Means for council: She's the informed choice for the county's District 5

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For the first time since home rule came to Allegheny County, voters in council District 5 can elect someone who is not Vince Gastgeb.

Mr. Gastgeb, a Bethel Park Republican who joined council in 2000, resigned in February. Council's Republican caucus appointed a Mt. Lebanon political consultant to fill the spot temporarily, but Republican voters in this month's primary will decide who will hold the seat for the next two years since no Democrat is on the ballot.

District 5 includes Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Bridgeville.

The choice for Republicans is between Krista Harris, 28, who was sworn into office last month, and Sue Means, 61, of Bethel Park, who has been active in politics and has run unsuccessfully before, for state House and state Senate.

This is the first run by Ms. Harris, a graduate of Susquehanna University who holds a master's degree from George Washington University and who has been executive assistant to Congressman Jim Gerlach and campaign coordinator for other candidates. Currently, she is the fund-raising director at ColdSpark Media, a Downtown political consulting firm.

While Ms. Harris said she is eager to be a fiscal watchdog on council and is committed to maintaining parks as a qualify-of-life issue -- both admirable goals -- she was not prepared to discuss many pending issues during a meeting with Post-Gazette editors. It is disconcerting that she was unaware of a long-standing attempt to improve the restaurant grading system for food safety and that, although she identified transit as the county's chief problem, her response to questions about privatizing or regionalizing the service was that she would be "happy to look into it." Her website, too, is devoid of specifics.

By contrast, Ms. Means had done her homework and was prepared to delve deeply into key issues. She understands the valuable role that can be played by one of just four Republicans on the 15-member council, that of a counterweight to the Democratic dominance in county government.

"Whenever you are the minority party, what you can do is shine the light," said the West Virginia University graduate, former nurse and home-schooling advocate who helped change state law in that regard. Ms. Means is incensed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's recently rescinded policy of requiring his appointees to county boards to provide undated resignation letters, giving him immediate veto power over their decisions.

The Post-Gazette endorses Sue Means because she asks good questions, carefully studies the issues, is respectful in discussing them and would be a strong voice for the district.

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