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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

MWCDC creates advocacy committee

 


One of the priorities coming out of the strategic planning process the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) undertook last year was a need for an advocacy committee.

Michael Grande, president of the MWCDC, explained to those gathered for the organization’s May public forum at the Mt. Washington Senior Center how the new committee was created. During the planning procedure many neighborhood residents cited the need for better public safety and having the organization use a greater voice in working with elected officials and those who could help in infrastructure improvements.

Co-chairs of the new Advocacy Committee are Talia Piazza and Alaina Spanoudakis Davis, the MWCDC’s vice-president and treasurer.

Ms. Spanoudakis Davis said safety and infrastructure come up all the time in discussions with neighborhood residents. Concerns about public safety ranged from car break-ins to the city-wide drug epidemic and what ordinary residents could do to prevent these things from taking over their neighborhood.

She said previously the MWCDC had a development committee and a parks committee and much of the organization’s funding was directed in those areas.

“We don’t have the power to pave streets. We don’t have the power to replace a sidewalk. We work well with the people who do. The CDC has built a great relationship with our stakeholders on those ventures, but we can’t do that on our own,” Ms. Spanoudakis Davis said.

The Advocacy Committee aims to bring people together in a productive way to be the voice of Mt. Washington to say what they really want done in the neighborhood and who needs to be brought to the table to make it happen.

She said every Mount resident has an idea or an issue with infrastructure. The challenge will be to bring people together who are willing to work to prioritize the issues and work in a meaningful and productive manner.

“It isn’t just a place to voice concerns and complaints,” she said.

The strategic plan noted most issues fit into one or more of three categories: Near term; Short term or Long term.

The Advocacy Committee will focus on two primary short-term goals: How to engage the city to improve safety and law enforcement in the neighborhood and to improve infrastructure and advocate for inclusion of projects in the city’s budget.

Ms. Spanoudakis Davis noted Neighbors on the Mount already work with the police and public safety committees in addition to focusing on cleaning up the neighborhood. She hoped members of the Neighbors on the Mount would be joining the Advocacy Committee.

“We already feel we have a powerful voice, we have one of the most active councilwomen in the city. She’s already advocating, but she’s advocating for her entire district,” Ms. Spanoudakis Davis said. “Rather than say, ‘we need, we need, we need,’ we’re trying to figure out how we can be a better partner in that so that we can actually get things accomplished and that we have top priorities that the residents want done.”

Ms. Piazza said the committee can also serve as platform to better understand what is already happening and the process involved with the city’s prioritization and what they have money to spend on.

She envisions the committee as a place where people can bring six or seven broad priorities and narrow them down to one or two that could be concentrated on based on opportunity, available funding, and what makes sense for the community.

As an example, Ms. Piazza said throughout the strategic planning process one project came up time after time, a visitors’ center.

“I think this is a potential priority most people can get behind,” she said.

Along with the potential project is an opportunity. Noting there is a new hotel proposed for Grandview Avenue, it could be a possible location for the visitors’ center. Other possible sites include a lot on Shiloh Street or somewhere on the Duquesne Heights side of Grandview Avenue.

Things to be considered included not only the location, but the purpose of the center. Would it serve as a bulletin board for businesses?

By bringing the right people to the table they hope to not only ask for help, but also relate what they as a community have to offer to get the project started.

The first committee meeting will be on June 27 at a location and time to be determined.

In the meantime, one the MWCDC website, mwcdc.org, they will place a form for area residents to fill out with their suggestions for what is a priority in the neighborhood whether it is a visitors’ center or the view along Grandview Avenue or something else. Results of the input form will be discussed at the first meeting.

 

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