3 new council members sworn in; Shields remains president

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Pittsburgh City Council swore in three new members today, and all sounded notes of change in speeches before a packed Council Chamber.

If the first day is any indication, the turnover of one-third of the body could mark a shift in tone after years during which most council members were concerned less with social change than with the day-to-day provision of services in their districts.

Council also reelected Doug Shields to its presidency.

The Rev. Ricky Burgess, 50, of North Point Breeze, who replaces Twanda Carlisle, called for a focus on "social justice" to reverse what he characterized as "serious challenges" for many residents.

"Our steel mills are gone and our economy is declining," he said. "Our population is dwindling and our residents are becoming older. Our neighborhoods remain economically and socially homogenous, and our city's poor remain trapped in a cycle of inter-generational poverty."

The remedy: "Equity, in every contract proposed, and in every development planned. Equity, in every public dollar allocated and in every public policy recommended."

Bruce Kraus, 53, of the South Side Flats, replaces Jeff Koch.

Mr. Kraus, who is openly gay, cited gay rights icon Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978 "so that one day, some 30 years later, one's orientation would no longer be a factor in determining their ability to serve as an elected official."

He called for "a city where all people are invited to our great common table, to share in an equal voice and have every opportunity to participate in the stewardship of their futures, and have access to every resource that will lift them and their loved-ones up [to] the very highest quality of life."

Patrick Dowd, 39, of Highland Park, replaces Len Bodack.

Mr. Dowd called for "ending the old politics of personality" so council can help "craft a new vision for Pittsburgh." He said he decorated his new office with "some smelly shoes" that he wore every day while knocking on hundreds of doors during the campaign. "They will stand in my office for the next four years, and they will remind me ... of the importance of communication and connection" with the people who elected him.

Mr. Shields and Darlene Harris and also were sworn in to new four-year terms.

Council voted 8-0 to keep its presidency in the hands of Mr. Shields, who gained that post after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl ascended to the mayor's office upon the Sept. 1, 2006, death of Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Mr. Shields' re-election came after weeks of jockeying and a weekend flurry of negotiations, according to council insiders. Councilman Jim Motznik had been viewed as another top contender, and most of the other members were floated as possible compromise candidates as the nine-member body hashed out its internal differences.

Mr. Motznik nominated Mr. Shields to the post, and there were no other candidates. Councilwoman Tonya Payne was not present for the vote. Mr. Shields named William Peduto chairman of the key Finance Committee.

Mr. Shields' tenure as president has been marked by occasional conflict with Mr. Ravenstahl and with state-appointed fiscal overseers, and by his authorship of contentious legislation on the handling of domestic violence accusations against city police.

"We shall form consensus," he urged today. "We shall work together. We shall heal political wounds."

Mr. Ravenstahl urged council to "continue what I would argue is a tremendous amount of momentum" in the city. Sworn in to his old council seat four years ago, he jokingly told the new members "it's downhill from here."

The swearing-in ceremony began with a parade of youth, starting with the presentation of colors by the Oliver High School Junior Army ROTC Bear Battalion. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Mr. Dowd's children Mackenzie, Will and Quinn; Mr. Burgess's daughter Candace; and Mr. Kraus' niece Kaleigh. A trio of voices from Pittsburgh CAPA High School sang the national anthem.

References to the late Council President Eugene "Jeep" DePasquale, who died Wednesday, started with the photo of his swearing in that sat on the council clerk's table, and continued into Roman Catholic Bishop David A. Zubik's invocation. He called for a moment of silence in the late councilman's honor before asking council to "help create a human society built on love and peace."

The ceremony marked cameo returns to city government for Common Pleas Judge Tom Flaherty, previously the city controller, who swore in Ms. Harris, and for District Judge Eugene Ricciardi, a former council president, who swore in Mr. Kraus.


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