South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Ashley Murray
Contributing Writer 

By-law changes, board elections topics at the Mt. Washington CDC

 


Board member elections and proposed by-law changes dominated the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) meeting Thursday night at the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue. Just over 30 people of the 43-member organization attended.

Board candidates introduced themselves and shared their visions for the community. Seven board spots are open, and Board President Jon Lusin said members in good standing can vote during next month’s MWCDC meeting on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.

Lynn Banaszak Brusco, Duquesne Heights; Alaina Spanoudakis, Mount Washington; Darla D’anna, Mount Washington; Breen Masciotra, Mount Washington; Ryan Mustio, Mount Washington; Edward Preston, Duquesne Heights; Josh Whiteside, Mount Washington; Eric Horwith, Duquesne Heights; Kyle Stewart, Mount Washington; and Gianny Diaz, Mount Washington, are in the running.

“I just like to see the community be connected with development in their neighborhood because that development will affect the community, whether they’re seniors who’ve lived there all their lives or renters,” Mr. Stewart said. “At the end of the day, I want to get engaged and lead by example.”

The election is an anomaly. This year two board members are leaving with two years left on their terms. Therefore, seven spots, rather than the usual five, are up for grabs. The top five candidates will fill five spots for three-year terms, and candidates who come in sixth and seventh place will receive the two-year terms. The MWCDC has full profiles of each candidate available upon request.

Meanwhile, the public comment period on proposed changes to the organization’s by-laws highlighted the importance of the upcoming election. Several residents raised concerns about a measure that would put the vote for by-law changes in the board’s hands rather than the members’.

“If they take by-law changes out of members’ hands, what’s to stop the board from just implementing anything they want?” Gloria, Mount Washington, said. She said she did not want to share her last name because she is currently combatting drug crime on her street. “At least now, they have to ask members to vote on big changes.”

But Mr. Lusin said the organization is attempting to follow current best practices of other non-profits.

“Over the course of an organization’s service, by-laws need to be tuned to keep up with current trends.” Mr. Lusin said. “You have to ask ‘Does this work for the organization, and will it be something that will work down the road?’”

Other proposed changes include altering boundaries of the MWCDC’s coverage area to include the city’s definition of the Mount Washington neighborhood rather than adhering to the 15211 postal code. The board also hopes to abandon membership fees to “remove barriers,” Mr. Lusin said. Then, residents would only need to fill out an application to become a member.

“We want to be able to speak for the community, and that is really our intention,” MWCDC Executive Director Ilyssa Manspeizer said when a resident expressed concerns that losing the fee structure would mean losing residents’ attention. “We can’t speak on behalf of the community when we can’t hear what everyone’s saying. Taking away the membership fee means including everyone.”

Other residents expressed support for the measure.

“You don’t want to exclude people based on money. Your voice should not be based on dollars,” Lorraine Forster, resident on Oneida Street in Duquesne Heights, said.

Overall, several residents raised concerns about membership engagement.

“It seems we’re stagnant in where we are right now,” Pat Ward, resident on Hallock Street in Duquesne Heights, said. “Like other people mentioned during the meeting, the membership of this organization went from hundreds to 40-something.”

For the public safety update, Lt. Larry Scirotto, Zone 3 Pittsburgh Police Officer, reported a nine percent increase in non-violent crime on Mount Washington since January of 2013 – mostly theft from vehicles – and that overall violent crime has decreased in the Mount Washington area, barring Beltzhoover, Bailey and Boggs avenues. Lt. Scirotto said so far five businesses signed on to a virtual block watch surveillance subscription service.

“This monthly meeting is becoming our block watch meeting,” he told residents. “We can be a resource for you.”

District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith attended the meeting, as well as Sally Stadelman, a representative from the mayor’s office. Councilwoman Kail-Smith announced that the mayor agreed to hold a Capital Budget hearing to discuss infrastructure funding on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Mount Washington Senior Center. Two other hearings will take place in the East End.

Lastly, the MWCDC hired part-time Communications and Outreach Coordinator Kesha Pate.

MWCDC meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at the Mount Washington Senior Center. Additionally, three volunteer days, including an Emerald View Park clean-up and a tree planting workshop are planned now through the beginning of November. More information can be found at http://www.mwcdc.org or 412-481-3220.

 

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