District 5 is made up of 10 neighborhoods: Squirrel Hill South, a part of Squirrel Hill North, Regent Square, Greenfield, Swisshelm Park, Hazelwood, Glen Hazel, Hays, Lincoln Place and New Homestead. Each neighborhood is unique and our council district is as diverse as any section of Pittsburgh, if not more so. This is a diverse community, and because of my life experience here, I believe that I know families on nearly every street in the district. That’s significant because City Council may be the closest relationship possible between citizens and their government.
I believe that being accessible and approachable, as well having a reputation for being honest and open-minded, raises people’s confidence that they can always find a fair hearing. When people are willing and able to approach an elected official to talk things over, I believe that’s a valuable step toward actually improving the quality of life for everyone. That’s why I have spent nearly a year walking throughout the district and knocking on doors in all 10 neighborhoods. I have talked with residents everywhere — on their front doorsteps and often in their homes. I listened to your concerns and my agenda is based on the ideas that you and I have been talking about all year long. Open dialogue will be my standard practice, not just at election time but every day that I am fortunate enough to serve in public office. And that’s just one of the ways how together we’ll make this a better place to live.
I am a graduate of Central Catholic High School and received a degree in elementary education from Duquesne University in 2006. I had planned to be a teacher, but with my change in family circumstances, I began instead to work for U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle in 2007. As community development representative, I had responsibilities for both constituent services and for community development projects. In the congressman’s office, I worked to secure federal funding for economic development and public safety for Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I helped to bring heating and energy assistance to seniors and low-income residents and was also the primary contact person with the Federal Emergency Management Agency when assistance was needed to mitigate disruptions caused by natural disasters, such as floods and tornados. I’m professionally experienced working with federal, state, county and city agencies to solve people’s problems and to get things done. For a council member, these are the kinds of daily tasks that directly affect the quality of people’s lives.
In general policy terms, however, there are a number of overriding issues that have major impacts on our district’s quality of life. I believe in the fundamental priorities of providing clean and safe streets, reliable infrastructure, and top-notch public schools. I understand the importance of dealing effectively with abandoned and blighted properties because this impacts both our public safety and our economy. For the 5th District particularly, maintaining world-class public parks and commuter-friendly trails is crucial. Trained as an educator, I know that our parks, schools, churches, synagogues and libraries are places where the lives of our young people should be enriched with well organized and safe after school programs. I fully support smart development of the Hazelwood riverfront because it promises to generate about 3,000 family-sustaining jobs that can help grow our entire district for years to come. Ultimately, family sustaining jobs and affordable housing mean more opportunity for everyone, young and old, to enjoy a higher quality of life. Taken all together, these are the things that will foster sustainable growth in one of America’s most livable cities.
Finally, I’ve served on the boards of the Clean Pittsburgh Commission, the Cancer Caring Center, Addison Behavioral Health and First Tee of Pittsburgh, where I’ve met and worked with many people with differing perspectives and expertise. These relationships are a resource. Playing in our neighborhood Little League and then coaching there for 10 years as an adult has enriched me; the experience enabled me to meet many young people and families who are now so vital to our community’s future.
I know that I have the experience, the energy, and the ability to bring people together to help us make progress on many important fronts. I respectfully ask you for your support and for your vote Nov. 8.
(Corey O’Connor is the Democratic candidate for the Pittsburgh City Council, District 5.)