. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .
An article from the Post Gazette
A month ago, a group of African American lawmakers announced an initiative to curb the wave of gun violence and violent crime throughout Allegheny County.
The group, which calls itself the Black Elected Officials Coalition, announced it would begin a series of community events to promote peace in the streets. Democratic state Rep. Ed Gainey, who represents Lincoln-Lemington and is favored to win the Pittsburgh mayoral race next week, acted as the primary spokesman for the group, raising dramatically the expectations for the BEOC’s access to resources and cooperation across bureaucracies.
Mr. Gainey said the lawmakers, in cooperation with partners in government, the nonprofit sphere and law enforcement, would work together with at-risk young people to “create a city of peace” and promote a culture of nonviolence. This is a tall order, but not an impossible one, especially when elected officials are willing to stand behind their work with their names and reputations attached.
(article continued in right column)
How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?
(article continued from left column)
Even before BEOC was formed, Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess, whose district includes Homewood, East Liberty and Garfield, had been working with Councilman Daniel Lavelle, whose district includes Downtown, the Hill District and Oakland, on the Stop the Violence Trust Fund.
Both councilmen are deeply involved in the effort to give $9 million to the Center that CARES, a Hill District nonprofit that deploys a dozen outreach workers to seven neighborhoods where most of the violence has been centered. All studies show that early intervention before neighborhood beefs escalate is the key to curbing conflicts.
This initiative will be one part of the strategy that these elected officials will lean on in the coming years. What BEOC proposes goes far beyond the usual “throw money at the problem and hope for the best.” These are elected officials who understand the nature of the problem and are heartbroken by the disappointing results of previous efforts.
This is too important to be left to law enforcement to figure out. The BEOC believes it has the empathy and motivation required to make this initiative a game changer.
Others on the coalition are Allegheny County Council members Olivia Bennett and DeWitt Walton and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District.
For their willingness to put their names and reputations on the line, the Black Elected Officials Coalition deserves our respect and appreciation. If the coalition succeeds, it will help Pittsburgh to serve all of its people, including those formerly without hope and left to settle scores on their own, in the streets.