Democrats in city council District 3 have no shortage of choices in the spring primary. Four candidates are seeking the party's nomination and, since no Republican is on the ballot, the May 17 results will be tantamount to election.
All four contenders are well versed on issues confronting Pittsburgh, but voters can't afford to leave this choice to chance. Democrats in Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Carrick, Central Oakland, Knoxville, Mount Oliver, South Side Flats, South Side Slopes and St. Clair Village should stick with the incumbent, Bruce Kraus of South Side.
The councilman, who is completing his first term, has been active on a variety of fronts -- neighborhood safety, blight eradication, balancing the interests in the Carson Street corridor and enhancing the city's quality of life.
In practice, that means Mr. Kraus, 57, among other council work, wrote an ordinance to require the reporting of a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours as a way to fight straw purchases; he sought demolition of abandoned houses and he organized community clean-ups; he obtained funding and commissioned a report on how to keep Carson Street nightlife strong while respecting the rights of neighbors and enforcing the law; he sought aid for the Carnegie Library system, supported higher fines against graffiti, spearheaded funding for a dog park and worked on behalf of other amenities.
He also was vocal in last year's council debate on how to fund the city's pension system to avoid state takeover.
Mr. Kraus' challengers are: his council predecessor, Jeff Koch, 49, of Arlington; attorney Gavin Robb, 34, of South Side Flats, and Jason Phillips, 29, of South Side.
Mr. Koch, a longtime city public works employee, served 18 months on council after winning a special election to fill a vacancy in 2006. Of all the challengers, he is most conversant with the city's challenges, based on his council experience. Our concern, however, is that he would not be sufficiently independent of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, as evidenced by Mr. Koch's willingness, at this late hour, to bring the mayor's parking lease plan back to the table to pay for the city's pension obligations.
Mr. Robb and Mr. Phillips sound some of the same themes as Mr. Koch -- that the incumbent has not been effective in tending to the needs of the district and that he is part of a council that, for the most part, does not get along with the mayor.
Good relations between branches of government are a two-way street, and there is a difference between communication and capitulation. Councilman Bruce Kraus is playing it just right, and for that reason and for delivering good service to his district, he has earned the Post-Gazette endorsement.