much or too little. Staying passionate,informed, and reasonable is hard, exhausting work.

   People fight over all kinds of politics for all kinds of motives, but I choose to believe that most people fight because they want what they believe to be best for everyone. They care, and they are passionate about their Communities. As I learn more about this city and the decisions our government makes, I see the importance of City Council in deciding how the city’s tax dollars work.

The contested lands…

As I write this, Dowd has not ‘officially’ resigned his seat, yet four potential candidates have come forward expressing an interest in running for the Office. Paul McKrell, the current Government Affairs Manager under Luke Ravenstahl; Rita Turpin, a recent graduate of Duquesne Law School;  Deborah Gross, Former Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Arts Alliance, and recently endorsed by Bill Peduto; and Anthony Ceoffe Jr., a Housing Authority case worker and Board Member at Lawrenceville United.


Like many people in the District, I’ve met Tony Ceoffe a few times. I see him at local events, festivals, and litter cleanups. Full disclosure, he and I planted a garden together during preparations for the Arsenal Park Independence Day Celebration just recently, but I do not know him outside any of the Lawrenceville United events where I’ve encountered him.

Isn’t it lovely?

I hope to eventually get the chance to learn more about all the candidates, but Mr. Ceoffe was gracious enough to talk with me on the phone over his lunch break today, so he is the first one I am going to write about.  The 29-year-old Pittsburgh Dad and life long Lawrenceville resident discussed his vision for District 7. He began by bringing up “definite safety concerns”  in the area. “When a neighborhood is considered ‘safe’,” he explained, ” everything else falls into place. businesses can thrive, people become more involved…property values increase.” Lawrenceville has seen a  great amount of redevelopment over the past years; lowing its crime rate, and  pulling itself from a blighted neighborhood to an area sprawling with construction, commerce, and new, locally based small business.

He and I eventually got around to talking about the Produce Terminal building,  the one from my previous blog, and in general about Buncher Company’s   ‘Strip District Riverfront Plan’.  Ceoffe said,  “Our zoning and local code  system is out of date, and we need to take a strong look at how we can change the zoning regulations to suit evolving needs in our changing neighborhoods.”  He went on to stress the need for a plan that carries accountability to developers to preserve Pittsburgh’s distinct Historical resources and buildings. When pressed for a quote on his opinion about allowing  Buncher to move forward on the Produce Terminal’s demolition, he said, “under the current ownership, absolutely not.”

We discussed some other issues–ALCOSAN’s “Wet Weather Plan” vs Green infrastructure, how he felt he could continue Councilman Dowd’s work in City government, and he took time to restate his notion that “time and time again, I say, I have a firm belief that policy and passion have to outweigh political affiliations…”

Click the picture to go to the “Neighbors for Tony Ceoffe” Facebook page.

He was very open and eager to talk to me, and he anticipates a tough race ahead. Hopefully Tony Ceoffe was the first of all the candidates  I have the opportunity to talk to about this race and their goals in City Council. Not to spill any personal bias but District 7 is my favorite one…not that every part of Pittsburgh doesn’t have its own unique charm. I was born in District 1, raised in 2,  educated in 6, had some wonderful memories living in 8, but  now, 7 is where I’ve made my home, and I love it. That is why I am concerned about the voice that will speak for it. I look forward to watching the race develop, and as usual, I will keep yinz posted.


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