Bill would make council members resign to run for other office

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Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess today proposed legislation that would require City Council members to resign if they wanted to campaign for another office.

Mr. Burgess said the legislation, which he's entitled "Resign to Run," is designed to ensure city officials focus on the city's business, not the next political opportunity.

"The public should not pay for the ambitions of elected officials, he said.

The legislation, to be introduced today, would put a referendum on the May ballot asking voters whether they want to impose the restrictions by amending the city's home-rule charter. If a majority of voters agrees with the restrictions, they would become law in 2012.

Mr. Burgess said the Bonusgate scandal in Harrisburg showed what can happen when officials mix electioneering and governing. He said his legislation wasn't prompted by a similar problem in Pittsburgh, only a desire to make sure city officials focus on the pressing problems before them.

"It's time to separate public service from political promotion in the city of Pittsburgh," he said.

The legislation comes at the beginning of a new election season. That makes it the ideal time to discuss the bill, Mr. Burgess said.

Besides serving as councilman, considered a full-time position in Pittsburgh, Mr. Burgess teaches a course at Community College of Allegheny County and is a pastor at Nazarene Baptist Church in Homewood. Asked whether those positions might be as much a distraction from city business as a campaign for another office, Mr. Burgess said he was proud of his record and would compare it to anyone's on council.

Under the legislation, the mayor would have to resign if he wanted to seek another city office -- an unlikely proposition. The mayor would be free to remain in office while seeking county, state or federal office.

A council member, however, would have to resign to seek any other office at any level of government.


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