Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
In a statement released July 26, 2021 members of the Concerned Sewickley Academy Parents Group outlined their concerns regarding the leadership changes at the school including the departure of its former head of school, Kolia O’Connor, on July 1. Interim Head of School Ashley Birtwell announced the departure of five administrators and a fifth-grade teacher July 21. The positions included Head of Lower School Ryan Baxter, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice & Service Learning LaVern Burton, Head of Senior School Peter Lau, Director of Teaching & Learning Ben Scoville, Director of Admissions & Financial Aid Douglas Leek and fifth-grade teacher Brandi Lawrence.
The Concerned Parent Group is scheduled to meet with Birtwell and some of the board members on Friday, and say the departures come about a month after they received in the mail a letter from another group calling itself the Sewickley Parents Organization who outlined their concerns over the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan, which is part of the school’s strategic plan, dubbed EnVision 2024. In that letter, one of the key points emphasized to families was the need to eliminate any adoption of critical race theory, implied or otherwise. The Concerned Parents group say the letter and departures are just a smoke screen for eliminating diversity, inclusion and social justice initiatives all together.
STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Concerned Sewickley Parents outraged over recent siege of power at the school; dismissal of key administrators and faculty, and the diminution of the equity and Inclusion plan.
Members plan to meet with the administration Friday at 1:00 pm to address the unexpected and numerous changes immediately before the start of the school year.
We are a multi-racial group of families and allies who are highly concerned about the recent events at Sewickley Academy. We find the abrupt changes in leadership and the recent purging of multiple administrators, and one faculty member to be troubling. These individuals, each highly credentialed and well respected in their respective disciplines, worked tirelessly to serve the entire school and student body, for the greater good of the institution. Their dismissal is a detriment to the school, and the loss of talent will be greatly felt for years to come.
We are seeking:
Immediate measures to ensure the physical and psychological safety of all of our students. The dissemination of an unsolicited, anonymous, and intrinsically xenophobic letter by the Sewickley Parents organization to families in the Sewickley Academy community, has caused many members to feel vulnerable and unsafe. The group poached demographics that were provided exclusively for school use to create a distribution list, which they now own. The administration has yet to comment on the honor code violation and the threatening tone of the Sewickley Parents letter. In addition, it appears that the Board has given exclusive access for a small group of individuals to determine the future of many.
Implementation of the ratified EnVision SA 2024 Strategic Plan which encompasses the DEI-SJ plan, and not a “refined” diluted and diminished version.
Commitment to a curriculum reflective of the student body.
The value of a Sewickley Academy education will no longer be based on evidence-based pedagogy intended to produce critical and introspective thinkers, doers, and global citizens of the world. Instead, the institution will graduate students who are culturally incompetent, and unprepared to function on the global stage. The Board’s actions will continue to rip at the fabric of who we are as a community, and bring immense damage to the reputation of the Academy, and the community at large. We must come together to ensure that the Academy continues to be an academic institution of excellence devoid of any political agendas meant to dissuade critical thinking.
Many families have been caught off guard when they received an ominous and threatening letter in the mail by a group calling themselves concerned Sewickley parents. However, they are operating anonymously in the shadows, and continue to do so.
The group spokesperson, Dom Odom, a parent, says many of the families were caught off guard when they received an ominous and threatening letter in the mail by a group calling themselves concerned Sewickley parents. However, she feels that they have been operating anonymously in the shadows, and continue to do so.
Timeline of Events:
1. The letter was received June 1, 2021. The language was against diversity.
2. A rudimentary website was crafted. It's been branded and redesigned with a 501 3.C. Refer to photo with the black hand on the bottom. Other than this, the original language was scrubbed.
3. The head of school was terminated for supporting diversity related issues and social justice initiatives due to the Strategic Plan Initiatives titled Envision 2024.
4. The group has been controlling the narrative through ads in the Sewickley Herald, and unsolicited hate mail, using the school directory for their mailing list without parental consent. This was received as a scare tactic by many parents.
5. A meeting is scheduled Friday with parents who are concerned that the key initiatives may be abolished. July 30, @ 1 pm at the school.
6. The concern is the group has deep pockets, and is now controlling the institution without any parameters for real transparency. The board is now involved in the day to day operations of the school, controlling the school, which goes against the by-laws of the National Association of Independent Schools.
7. The interim president was appointed by the board. The board has reneged on the original plan to conduct a national search for a new school president. These initiatives call for recruitment of minority administrators and faculty, and retention of students. There were 3 previously listed on the school website.
8. Administration and faculty supporting diversity initiatives have been fired, including 3 African Americans.
9. Families of color are weighing options to leave the school. They are concerned about the physical and socio-emotional safety of their children. It is also no longer a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ students.
10. Deceptive ads have been taken out in the Sewickley Herald. See Screenshots.
11. Parents feel the goal is to make Sewickley Academy white again.
12. Children are enrolled at the moment, so please consider their safety.
The call to action is now! Provide your feedback to the Sewickley Academy Administration and Board:
Sewickley Academy; 315 Academy Avenue. Sewickley, PA 15143
Lawmakers say legislature should vote on Pa.’s Fair Pay for Play Act
HARRISBURG, June 22 – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week has further opened the door for college athletes across the country to be compensated for their work, state Reps. Ed Gainey and Dan Miller noted. The two Allegheny County Democrats have sponsored the Fair Pay for Play Act, which would allow college athletes to earn money for their athletic efforts and is designed to keep Pennsylvania colleges competitive nationwide.
In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS ruled that the NCAA could not bar payments to student athletes. And while the ruling only applies to payments and other benefits related to educational needs, the language used in the decision suggests that the high court could challenge the NCAA policy prohibiting student athletes from profiting off their performance, name, image, or likenesses. You can read the full decision here.
“The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry thanks to the college athletes that bring in money for their schools. Yet, they are prohibited from doing something as simple as using their own name to make money from their efforts,” Gainey said. “I applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling, which notes that the NCAA has been getting away with not paying their workers for decades, something that you would never see anywhere else in this country. It’s time for that to change, and it can start with the General Assembly passing the Fair Pay for Play Act.”
Gainey and Miller’s legislation, known officially as H.B. 632, would allow college athletes in Pennsylvania to sign endorsement deals, earn compensation for their name, image and likeness, and sign licensing contracts that would allow them to earn money. It would also allow them to hire professional representation, like agents, to manage their contracts and finances.
“It’s no secret -- the massive profits that schools and the NCAA collect off the hard work of student athletes far outweigh the current compensation and protections extended to them, with disproportionate effects on our athletes of color,” Miller said. “The court’s ruling is a step towards correcting this wrong and paves the way for our bill to offer greater financial opportunity and security for these athletes.”
To date, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and Nebraska have passed similar legislation. The Fair Pay to Play Act is currently sitting in the House Education Committee awaiting further action.
On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the President signed into law: S. 475, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which designates Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.
Remarks by President Biden at Signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Well, thank you, Madam Vice President.
One hundred and fifty-six years ago — one hundred and fifty-six years — June 19th, 1865 — John, thanks for being here — a major general of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Americans in Texas from bondage. A day, as you all know — I’m going to repeat some of what was said — that became known as Juneteenth. You all know that. A day that reflects what the Psalm tell us: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and a promise of a brighter morning to come. This is a day of profound — in my view — profound weight and profound power.
A day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take — what I’ve long called “America’s original sin.”
At the same time, I also remember the extraordinary capacity to heal, and to hope, and to emerge from the most painful moments and a bitter, bitter version of ourselves, but to make a better version of ourselves.
You know, today, we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be: a national holiday. As the Vice President noted, a holiday that will join the others of our national celebrations: our independence, our laborers who built this nation, our servicemen and women who served and died in its defense. And the first new national holiday since the creation of Martin Luther King Holiday nearly four decades ago.
I am grateful to the members of Congress here today — in particular, the Congressional Black Caucus, who did so much to make this day possible.
I’m especially pleased that we showed the nation that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to commemorate this day with the overwhelming bipartisan support of the Congress. I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another.
And we’re blessed — we’re blessed to mark the day in the presence of Ms. Opal Lee. As my mother would say, “God love her.” (Applause.)
I had the honor of meeting her in Nevada more than a year ago. She told me she loved me, and I believed it. (Laughter.) I wanted to believe it. (Laughs.) Ms. Opal, you’re incredible. A daughter of Texas. Grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
And Ms. Opal is — you won’t believe it — she’s 49 years old. (Laughter.) Or 94 years old, but I — (laughter). You are an incredible woman, Ms. Opal. You really are.
As a child growing up in Texas, she and her family would celebrate Juneteenth. On Juneteenth, 1939, when she was 12 years old, the white — a white mob torched her family home. But such hate never stopped her any more than it stopped the vast majority of you I’m looking at from this podium.
Over the course of decades, she’s made it her mission to see that this day came. It was almost a singular mission. She’s walked for miles and miles, literally and figuratively, to bring attention to Juneteenth, to make this day possible.
I ask, once again, we all stand and give her a warm welcome to the White House. (Applause.)
As they still say in the Senate and I said for 36 years, “if you excuse me there for a point of personal privilege,” as I was walking down, I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history.
By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel, Jim.
You know, I said a few weeks ago, marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They don’t ignore those moments of the past. They embrace them. Great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made. And in remembering those moments, we begin to heal and grow stronger.
The truth is, it’s not — simply not enough just to commemorate Juneteenth. After all, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn’t mark the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality; it only marked the beginning.
To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we’ve not gotten there yet. The Vice President and I and our entire administration and all of you in this room are committed to doing just that.
That’s why we’ve launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing — finally address the cruel fact that a home owned, to this day, by a Black American family is usually appraised at a lower rate for a similar home owned by a white family in a similar area.
That’s why we committed to increasing Black homeownership, one of the biggest drivers of generational wealth.
That’s why we’re making it possible for more Black entrepreneurs to access — to access capital, because their ideas are as good; they lack the capital to get their fair — and get their fair share of federal contracts so they can begin to build wealth.
That’s why we’re working to give each and every child, three and four years of age, not daycare, but school — in a school. (Applause.)
That’s why — that’s why we’re unlocking the incredibly creative and innovation — innovation of the history — of our Historical Black Colleges and Universities, providing them with the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories to help HBCU graduates prepare and compete for good-paying jobs in the industries of the future.
Folks, the promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real — it becomes real in our schools and on our Main Streets and in our neighborhoods — our healthcare system and ensuring that equity is at the heart of our fight against the pandemic; in the water that comes out of our faucets and the air that we breathe in our communities; in our justice system — so that we can fulfill the promise of America for all people. All of our people.
And it’s not going to be fulfilled so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack. (Applause.)
We see this assault from restrictive laws, threats of intimidation, voter purges, and more — an assault that offends the very democracy — our very democracy.
We can’t rest until the promise of equality is fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation. That, to me, is the meaning of Juneteenth. That’s what it’s about.
So let’s make this June- — this very Juneteenth, tomorrow — the first that our nation will celebrate all together, as one nation — a Juneteenth of action on many fronts.
One of those is vaccinations. Tomorrow, the Vice President will be in Atlanta on a bus tour, helping to spread the word, like all of you have been doing, on lifesaving vaccines.
And across the country this weekend, including here in Washington, people will be canvassing and hosting events in their communities, going door-to-door, encouraging vaccinations.
We’ve built equity into the heart of the vaccination program from day one, but we still have more work to do to close the racial gap in vaccination rates. The more we can do that, the more we can save lives.
Today also marks the sixth anniversary of the tragic deaths of — at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A killer motivated by hate, intending to start a race war in South Carolina. He joined his victims in a Bible study class, then he took their lives in the house of worship.
It’s a reminder that our work to root out hate never ends — because hate only hides, it never fully goes away. It hides. And when you breathe oxygen under that rock, it comes out.
And that’s why we must understand that Juneteenth represents not only the commemoration of the end of slavery in America more than 150 years ago, but the ongoing work to have to bring true equity and racial justice into American society, which we can do.
In short, this day doesn’t just celebrate the past; it calls for action today.
I wish all Americans a happy Juneteenth. I am shortly going to — in a moment, going to sign into law, making it a federal holiday.
And I have to say to you, I’ve only been President for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have had as President, not because I did it; you did it — Democrats and Republicans. But it’s an enormous, enormous honor.
Thank you for what you’ve done. And, by the way, typical of most of us in Congress and the Senate, I went down to the other end of the hall first and thanked your staffs because I know who does the hard work. (Laughter and applause.) They’re down there. They’re at the other end, but I thanked them as well.
May God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, I’d like to invite up, while I sign, Senator Tina Smith, Senator Ed Markey, Senator Raphael Warnock, Senator John Cornyn, Whip John [Jim] Clyburn, Representative Barbara Lee, Representative Danny Davis, Chair Joyce Beatty, and Sheila Jackson Lee, and Ms. Opal.
(The act is signed.) (Applause.)
Last year a record number of Pennsylvanians either went to the polls or put their ballot in the mail, taking part in our democracy during an unprecedented pandemic.
Election officials and workers moved heaven and Earth to ensure every ballot was counted, that every voter had their say. And despite challenges that two years ago none of us could fathom, Pennsylvania successfully and securely held an election.
To be 100 percent clear, the election that took place last year was a free and fair election, with no evidence of vote tampering or fraud. And yet, over the last year, extremists in the Republican party – including the former president – have, again without evidence, continued to spread lies and disinformation designed to cast doubt on the election and call the results into question.
Over the course of this year, the leadership of the House Republicans held 10 hearings regarding the election and related issues, and themselves have rejected conspiracy theories and calls for half-baked audits, which some of their rank-and-file members have requested or continue to spread.
But that doesn’t mean that they are above taking advantage of the situation to push forward legislation that would make it harder for Pennsylvanians – and especially people of color – to vote.
There are changes that need to be made to our election law. A bipartisan consortium of county election officials have asked – several times – to make it easier to process mail-in ballots. In fact, last year – before the election – the House was poised to pass legislation to do just that, but the majority party blocked efforts to pass these needed and requested changes.
Now, instead of making the tweaks that election officials have asked for, next week Republicans in the House are poised to force a vote on a sprawling, 149-page bill that would place restrictions on many of the changes that they themselves voted to enact just a few years ago. The bill, H.B. 1300, would also require voter ID, a proposal that has already been struck down once by the state Supreme Court.
Rather than addressing the issues that we have been asked to address, H.B. 1300 is a partisan attack on voting rights, seeking to cynically take advantage of political noise to create a political advantage at the polls.
Instead of making it harder for folks to vote, we need to be addressing the issues that election officials have asked us to address. We further should be making it easier for people to register to vote and to take part in our elections.
Instead, the House Republicans would have us pass restrictive legislation to solve problems that simply do not exist.
Pennsylvania has serious issues that the legislature in Harrisburg needs to address. We are just now emerging from a pandemic, and associated economic downturn, unprecedented in our lifetime. We should be having hearings and debates in the House chamber on how best to invest the $7 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds our state has been sent.
We should be talking about how we are going to fund chronically underfunded schools and invest in our children’s futures. We should be talking about how we are going to establish career training programs, how we are going to rebuild our social safety nets, how we are going to invest in our communities and how to rebuild our neglected infrastructure.
We in the Republican-controlled legislature should be having public hearings and debates on these and other issues. Instead, we are voting on politicized bills that solve nothing, are doomed to be vetoed by the governor, and only serve to fan the flames of our seemingly endless culture wars.
My Democratic colleagues and I are ready, willing and waiting to work on substantive legislation to address the issues facing our state. We are ready, willing and waiting to vote on a clean elections bill, one that would address the issues our county elections officials have asked us to solve.
And we are ready, willing and waiting to work together to guide federal investments in our state, our communities, and more importantly, in the people of Pennsylvania as we emerge from the pandemic.
Instead, it seems that all House Republicans are ready and willing to do is play more political games seeking political gains, and to try to kick the can down the road a little further.
State Rep. Austin Davis
Food insecurity spiked among residents living in two predominantly African American neighborhoods during the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, far outpacing food insecurity observed among the general U.S. population during the same period, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Following residents of two Pittsburgh low-income African American neighborhoods characterized as food deserts since 2011, the study found that the pandemic increased the number of people facing food insecurity by nearly 80%.
Similar to United States national trends, food insecurity among residents had been improving consistently since 2011. However, the study found that those gains were erased by the pandemic, with the disparities between the predominantly African American residents and U.S. population at the highest levels seen over the past decade.
The findings are published online by the American Journal of Public Health.
“In a short period of time, the coronavirus pandemic has magnified preexisting racial and ethnic disparities in food security,” said Tamara Dubowitz, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “While food insecurity is linked to a wide variety of health problems, these disparities reflect larger systemic issues including structural racism.”
The study involved residents of the Hill and Homewood neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that have been the focus of a long-running research project investigating the influence that diet, access to food, and other items have on residents' health and wellbeing.
Both of the neighborhoods are primarily African American and low income. A group of residents of both areas have been surveyed about their access to healthy food on several occasions since 2011.
For the latest study, RAND researchers surveyed a group of 605 residents from the neighborhoods during March, April, and May 2020, asking about how the pandemic was affecting their access to food. Researchers have been following the residents since 2011.
The study found that the number of residents reporting food insecurity increased from 20.7% in 2018 to 36.9% in 2020—a nearly 80 percent rise. Previous research had shown that food insecurity had been falling in the two neighborhoods since 2011.
Among those surveyed, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (52.2%) and food bank use (35.9%) did not change significantly during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This finding suggests that existing safety nets may need more support in order to reach those with emerging needs,” Dubowitz said. “Lack of reported use could be due to difficulties with SNAP enrollment, problems accessing food banks in the early days of the pandemic or feelings of stigma related to participating in such programs.”
Support for the study was provided by the National Cancer Institute and RAND, which uses income from RAND's operations and unrestricted philanthropic gifts to support research.
Other authors of the study are Madhumita Ghosh Dastidar, Wendy M. Troxel, Robin Beckman, Alvin Nugroho, Sameer Siddiqi, Jonathan Cantor, Matthew Baird, Andrea S. Richardson, Gerald P. Hunter, Alexandra Mendoza-Graf, and Rebecca L. Collins.
The RAND Social and Economic Well-Being division seeks to actively improve the health, and social and economic well-being of populations and communities throughout the world.
Source: Rand Corporation
Pennsylvania state Rep. Ed Gainey announced his candidacy for mayor of Pittsburgh.
Gainey will challenge Mayor Bill Peduto and others in this year’s Democratic primary on May 18th.
Here is a statement from Ed Gainey on launching his campaign:
“I’m running for Mayor because I know that the working people of Pittsburgh need opportunities for good union jobs with a living wage and benefits, affordable housing, genuine public safety, and a city where we can all belong and contribute. We can uplift the City of Pittsburgh for everyone if we start with those who have been left behind.
“I understand that city government has the power to change lives, uplift communities, and fix what’s broken in our city. Our city is divided, but when we all lay our heads down at night, I believe we all share the same vision for our families, our children, and our neighborhoods. To fulfill our vision for a better tomorrow, Pittsburgh deserves a mayor who will fight with all they’ve got to see the vision through. I’m ready for that fight, and as the next Mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, I’ll be a Mayor for all of us.”
Last week, Mayor Peduto announced that he is running for his third term. So far, retired police officer Tony Moreno of Brighton Heights and community activist Will Parker of the North Side, the nephew of Willie Stargell, have also said they are running.
There are no term limits for the mayor of Pittsburgh. The city’s longest-serving mayor was David Leo Lawrence, who was elected four times as mayor, although he resigned in 1959 during his fourth term to become the state’s governor.
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives vote on H.Res. 24 to impeach President Donald J. Trump:
“This impeachment vote was bipartisan because it wasn’t about politics. This is about public safety. There is no doubt that President Trump committed the conduct in the article of impeachment. Even though there is only one week left in his term, impeachment is necessary because Donald Trump is a clear and ongoing threat to our communities, to our military, and to our government.
“There are heavily armed groups all over the country who look to Trump for direction and carry his flag, and they continue to plot because he continues to lie about the election. We all saw how quickly he can incite them to commit serious violence, even against a hard target like the Capitol. That could happen again at any second over the next week.
“Trump could start pardoning the people who invaded the Capitol or do any number of dangerous things to try and distract from the attack. If that happens, the Senate must be ready to remove him from office immediately, at a moment’s notice. Our vote today ensures that they have the power to do exactly that.”
Jan. 12, 2021 - State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, has been sworn in for another two-year term in the House and has also been named as the Democratic chairman of the House Professional Licensure Committee. He previously served two terms as Democratic chairman of the House Finance Committee.
“I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on several issues – among the most urgent is securing much-needed relief for residents and minority-owned businesses who continue to be adversely impacted by the ongoing pandemic,” said Wheatley. “I’ve seen firsthand how the pandemic has led to extreme stress and anxiety, especially for people who want to work and have either struggled, due to no fault of their own, to get or renew the proper licensing for their respective occupations. I see this committee being among the most vital in directly impacting our workforce. A strong workforce is going to be the foundation toward our state’s recovery, and we need to do all we can to make the licensing process for employees and businesses as smooth and efficient as possible to keep Pennsylvanians working.”
Wheatley added that, based on a recent national study, 41% of Black-owned businesses, 32% of Latino-owned businesses and 26% of Asian-owned businesses shut down between February and April 2020, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses during that same time period.
Wheatley was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2002, taking office at the start of the 2003-04 legislative session.
Washington, D.C.– (Jan. 7th) Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement:
“Yesterday, domestic terrorists, inspired, encouraged and emboldened by President Donald Trump, attacked the U.S. Capitol Building in furtherance of an attempted coup.
While shocking, yesterday’s events were entirely foreseeable. They were the direct result of President Trump’s lies about the integrity of our most recent election, and his frequent incitements to violence. For weeks, the President has lied about his decisive defeat, promoting wild conspiracy theories about unsubstantiated fraud and encouraging this insurrection. But he didn’t do it alone. President Trump was aided and abetted every step of the way by a multitude of Republicans in both the House and Senate who, after four years of enabling his authoritarian tendencies, yesterday sought to invalidate the will of the very people they serve. These members of Congress, along with President Trump, are responsible for this direct assault on our democracy and on our Nation’s Capitol Building. Their collective actions and words put lives at risk, and struck at the heart of our most fundamental democratic principles.
President Trump is a threat to our domestic and national security. It is self-evident that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. I call on Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing the powers of the presidency from Donald Trump. This is the quickest way to protect our domestic and national security.”
Mayor William Peduto, City Councilman Daniel Lavelle and The Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) — the commercial redeveloper of the $1 billion Lower Hill mixed-use district — announces a series of local partnerships with Hill District residents to bolster project management, design expertise and community reinvestment. BPG and local partners the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed plans to break ground on the 26-story FNB Financial Center in early 2021.
Additionally, BPG announced the opening of a new Pittsburgh office at the JLL Center at Tower Two-Sixty on Forbes Avenue, partnering with JLL, its commercial broker for the Lower Hill redevelopment.
The Lower Hill development team has been expanded to include four Hill District residents, intended to catalyze BPG’s neighborhood revitalization program in alignment with the Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan (CCIP) that was established in 2014 to guide equitable development on the Lower Hill:
Bomani Howze – Vice President for The Buccini/Pollin Group. Hill District-based developer Bomani Howze has joined BPG as a Vice President with development management responsibilities in the Pittsburgh region, where BPG also owns the People’s Center office complex on the North Shore. Mr. Howze’s areas of focus will be to finalize planning approvals, further define commercial programming and expand the firm’s community engagement platform. Mr. Howze noted: “BPG has been a trailblazer in delivering projects of significant complexity and impact in Baltimore, Washington, Wilmington and other cities with neighborhoods pursuing equitable development similar to Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District. I’m incredibly excited to join forces with BPG, the Penguins and our ex tensive, public-private partner network to bring long-promised opportunities to the Hill and to realize the possibilities of reinvestment in my community.” BPG’s Managing Partner Chris Buccini said: “We are delighted to solidify our presence in Pittsburgh by partnering with local developer and community builder Bomani Howze, establishing our development office above Market Square, and expanding our local team. Together, we will work to realize the tremendous potential for this special location.”
Dorin Dickerson – Director of Project Development for Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired Dorin Dickerson, currently the Community Outreach Manager for Mascaro Construction Company, to serve as Director of Project Development for the Penguins on the Lower Hill development. Mr. Dickerson will coordinate closely with Mr. Howze and focus his efforts on project management, workforce development and community engagement.
E. Holdings – M/WBE Consultant. Pittsburgh-based E. Holdings, led by Hill District resident Irv Williams, has been engaged as the M/WBE consultant for the Lower Hill development. In that capacity, E. Holdings will focus on solidifying bridges between the development team and the minority and women-owned business community to enhance the inclusion of local, disadvantaged contractors and service providers in this transformational project.
Dr. Kimberly Ellis – Legacy Consultant. Hill District historian and designer Dr. Kimberly Ellis has been engaged as the legacy consultant for the Lower Hill development. As she has in the adjacent I-579 CAP Park development project which is currently under construction, Dr. Ellis will channel historical context and diverse stakeholder perspectives to ensure that the development provides an inclusive, welcoming public open space – one that restores visual, recreational, commercial and pedestrian connections between the Hill District and the downtown along Wylie Avenue.
Lakeisha Byrd – Design Consultant. Hill District resident and architectural design consultant Lakeisha Byrd has been selected to guide elements of the architectural work on the Lower Hill development. Ms. Byrd will work closely with Gensler, the architect of record for the development, and their landscape architect to enhance the physical and cultural connection between the development and the Hill District neighborhood.
Monaloh Basin Engineers – Site Survey Consultant. Woman-owned, Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Monaloh Basin Engineers will provide a team to conduct a survey of the Lower Hill site’s first commercial phase. The resulting topographical analysis, boundary surveys and subdivision plans will support the broader design initiative of the planned commercial projects and public open space.
AWK Consulting Engineers – Geotechnical Consultant. Turtle Creek–based AWK Consulting Engineers, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), will perform on-site geotechnical evaluations and design services for the site, documenting foundation requirements for the initial phases of commercial development.
These initial contracting commitments have been released just as the project enters the pre-development home stretch in anticipation of a Q2 2021 groundbreaking. The project’s designer and builder will further enhance this local team as the effort continues to move forward.
"What sets the 28-acre project apart from others is that it will be led by and engages with local Black artists, companies and leaders,” Mayor Peduto said. “By working hand in hand with both community stakeholders and private developers, we are investing in a future that is directly built by its residents. I am proud of the work of our partners and collaborators on this critical work, and especially want to thank URA Executive Director Greg Flisram and Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker."
“It cannot be understated how critical these hires are. I have continually stated that this development should be to the explicit economic and social benefit of the African-American and Hill District community. Hiring four African-American firms that both live and are headquartered in the Hill District are monumental steps towards achieving both objectives,” Councilman Lavelle said. “What’s more, the complete set of firms hired will go a tremendous way in ensuring this is an equitable development centered with the concerns and needs of the residents of the Hill District not just in mind, but also in practice. Lastly, I thank the Mayor and development team for recognizing the importance of equitable development and advancing these partnerships.”
“I want to thank the Penguins and BPG for their commitment to the Lower Hill, as this development will have an immediate and positive economic impact on the Hill District neighborhood and create thousands of jobs to help with our recovery out of the pandemic,” said State Rep. Jake Wheatley.
In recent weeks, the largest mixed-use, multi-tenant office project in the City of Pittsburgh completed its financing commitments to advance toward construction, with an infusion of equity from minority-owned Clay Cove Capital, LLC. BPG received preliminary project approvals from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh as well as the Sports and Exhibition Authority in May 2020.
BPG’s Vice President of Development Boris Kaplan observed: “We are complementing the strong team we already have in place with professionals of high caliber, inspiration and in-market credibility. The Lower Hill is going to be a destination comparable to the very best mixed-use projects across the country and we are adding crucial horsepower and diversity of skillsets to the team at a pivotal juncture in the project’s development.”
For information on workforce and MWBE contracting opportunities:
Rendering of the I-579 CAP Park, Lower Hill Open Space and FNB Financial Center.
Mayor William Peduto released the following statement regarding the final report by the Community Taskforce for Police Reform, which he named in June:
“This amazing work by the Taskforce is more than I ever could have hoped for, and I am humbled and thankful by their exhaustive work on the critical need to reimagine police work in Pittsburgh. As the report notes the work by a diverse group of civic leaders — from corporate, religious and philanthropic entities; unions; health care and community-based service organizations; grassroots activism; and the law — brings the breadth of knowledge and experience that was necessary to take this very complicated and important subject to task.
Their independently produced recommendations are noted in the report under the focus areas of Eliminating Racial Disparities; Officer Wellness; Reimagining Policing; Recruitment, Training, Education and Hiring; Relations with Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police; Transparency and Accountability; Use of Force Changes Needed to Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Policy; and Use of Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets, “Flash-Bang” Devices and Other Less Lethal Methods of Crowd Control.
These recommendations will be our guiding influence as we make changes to police policy and budgeting to restructure police operations to make them more community-driven, safe and supportive for all residents, especially our Black neighbors. With these recommendations we will make real changes to policing, backed up by data and research, to ensure equity, accountability and transparency for all.
I must also thank Pittsburgh City Council for its initial changes to police methods already put into City law this year.
This report is only the latest step toward reform, following work we have already done and assistance we need from state and federal legislators. In June I created the Office of Community Health and Safety to redirect city resources to better meet community needs by housing social services, public health and social work experts who can assist first responders. I also called on Harrisburg to promote several police accountability and transparency reforms, and to make it easier for municipalities to immediately release body-worn camera footage.
I have joined efforts led by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to engage with other city leaders nationwide as we together seek the best practices for reimagine how policing is performed across America, in many ways through the types of changes recommended in the Community Taskforce report.
In sum, the Taskforce report is a model not only for Pittsburgh but the nation, and is a springboard for actions we must continue to take to protect Black lives.”
Source: City of Pittsburgh
October 9, 2020 After much deliberation, Mayor William Peduto today announced his agreement with the City Art Commission finding that the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park be removed, and directed that the statue be displayed in a private location still to be determined.
The Commission unanimously voted September 23 to remove the statue. After reading Commission testimony and talking to passionate advocates on both sides of the issue, the Mayor made the difficult decision that removing the statue is justified, and that it can be better displayed in a private location that places Columbus, his memory and his history in different context.
The Mayor issued a letter to the Art Commission today that reviews the celebration of Columbus by Italian-Americans who were subject to discrimination after emigrating to the United States, and the subsequent reckoning with the explorer’s support of slavery and genocide. The letter says in part:
“All four of my grandparents were Italian and personally experienced discrimination, yet learned to love their new country. I am tremendously proud to be part of the Italian-American community in Pittsburgh, just as I am proud to be Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh and to represent all people of our city.
After much thought and prayer I believe it is now time for us to return the Columbus statue to the Italian-American community that brought it into existence. They can preserve it in a manner than celebrates Italian-American culture, while acknowledging the wreckage that slavery and racism has done to America.”
The letter asks the Art Commission to make a final vote on the disposition of the statue.
No decisions have yet been made on when the statue will be removed, or the private location where it will be stored and displayed. City crews may cover the statue until it can be removed.
A copy of the Mayor’s letter is available here.
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