South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 council hears from Black Women, impact of COVID-19

 

August 25, 2020



Liz Style, president of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC), began the Aug. 17 meeting stating this has been a "year of confusion, fear, and uncertainty, and have survived it all. But 2020 is not finished with us yet," she said.

The group's Zoom video conference included Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon.

The first guest speaker was Diane Powell, Pittsburgh Outreach Chair, Black Women for Positive Change. Her focus was "Who we are, what we do, and how we can work together."

Ms. Powell said the organization is a national policy-focused network of volunteers who are mostly African American women, but includes members of all ethnicities. It also includes "Good Brothers," who are men volunteers.

It has chapters nationwide.

The network has two primary goals: to contribute to ideas and methods that can strengthen and expand the American middle/working class; and to change the culture of violence in our society.

Ms. Powell said the organization especially wants to work with youth to help provide opportunities.

Its 9th Annual Week of Non-Violence will be held on Oct. 10-18, 2020. The focus will be on health empowerment, non-violence, and opportunities.

While more details are to come, the plan for the Oct. 10 launch is a workshop on strengthening working class families, especially those headed by a single mother or grandparent. 

A town hall focusing on youth will likely be another event that week.

Ms. Powell said she hopes groups like the Z3PSC will host an event that week to draw attention to the focus issues. Groups around the U.S. are working to come up with innovative ideas to raise public awareness, she said.

Possible events include essay contests, art projects, and other activities for youths.

In the past, the local chapter has worked closely with the Pittsburgh Police, faith institutions, and others. Ms. Powell said the group hopes to do so again once COVID-19 passes.

Ms. Style said a short film promoted by Black Women for Positive Change entitled "On Second Thought," addressed violence among youth, and is very worthwhile viewing.

Ms. Powell said it can be watched for free on the website: blackwomenforpositivechange.org, as can another film addressing youth issues.

The other guest speaker was city nighttime economy manager Allison Harnden, who spoke on "The impact of COVID-19 on the official and unofficial nighttime economy and the effects on neighborhoods."

Asking "how did we get here?" she said she had just returned from Seattle when COVID-19 began in the U.S. She remained in touch with other nighttime managers throughout the U.S. on their response.

Discovering businesses here felt disconnected, she and nighttime economy coordinator Emily Embrey expanded their data base and increased their newsletter publication from monthly to weekly.

While following state rules, some businesses that remained open received help from family members, and got creative. Grocery stores, for instance, delivered groceries or instituted curbside pick-ups.

In the state's "green phase," indoor dining was permitted at 50 percent capacity, but it was quickly followed by orders to close.

"There's been a lot of living and learning from this experience," she said.

Today, restaurants can have up to 25 percent capacity. The state is allowing cocktails to go, and the Liquor Control Board is extending liquor sales to sidewalk cafes.

Ms. Harnden said bars and restaurants are in good shape today for knowing what to do.

The county may institute different rules if they are more stringent from the state.

As for the PED, the South Side Parking Enhancement District, it took a large financial hit with COVID-19 closures.

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Before the pandemic, PED income averaged $4,000 per weekend. It is inching up now, she said, to about $2,000 on weekends.

PED funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. 

Overall, through the course of COVID-19, it has been the "not knowing" that has been hard for businesses.

"It's going to be a long recovery," she said.

To the question if she has contact with neighborhood bars and restaurants that serve those neighborhoods, Ms. Harnden said yes. She added that often small neighborhood establishments have a difficult time keeping going in light of regulations like social distancing that limit patrons.

Next, in her Zone 3 crime update, Commander Dixon said a five-year review showed a decline in Part I crimes from 2500 in 2015 to 1933 in 2019.

"The officers are doing great work," she said.

Due to COVID-19, there was a big drop in crime in March and April.

Regarding a shooting in Arlington by the spray park on July 30, an arrest was made.

Commander Dixon said that she and Ms. Harnden began their respective jobs about the same time, and that Mr. Harnden provided valuable guidance with nighttime issues.

Both attended Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) conferences, which the commander said were highly beneficial.

"It showed we were on the right track," she said.

The commander reported "speakeasys" are appearing in the zone for those who want to socialize after 11 p.m. There was one in Carrick and one on Mt. Oliver St., which seem to be closed now following police intervention.

A participant alerted her to an abandoned Pontiac with a flat tire at Mountain Ave. and Parkwood Rd. She has called 311 about it, but it currently creates a hazard for motorists.

The commander said she would have an officer check it out.

Another participant said she heard a rumor that Commander Dixon will be retiring. The commander confirmed that, stating she will retire next year.

In announcements, a blood drive will be held from 12:30 - 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 25 at the Sokol Club on East Carson St. Appointments are recommended.

Jay Gilmer, STOP The Violence Coordinator and Police Intern Program Coordinator, Pittsburgh Dept. of Public Safety, said youngsters returning to school creates many challenges, such as: How do we support them? Youth activities? How do we help children with parents who are not equipped to help them?

When children get up from computers and go outside, what do they encounter?

Ideas/suggestions are welcome at the city and county level, he said.

Next, Bob Charland, of the office of city Councilman Bruce Kraus, said to contact the office if you need help.

A participant said there was a water break on her street, and the water company only patched the one spot. It was her understanding they are required to repair from curb to curb.

Mr. Charland said that is correct. He will look into this specific matter.

The next Z3PSC meeting will be on Sept. 21.

The guest speaker will be Reverend Eileen O. Smith, RN, program director, South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace.

 

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