Candidates for Allegheny County Council met Wednesday night in a forum that often provided more of a critique of council itself than a debate over the issues that it considers.
Squirrel Hill's 14th Ward Democratic committee hosted the event, prompted by the opening created by the death of Barbara Daly Danko two weeks before the primary election in which her name still collected the most votes. That set the stage for twin special elections for her 11th District seat that will coincide with the November election.
Wednesday evening's 90-minute session was dominated by civil, issue-oriented exchanges with no attacks among the candidates. The body they wish to join did draw their criticisms, however, with suggestions that it was too often a "rubber stamp'' for county Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
Councilwoman Terri Klein, who was selected by council members to fill part of the remaining term of her predecessor, said it was troubling that 90 percent of the legislation considered before the county legislature emanated from the executive branch. She said that while she disagreed with Heather Heidelbaugh, a conservative Republican council member, on many issues, Ms. Heidelbaugh's recent denunciations of council's relationship with the executive branch raise legitimate concerns.
Audrey Glickman, neighborhood coordinator for Scenic Pittsburgh, suggested that any voters who watched the video of a recent council meeting would realize its weaknesses.
"Then no one would ever run for council,'' Paul Klein, a member of the Duquesne University faculty, said facetiously.
Mr. Klein -- who is not related to Terri Klein, the new incumbent -- said there should be more institutional tension between the two branches of government.
"Do they see themselves a a rubber stamp ... it absolutely looks that way,'' he said.
Caroline Mitchell, a lawyer and engineer who finished behind the Danko name in May's primary, said council members could do more to nurture community involvement and to pressure the legislature to make it a more responsive body.
Kimberly Kaplan, who ran unsuccessfully for a city council nomination in the primary, said that she was sometimes viewed as a political newcomer, but that new perspectives and "new blood with new ideas'' were just what was needed on council.
All five candidates, including Ms. Klein, hope to be nominated for the two-month balance of the current term. When she won the council appointment to serve until November, Ms. Klein said she would not seek the full four-year term that begins in January. The other four candidates hope to be nominated as the party's candidate for the full term as well
Democratic Party committee members from the district, which includes most of Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods as well as adjoining Mon Valley suburbs, will choose their nominees for twin special elections in a meeting on August 2. No Republican has filed for the heavily Democratic seat.
First Published July 8, 2015 10:28 PM