South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Onorato makes his pitch for chief executive at Arlington candidate's night


April 15, 2003

Allegheny County Controller Dan Onorato led off a list of candidates who made presentations to approximately 40 residents who attended the monthly meeting of the Arlington Civic Council at the Henry Kaufman Building on Salisbury Street April 7.

Onorato is seeking to win the May 20 primary as the Democratic candidate for county executive, a position currently held by Republican Jim Roddey.

Onorato and Roddey have been at odds recently in the media over the Roddey administration's handling of the U.S. Airways bankruptcy situation.

That subject did not come up during Onorato's presentation to the Arlington Civic Council, but the former Pittsburgh City Councilman leveled other criticisms of county government and the Roddey administration in particular.

He reiterated what he said in the media in February that the county reassessment program has been a terrible burden to taxpayers, particularly for city residents in moderately priced homes.

“The tax reassessments have been a fiasco,” Onorato said. “Property taxes have gone up 85 percent which is in violation of the state law of a 5 percent windfall.”

Onorato noted the county has received an extra annual income of $30 million from much higher property reassessments.

“And that $30 million does not take into account the extra tax money the city and school districts have gotten in their taxes,” Onorato said. “I really believe I can do more good things for the county. I have better ideas for lowering the tax burden.”

Onorato said he goes along with first-year Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell regarding the legalization of slot machines as well as the governor's idea to permit race-track gambling in the state.

“I'm pro gambling as long as that money [obtained by the state] is used to significantly lower property taxes,” Onorato said.

The candidate for county executive also noted that the county should make it more convenient for residents to appeal their assessments. He wants the county to hold most assessment hearings during evening hours in various neighborhoods. He does not like the county's method of forcing people to take time off from work to attend their hearings downtown during traditional business hours.

“It costs about $12 to park downtown for a couple hours. Making people travel downtown, this just adds to the unfairness of the system,” Onorato said.

Onorato said he is also very concerned with bringing more high-paying jobs into the city and county to spur further development for the region.

“We're in this together as a region,” said Onorato, listing bio-tech, high-tech and light industry businesses as priorities to attract to the area, so there are greater employment opportunities, particularly for younger adults.

“For young people, it's really about jobs,” Onorato said. “We have the entertainment and the universities here. But we're still shrinking. There's no reason why we can't compete with other cities for the high-paying jobs. Right now, places like Columbus, Cleveland and Baltimore are kicking our butts when it comes to economic development and the county doesn't do anything to promote economic development. That way of thinking has to change.”

There were a host of other candidates who attended Arlington's the “Meet the Candidates” night. All of those who attended were Democrats with the exception of Jesse Torisky, a Republican candidate for judge of the Common Pleas Court.

Others who addressed the crowd included Mark Flaherty, running for County Controller; Judge David Wecht, running for re-election in Common Pleas Court; City Councilman Alan Hertzberg, running for Common Pleas Court Judge; Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Ward, running for re-election; County Treasurer John Weinstein running for re-election; former county commissioner and state legislator Mike Dawida running for Common Pleas Court Judge; Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts running for re-election. Also speaking were former County Commissioner Larry Dunn running for County Controller; City Controller Tom Flaherty running for re-election for a sixth term and County Council member Eileen Wagner running for County Register of Wills.

City Councilman Gene Ricciardi was invited to the meeting, but expressed his regrets about attending, according to Arlington Civic Council Board of Directors President Mary Lou Simon. Ricciardi had an emergency family situation that night, according to Simon.

District 36 state representative Harry Readshaw, a Democrat from Carrick, also attended the meeting, but did not speak.


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