'Community Connections' theme for Mt. Washington forum
May 21, 2019
Updates from local businesses, city officials, public safety groups, and politicians made for a full agenda at last Thursday's "Community Connections" themed Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) forum on Virginia Avenue.
The meeting opened with a local business spotlight presentation from Waldo Agency, LLC, as part of a 2019 MWCDC effort to help familiarize residents with the businesses in the community.
Owner Scott Waldo shared information about the three main services offered by his agency: insurance, tax prep, and notary services.
Founded in 1950, Waldo Agency is on Boggs Avenue. While it's not in the central business district, Mr. Waldo said the business has become "entrenched" in the Mount Washington community over years.
Following Mr. Waldo, Zone 3 Public Safety Council Secretary Jessica Benham announced the council is sponsoring a summer picnic on June 29 from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Arlington Spray Park on Fernleaf Street in the South Side Slopes.
Zone 3 police, including the new police puppy, will be in attendance. Admission is free and the picnic will include food, activities, and tables for neighborhood resources. Volunteers are needed to help with setup and food service.
Ms. Benham also said the council is looking to become more integrated with community groups like the MWCDC. She described the council as an organization working to build bridges between public safety officials and the community, and encouraged residents to attend their regular meetings on the third Monday of each month at the Knoxville library.
The next presenter was Molly Onufer from the City of Pittsburgh's Office of Community Affairs, who discussed the two best methods for residents to submit feedback during the city's capital budget planning process.
The first way is through a new online system called Balancing Act. The website lets users input comments on the various line items represented in the capital budget. It also gives citizens insights into how much of their city tax dollars are allocated towards each item every year. The tool can be accessed by visiting pittsburgh.abalancingact.com.
The second way to provide input is by attending one of two capital budget forums. The first meeting is on June 13 at the Children's Museum Lab in Allegheny Center. The second is June 18 at the Pittsburgh Teachers Federation in South Side.
Feedback will be collected via surveys at the event, so all attendees can have opinions and comments anonymously factored into the planning process. Food, child care, and interpretive services will be available onsite at both meetings.
A resident at the meeting asked Ms. Onufer how to improve communication between neighbors and the city about the status of local construction projects and added that many are uninformed about the upcoming plans for work along Grandview Avenue and Shaler Street.
"How do we get better feedback on where the city is on these types of projects, so there isn't a lot of criticism on Facebook?" the resident asked.
Ms. Onufer said Mount Washington residents can always reach out to her directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and she can provide information. Questions can also be sent to councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith.
The next speakers were the two candidates vying for the District 6 seat on the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors this fall. District 6 includes Brookline, Beechview, Banksville, Duquesne Heights, Mt. Washington, Westwood, East Carnegie and parts of Overbrook.
Heather Fulton, a Brookline resident for more than 20 years, believes it's time to give back to the Pittsburgh Public Schools after the great experience her daughters had in the district. Her three top goals are to add more paraprofessionals and teacher resources, build a centralized CTE program, and build a stronger working relationship with the city.
"Our district has some really great opportunities," Ms. Fulton said. "There are a lot of things we are doing well, but we need to take it up a notch."
Her opponent, William Gallagher is also from Brookline and taught for 27 years in District 6. He is now coaching football at Washington and Jefferson University.
Mr. Gallagher plans to bring accountability to central office, manage wasted spend throughout the district, and provide better support for teachers.
"We lose 50 percent of our teachers by year five because we don't treat teachers well," Mr. Gallagher said.
The school board's primary election will take place on May 21.
Last to present were MWCDC board members Greg Panza and Alaina Davis, who showed off preliminary concepts of canvas street banners that will be placed on light posts along Grandview Avenue.
Since the local businesses along Shiloh Street thrive on tourism, increasing the overall experience, and making Grandview Avenue more "Instagramable" is a top priority for the MWCDC in 2019.
"This is a new branding campaign for the community," Mr. Panza said. "How can we have more of a Disneyland tourist attraction experience when people take the incline up to Mount Washington?"
The MWCDC submitted an RFP earlier this year and selected Mount Washington agency Early Media Collective to design the banners. Ms. Davis and Mr. Panza are working to narrow down the design choices and collect more community feedback over the next couple of months.