The first/second debate

Published by James O'Toole on .

Declining a proffered microphone at an appearance before a Hazelwood community group Tuesday night, Bill Peduto, said, "There have been so few debates, I still have my voice.''

In contrast to the dozens of forums and debates that taxed the Democratic primary candidates, this was one of the few joint appearances scheduled for the general election _ a rough measure of the contrast in competitiveness of the two contests. Last night's event, a forum hosted by the Hazelwood Initiative in the Car Barn on Second Avenue, was only the first or second debate of the general election season _ depending on how one defines debate.   The previous day, a joint appearance had been scheduled before a  Lincoln Place senior center, but Mr Peduto, the Democratic nominee and prohibitive favorite on Nov. 5, was the only one who showed up.  

Before an audience of about two dozen last night, he at least had someone to debate.
Les Ludwig, an independent candidate for mayor, was there, along with Bob Hillen, the city Republican chairman who was standing in for GOP nominee Josh Wander.  

Any Republican candidate faces tough odds in an overwhelmingly Democratic city but Mr. Wander has compounded that challenge by spending much of the campaign, by his account, in Israel, Kenya, and Russia.  

"I've tried to find out what he's doing, but he won't tell me,'' Mr. Hillen said of his candidate, who describes himself as a security consultant.
Mr. Hillen assured the small crowd, however, that, Mr. Wander will return to Pittsburgh "very shortly, within a week.''

Mr. Ludwig, a regular and vocal participant in the public comment period of city council meetings, appealed to the crowd to move beyond the normal routines and revenue sources of local government.  He argued that the city was ignoring opportunities to raise money from private sources through means such as the sale of advertising in public facilities.  He cited Huntington Beach, Ca., as an example of a city that had attracted revenue by as selling the exclusive rights to market soft drinks in government buildings and

"Wake up America, when Les is the mayor you're going to walk away from the table with money,'' he said.  "We'll literally make it possible to lower taxes.''

Mr. Peduto told the crowd that Hazelwood was an example of the kind of neighborhoods that could be revived through innovative thinking on projects such as the  massive sewer and waste water infrastructure project being undertaken in the region.  

He said that the community's many abandoned structures could be assets to help train young people in building trades while preserving ithe neighborhood's housing stock.

Turning to transit, he reiterated his support for a proposal to use a railroad right-of-way stretching from Hazelwood to Oakland and Lawrenceville as a new means of knitting together city neighborhoods.  Sketching out a long term vision for the region's transportation, he said that he would be willing to support a referendum to create a dedicated revenue source to extend the light rail system that now serves the South Hills to all four points of the compass. 

Speaking afterwards, however, he stressed that such a plan was years in the future.   He said his more immediate transit priorities were focused on two things: lobbying for passage of the statewide transit measure that has been stalled in the Legislature, and the creation of a bus rapid transit line linking Downtown and Oakland.


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