Erin Molchany, the freshman legislator currently representing the 22nd Legislative District (which will be moving to the eastern part of the state), is a Mount Washington resident for the last 17 years.
Ms. Molchany graduated from Parkland High School in Allentown, PA in 1995 and from Duquesne University with a BA in Journalism in 1999. Following graduation, she spent the next dozen years working in the non-profit sector including Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, CORO Center for Civic Leadership and as executive director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project before moving on to an appointment to Pennsylvania's You Lead Initiative.
As a State Representative, she said, she wants to make sure she is providing a high level of constituent support.
"That's something I'm committed to," she says.
"When it comes to South Pittsburgh, I think that at the state level, it's bringing the voice of South Pittsburgh and being an advocate for South Pittsburgh in making decisions at the state level," she continued.
She noted the 51 bus route has the second highest ridership in the city outside of the East Busway with 8,000 riders a day. Part of her job is understanding that bus route might be a priority to the people living in South Pittsburgh and beyond and making sure those people are supported in that way.
Rep. Molchany said a recent Mount Oliver Borough Council meeting included discussion about applying for help in repairing sidewalks under the multimodal fund of the transportation legislation recently passed.
"That's also another way I can advocate to help bring some of that revenue into Mount Oliver and support that request," she said. "One of the things I do as a state legislator is to always do what I can to let folks know in my district how the votes I'm taking impact them directly."
"I think that is something isn't moving, you have to find a different way or a different approach," she continued. "One of the things I would do, I definitely work well with my colleagues out there in Harrisburg, so I'll have a conversation with a rural legislator and say 'listen there's something really important in the communities I represent regarding liquor licensing and the density of liquor licenses, is this happening in your community?'"
Reaching out to representatives from other urban areas is also important to her to see if they are experiencing similar problems and see if there is a solution that could work for everyone.
As another example, she brought up the problem of dirt bikes and the problems police have in them accountable when they ride illegally due to the bikes not being required to be registered or licensed. While working on legislation to require the registration and licensing of the bikes, she learned a Republican representative from a rural part of the state was working on a similar bill, with the major difference that the fees would go to expanding trail access in state gamelands for recreational vehicles.
As far as what she sees as the major challenges in the South Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Ms. Molchany points to the Brownsville Road and the loss of businesses in the corridor. She would like to be active in the conversations about safety and revitalization, specifically in the area where it crosses communities.
"Economic development priorities as outlined or brought to my attention by Councilwoman (Natalia) Rudiak, Councilman (Bruce) Kraus and working with organizations like EDS (Economic Development South) and saying okay, how can I be a part of this. I want to help. I'll do the heavy lifting. Let's do this," she said.
"I see that as a definite priority, making sure our business districts and our main streets are definitely strengthened in places people want to open businesses."
She talked about how the South Hills neighborhoods have "great" housing stock and how people want to live in communities that are safe. Pointing to the efforts that have gone into reconstructing Brookline Blvd. and how it is attracting new investment, new businesses and new residents to the community, she said it would be great to do something like that in the Hilltop in Mount Oliver, Carrick and the other neighborhoods.
Now that the state has passed a transportation bill, Rep. Molchany would like to work with the Port Authority and the county executive to make sure the South Hills has the comprehensive transportation infrastructure it needs for its communities. She noted in conversations with residents, many complain they have to walk a mile or more to be able to catch a bus.
"I see that as a really big part of bringing more attention and folks into the South Hills, connecting physically through public transit and improving our roads. With the new administration in the city, there's a lot more opportunity for the South Hills to get some much needed attention. The mayor has made it very clear that he wants to work with Councilwoman Rudiak, Councilman Kraus and myself on making sure South Pittsburgh's streets are being paved," she said.
"After all, who wouldn't want to live next to a beautiful park," she said.
Recently she was appointed to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and with that she will have a greater understanding of what it will take to improve bike and pedestrian trails and what it will take to keep the public steps in good condition.
"How do we get those funds, those multimodal funds implemented in the best way in South Pittsburgh and South Side," she said. "Studies show that young people want to live in communities where there's reliable and affordable public transportation and that there are safe options to get around, like bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian thoroughfares and a lot of people move to these areas because they don't want to have to drive."
Ms. Molchany said she would like to continue working with Councilman Kraus and the Responsible Hospitality Institute in managing the city's nighttime economy. She said she has been an advocate for the councilman in his efforts and would continue to be in the future.
After having attended a recent public safety meeting in South Side concerning the number and density of liquor licenses in the neighborhood, she jotted down a number of things she felt could get the stalled bar legislation moving. Among the things she felt could be done in Harrisburg, was to move the legislation into the Urban Affairs Committee or have it applied to not only second class cities, but third class cities as well.
She said it is important to talk to other legislators in both urban and rural parts of the state about how liquor license problems can affect their communities get them onboard with being cosponsors.
Rep. Molchany has also made no bones about her strong support for LGBT issues concerning housing and employment and is in favor of marriage equality.
"I support these values because I believe no one in the commonwealth deserves to be treated differently in terms of their civic rights. It's really a civil rights conversation," she said. "We have citizens that feel they aren't afforded the same rights as everyone that lives here and that's not fair. And nobody deserves to be treated differently because of who they love, or where they live or their gender or religion or their race."