Community council recaps work in South Side
Honors two of their own for decades of service
Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), outlined the organization's past year's accomplishments and the goals going forward at the General Membership Meeting held in June.
The council also took time to honor two of their own, Roberta Stackawitz and Virginia Carik, for their decades-long service to the community. Elections were also held that evening for open SSCC Board seats.
"Roberta and Virginia have been a part of South Side and the council for many, many years," Ms. Rudiak said.
"What's important to note about the two of them, was they never liked the spotlight. They just did their work, they saw what needed to be done and they did it. They were able to engage other people in the work so that they weren't working alone," she continued.
Last year the council privately acknowledged the women's contributions.
This year, Ms. Rudiak said, after being president of the SSCC for the past year, she had a better understanding of the work the women did for the organization over the years.
In addition to being acknowledged by the council, the women also received proclamations from City Council President Bruce Kraus. Ms. Stackawitz's sons, Harry and David, accepted her proclamation, She passed away on April 29 of this year.
Ms. Rudiak also noted there was another award for Ms. Stackawitz, a Neighborhood Assistance Program Leadership Award presented to her by the South Side Local Development Company in 1999. Ms. Stackawitz declined to accept the award and it had been waiting for her at the Brashear Center ever since.
"These two women, along with a lot of other women on South Side were powerhouses," Ms. Rudiak continued. "When I think of Kitty Hitz, JoAnn Salopek, Roberta Smith, Josie Parker, Jo Kinney...they really moved South Side. We have some younger ones that are coming along...that have put in a lot of time and effort."
In recapping the past year's work of the SSCC, she explained the council attempted to work on a Strategic Plan for the neighborhood, but what they came up with was more of a "goals and strategies" document. This year they plan to refine those goals.
Last year they were able to utilize a Birmingham Foundation grant to help with hiring an executive director, Beth Graham, to help refine the goals and strategies. This year, the council has received a grant from Heinz Endowments which will be used to keep Ms. Graham on as a consultant.
"There are deliverables with the grant, but we're okay with that," Ms. Rudiak said.
The council also received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the city. Due to income restrictions, she explained, the CDBG funding can't be used in the 17th Ward except for senior citizens.
The SSCC was able to use some of the funding for tree tending, but thought a better use would be for gates to keep unwanted nighttime visitors out of private property.
"Our nighttime visitors have a tendency to, if you don't have gates, they have a tendency to think your alley is a bathroom or something else, a bedroom. So we were able to use that money to purchase gates for senior citizens in the 17th and 16th wards," Ms. Rudiak said.
A number of gates should be installed by the end of the summer. The council plans to add to that number if additional CDBG funding becomes available to them.
She said council members have had two meetings with Mayor William Peduto and his staff and an additional two meetings with the staff about safety concerns in the neighborhood including crosswalks, damaged sewers and paving issues, among others.
Due to the size of the community, the SSCC has divided the neighborhood in quadrants and plans to work their way through all sections.
The council has also been working with South Side businesses over the last six months to come up with recommendations for the current permit parking situation. An unintended consequence of permit parking in the neighborhood has been to hamper daytime businesses while there are vacant parking spaces on the street.
"You may think the only thing we have to do is increase the (grace period) to three hours or decrease this, you give it a one-type of solution and it creates unintended consequences in another way," she continued.
The recommendations are in the "hands of the Mayor's Office," she said, but they also want to bring them into the community so South Side residents know what is being recommended and what might go into effect.
"We don't want to do something that will put us back into the position that we were before, when there was no parking," she said. "Residents and businesses have been very thoughtful in that work."
Beautification efforts council volunteers have been involved with included: Ormsby Park; the 11th Street parklet, across from the South Side Welcome Center; and, Esser Park, next to Armstrong Playground, among others.
Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC is working closely with Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. They have become "pretty good partners" working with the trash, house parties and "other things."
"We've been working with them because we may have some differences, but we have some commonalities. Our goals are the same, we want South Side to be successful," Ms. Rudiak said.
A committee from the council has been exploring establishing a code compliance group similar to Oakwatch in Oakland. The group meets monthly with city officials to discuss 311 calls, over-crowding, liter and other concerns.
In considering whether to start a "Southwatch" type group, the SSCC committee has met with city officials to learn the number and type of 311 calls coming from the neighborhood. The 311 calls will be used as a basis where the group could start working on the biggest issues, she said.
"As a resident, you are invited to come to these (Southwatch meetings). We're trying to kick off in September," Ms. Rudiak said. Residents are welcome to just come to the meeting and observe or come and ask questions of the city officials there to answer questions.
The Southwatch meetings won't generally have one focus, but will touch on a variety of subjects including code enforcement, crime trends in the neighborhood, and parking. The initial emphasis of the group may be litter and the placing of trash on the streets days in advance of pick-up. "Just so we can get our feet wet."
In concluding, Ms. Rudiak said when she looked at the list of things the community council had done in the past year, "We've done a lot of things."
In the coming year, the council would like to work on creating oral histories of South Side residents. Ms. Rudiak said the histories wouldn't be limited to elderly long-time residents but could include teenagers who have lived here all their lives.
The council will continue with the Graffiti Watch program they have been successful with over the years. They are considering expanding the program to create public art throughout South Side in an effort to "bring up the community instead of tearing it down" with graffiti.
The SSCC is looking for funding to have a mural painted with a South Side theme.
Another goal for the coming year is to continue working with the chamber of commerce and the bar and restaurant association to manage the nighttime economy and attract neighborhood serving businesses.
Ms. Rudiak said it was important to get the message out about the positive aspects of the neighborhood and emphasize the good things happening in the community.