Obituary: Barbara Daly Danko / ‘Smart and feisty’ Allegheny County Councilwoman
May 7, 2015 11:10 PM
Allegheny County Council
Barbara Daly Danko
By Anya Sostek / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Barbara Daly Danko spent decades researching and instructing on American politics. She spent the last four years practicing it.
Ms. Daly Danko, a member of the Allegheny County Council, died at her Regent Square home Wednesday night of a cancer-related illness. She was 61.
“Barbara Daly Danko was a smart and feisty lady who understood that government and the political process could improve the lives and the communities of ordinary people,” said City Controller Michael Lamb, a friend of 25 years. “While small of stature, she loomed much larger because of her conviction to do what she thought was right and her courage to accept the consequences.”
Ms. Daly Danko was a fixture in the Democratic Party in Pittsburgh’s East End, serving as a committee member and chair of the 14th Ward until 2011, when she was appointed to county council to fill the vacancy left when Rich Fitzgerald stepped down to run for county executive.
That year, she voted in support of a property tax increase championed by Mr. Fitzgerald, a controversial measure that she recently called the most important vote of her council tenure.
“What politician votes for a tax increase these days?” said Sam Hens-Greco, a longtime friend and political colleague of Ms. Daly Danko’s. “She understood that if you wanted a healthy government, that was what you had to do.”
She later clashed with Mr. Fitzgerald over natural gas drilling in Allegheny County parks and at Pittsburgh International Airport, voting against deals that he supported. Two years ago, she proposed a three-year moratorium on drilling beneath county parks that was defeated by council.
“She was so determined and assured that she was on the right path,” said Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park. “That superseded any concern that people might not be happy with her.”
Ms. Daly Danko was facing a tough re-election campaign in this year’s party primary. As for her council seat, the Democratic caucus has 30 days to name an interim member, who will serve until the next general election.
Ms. Daly Danko was committed to helping women and minority-owned businesses, said Ms. Means, and served as a mentor and a champion for herself and other women in the political process.
Even though she and Ms. Means often were on opposite sides of issues, such as Ms. Means’ proposal last year to display “In God We Trust” at the Allegheny County Courthouse, they were friends.
“That’s the way government should be,” said Ms. Means. “You can agree to disagree and shake hands and move on — that was Barbara.”
For decades, Ms. Daly Danko taught political science at the Community College of Allegheny County. Popular with students and fellow teachers, “she was a political junkie — a true liberal in the best sense of the word,” said John Biondo, her department chair.
A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Daly Danko earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, a master’s from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and an accounting certificate from Robert Morris University.
In addition to teaching as an adjunct at CCAC, she also taught political science at the University of Pittsburgh. She previously worked in the city’s budget office and as controller for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. She ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1998.
The day after that loss, she kept her four children home for a “mom's day” to spend time with them and make them pancakes.
“First and foremost, her dedication was to her family,” said her husband, George Danko.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, which she spoke about in a council meeting honoring the Susan G. Komen foundation. Council members and close political observers were shocked to hear of her death —-- though she had missed meetings recently, she had been in close communication and was expected to return to work.
She and her husband have lived in Regent Square since 1985, where they raised their children, Michael, of Pittsburgh, Elizabeth, of Lawrence, Kan., Stephen, of Pittsburgh, and Joseph, of Riverdale, N.Y.
In addition to her husband and children, Ms. Daly Danko is survived by her siblings Joseph Daly of Austin, Texas; Carolyn Daly of Wisconsin, and Janet Al-Junaidi of Severna Park, Md.
Visitation is from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at McCabe Brothers funeral home in Shadyside. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Bede Church in Point Breeze.
The family requests donations to the Carnegie Library of Homestead or the Carnegie Library of Homewood.
Anya Sostek: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1308.
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