The calls for reform in Pittsburgh come at a time when the movement to defund police departments is growing stronger in the U.S. and demonstrators all over the world have been marching for justice in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 26.
On Friday, May 1, Gov. Tom Wolf announced 24 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will move from the red to yellow phase in the state’s three-phase matrix for restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
None of the counties moving to the yellow phase are within Southwestern Pennsylvania. As of Friday, Allegheny County, with a population of about 1.2 million, has reported 1,319 cases of COVID-19. In this area, state health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine cited population density as a particular reason for not moving to the yellow phase. In an interview after the governor’s announcement, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he wasn’t aware population density was a concern. “I was actually a little surprised.
Urban design expert Alan Mallach believes owner Prasad Margabandhu was trying to “milk” the failed property by attempting to eke out rent revenue while spending as little as possible on repairs or taxes.
Property owner Prasad Margabandhu’s practices serve as a prime example of the challenges municipalities and tenants face when trying to hold landlords accountable for failed properties and dangerous conditions.
Experts in trauma care differentiate between sudden violent events, such as the Tree of Life shooting, and chronic forms of violence, such as war zones or ongoing gun violence within neighborhoods. In Pittsburgh, chronic gun violence occurs in some neighborhoods, but not others, and that trauma is disproportionately carried by the city's black communities.
Community development guru Alan Mallach points to the rise of “eds and meds” and the influx of young, educated professionals into urban areas as major trends that have transformed Pittsburgh and other American cities over the last two decades, bringing investment and jobs to many declining neighborhoods. “Taken as a whole, American cities, particularly older cities, are doing better than at any point really since the 1960s,” he said at a lecture Tuesday evening at Carnegie Mellon University. “This is an amazing revival, and it’s worth celebrating.”
He’s quick to note, though, that such progress is only half the story: “At the same time, for people who live in those cities, more of them are living in poverty, more of them are living in substandard housing and in neighborhoods that do not provide a decent quality of life. At the same time that our cities are drawing thousands of jobs and billions in new investment, more people live in these cities who lack jobs and opportunities.”
In Pittsburgh, young professionals are moving into such neighborhoods as Lawrenceville, East Liberty and the South Side, driving a surge in development, while long-time residents are leaving. Fewer people are living in predominantly white working-class and black neighborhoods, such as Homewood and the Hill District, and those who do are, on average, lower income and older.
After former public defender Turahn Jenkins announced in early July that he would challenge Stephen A. Zappala Jr. in a bid to become Allegheny County’s next district attorney, Jenkins quickly came under fire for his views on sexuality and gender identity. He is affiliated with the Bible Chapel, a church that teaches that homosexuality is sinful, a view that Jenkins reportedly said he shares. Because of his stance, many community members, including leaders from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] community,* were not satisfied with Jenkins’ stated commitment to inclusive and unbiased law enforcement. They asked Jenkins to end his campaign, but he’s chosen to remain in the race. The election is scheduled for 2019.