By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Town Hall meeting brings Rep. Wheatley, PopUp Pittsburgh info


March 30, 2010

The focus was on positive news when State Representative Jake Wheatley hosted a meeting of the Allentown Community Development Corporation on March 25.

The format was slightly different from most of the ACDC meetings as participants were encouraged to ask questions and to engage in a town hall discussion of concerns with Mr. Wheatley.

The session began with a presentation regarding Pop Up Pittsburgh, an upcoming event on the Hilltop, slated for Allentown from 1 to 5 p.m. on May 15. Amiena Mahsoob and Robert Chambers III, who are members of a Leadership Pittsburgh class, spoke of the day's activities they are organizing to draw attention to the Hilltop neighborhoods. These include prizes and giveaways, sports, food vendors and a climbing wall.

They said the mission of Pop Up Pittsburgh is "to create a one-day phenomenon that engages and positively affects a Pittsburgh community and encourages outsiders to experience and appreciate its current assets and potential."

The upper platform of St. John Vianney's parking lot on Allen Street will be used to set up a stage for rock and jazz acts to perform. A bake-off competition between churches will be held in the Caliguiri senior high rise court yard. The Brashear Association will have an information booth.

The two speakers are among more than 40 members of the Leadership Development Initiative class XVII for young professionals. Ms. Mahsoob is an education program manager for World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and Mr. Chambers is involved in business development at Massaro Corporation. Class participants are required to plan and to participate in at least one volunteer opportunity benefiting a community.

Mr. Chambers said he and Ms. Mahsoob will be knocking on doors to inform residents and business of activities and clean-up days.

Ken Wolfe, aide to Mr. Wheatley and an Allentown resident, made some announcements. He mentioned a senior fair being held 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 1 at Point Park University's Lawrence Hall third floor ballroom. He said space is limited and advised those interested to "contact our office at 412 471-7760 to get your name on the list."

He noted Mr. Wheatley has a satellite office session from 1 to 5 p.m. on the last Friday of the month at Brashear Association's Neighborhood Employment Center at 730 East Warrington Avenue.

Mr. Wolfe also provided an update on a project under discussion with the Port Authority and the City of Pittsburgh, a $15 million total reconstruction of Warrington Avenue from South Hills Junction to Arlington Avenue. Most of the cost comes from the necessity to remove rails for repair work and to replace them with new rails.

Representatives of the Port Authority and City Public Works recently had a planning session on the project.

Mr. Wolfe does not expect the project to happen this year and said it might not happen next year. "We need to find the money for it," he said.

Mr. Wheatley began his comments with an apology concerning the delay in passing last year's state budget. "We have a divided assembly along party lines." He said national and state elected representatives seemed to have forgotten about the need to compromise to get things done. He said state reps worked on this year's budget earlier than normal.

He mentioned school districts receive less funding compared to what occurred in past decades. "I say, ‘Give them the money.' The school districts would be less likely to raise property taxes. The kids are our future work force," Mr. Wheatley said.

The three factors that drive the state budget are education, public welfare and the department of corrections. "One of the biggest misnomers is that able bodied people are getting public dollars. Two thirds of public welfare goes to support the elderly and disabled."

The department of corrections accounts for the fastest growing cost in the state. Three new prisons, costing $200 million each, are being built to keep up with the increasing number of inmates.

He said State Senator Wayne Fontana has proposed that the city's tax-exempt institutions pay taxes on any new land that is purchased. The thinking behind it is this would be preferable to involvement in battles over taxing land purchased long ago. "So far, there has not been enough support to move this out of the discussion stages," Mr. Wheatley said.

He also spoke of anti-blight legislation he is sponsoring to change state law on "adverse possession," a process that allows someone who lives in a home considered legally abandoned to take ownership of it. Current law, based on British law, imposes a 21-year waiting period. Mr. Wheatley would reduce that to three, seven or ten years, based on individual circumstances.

Mr. Wolfe also announced there would be more town hall meetings. A Beltzhoover/Knoxville session is scheduled at 7 p.m. April 8 at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church at 400 Orchard Place.


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