Advice for County Council Candidates

In a recent news story two candidates for County Council outlined what they plan to do when they take a seat on Council. Here’s a clue for them if they are serious about addressing County problems–read the Allegheny Institute’s report; Candidate’s Guide to Crucial Issues Facing Allegheny County.

On candidate is concerned about crowding on PAT buses and the implied lack of capacity on key routes. As a Council member exactly what would she do? Solving PAT’s financial crisis will almost exclusively depend on actions taken by the state, such as eliminating the right to strike for transit workers, possibly forcing PAT into a bankruptcy and requiring outsourcing of bus service. The County could allocate more funds as a stop gap, but what other functions or programs would the candidate suggest cutting? The County is cash strapped and the financial picture is getting worse. Empty rhetoric about being concerned over bus crowding tells us nothing about the candidate’s understanding, or lack of understanding, of the genesis of Port Authority’s problems.

The candidate went on to say that all decisions and votes taken would be based on what is in the long term best interests of the County. Who can be opposed to that? But it is empty rhetoric as well. How will the candidate decide what is in the in the best interests of the County? What factors will the candidate consider and how will they be weighted? In short, what philosophy of government does the candidate hold and what do they value? There is no way for the candidate to decide what they believe will be in the best interest of the County that does not reflect their belief system. Voters have a right to know what that is.

Meanwhile, the other candidate reveals a complete lack of understanding of the County’s functions by saying he wants to put more County police on the streets and he wants more focus on early childhood education. The County does not police the street; that is a municipal function. County police are primarily an investigation unit. Moreover, education is solely a school system function. Besides both of these functions, if they were county functions, would require more spending to boost their roles. Where would the money come from? The candidate also wants to give tax credits to businesses to entice them to the County. How about cutting taxes for all businesses to make the business climate friendlier? Giving credits is fraught with possibilities of favoritism and misuse.

Again, the major issues facing the County and how to deal with them are described in the Institute’s candidate’s guide referred to above. Too bad the candidates are reduced to rhetoric and irrelevant positions-not a good sign for the County.