Bill Peduto, Jack Wagner and Rep. Jake Wheatley parried questions at an Wednesday evening event sponsored by the Executive Women's Council of Greater Pittsburgh, affirming their commitments to equity in employment and contracting for women.
Mr. Wagner and Mr. Wheatley pointed to the balance they had demonstrated in hiring for their state staffs. Mr. Peduto noted that he had been one of the authors of an initiative to promote more female appointments to city boards and commissions, one that he said had faltered under the current administration.
"The first thing I'd do is follow the legislation that I sponsored,'' Mr. Peduto said.
"It's a serious problem, said Mr. Wagner. "I commit to having more women and hopefully 50 percent or better on those boards.''
Mr. Wheatley bemoaned the fact that the need for more female and minority representation was a conversation that kept recurring without a follow-though commensurate with the rhetoric on the subject. He called for a city version of the NFL's Rooney Rule, that would ensure that women and minority owned firms be considered in the award of government contracts.
The forum at the Rivers Club came as the mayor's race made its debut on the airwaves in the form of a largely biographical ad for Jack Wagner. J.J. Abbott, Mr. Wagner's press secretary, said the ad was running on both broadcast and cable outlets.
Most of last night's exchanges kept to already familiar ground as the candidates traded debated their frequently overlapping positions on issues including jobs, transit and reform of the police force.
On a day when one person died and four people were shot in separate shootings in Homewood, and the gun control debate continued in Washington, Mr. Wagner reminded the audience that he had sponsored and assault weapons ban for the city when he was a member of council in Masloff administration. He took the occasion to remind the crowd that former Mayor Sophie Masloff had endorsed his bid earlier in the day.
Mr. Peduto said that efforts to shore up the city's pension funds remained incomplete as the Pittsburgh Parking Authority had yet to turn over to the city the enhanced revenue from new parking machines. He said one of his first priorities would be to ensure that that revenue stream would be steered to the pension system as he and his allies on council had intended.
Mr. Wheatley urged the crowd to embrace his candidacy as a way to turn away form the old-boy-network that he said had become too entrenched in city government and other institutions in the region. "Don't worry about who has electability; don't worry about who has money,'' he said.
The remaining Democratic candidate, A.J. Richardson, was a no-show for the event.