South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Rep. Benham plans to introduce bill to allow local regulation of liquor licenses


Last updated 5/19/2021 at 8:27pm

Updates were the focus of the May 11 virtual general meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA).

President Blake McLaren began the meeting detailing the ways to contact the organization:;; or 412-376-7373. The SSSNA can also be found on Facebook.  Instagram is coming shortly.

There is one opening for a board position.  Email if you are interested. A candidate must live in the Slopes, and have attended at least two meetings in the past year to be eligible to join the board.

The meeting began with a school board District 7 candidate forum with candidates Jamie Piotrowski and Khamil Scantling.

Next, state Rep. Jessica Benham, 36th District, delivered some state-level updates.

She reported the state was awaiting approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before starting Pfizer COVID vaccinations for ages 12 to 15.

Rep. Benham said she introduced a bill the previous week to allow municipalities to regulate liquor licenses in a way that makes sense for individual neighborhoods.

She also said there was an effort underway to retract some of the absentee ballot options.

"You can count on me to vote against," she said.  She also said the governor would veto if it gets to his desk.

Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus, in his updates, said the PennDOT safety improvement project is one-third completed.  Most of the current work is focused on bump-outs at busy intersections.

The project will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.

Upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; sidewalk improvements; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.

The project should be completed about spring, 2022.

He also reported the federally-funded 18th St. signals upgrade project for pedestrian safety is at the final design phase.  A Zoom meeting was planned for the next day to share plans with the public.

He said there will be new signals at Sarah St., Jane St., Josephine St., Mission St., Arlington Ave., and Bausman St.

The traffic signal upgrades include: gloss black signal poles; audible countdown pedestrian signals; and more.

He also reported the Rex Theatre has a new owner and new manager. The plan is for bands, comedy, live entertainment, and a dine-in area.  The goal is to open in late August.

Regarding the Dept. of Public Works' (DPW) 4th Division in Knoxville, he said construction is underway.

The expectation is the new facility will open for winter, 2021.

DPW shut down the former facility five years ago when it became uninhabitable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, and no longer viable. Division 4 responsibilities have since been split between divisions 3 and 5.

To a comment about the increase in neighborhood graffiti, Mr. Kraus called it "disturbing."

A particularly troublesome spot has been "the wall" at 17th and East Carson streets.

He said the best thing residents can do when they spot graffiti is to take photos and send to the authorities. Vandals have gone to jail for graffiti, he said.

Next, Gisele Betances, of the Mayor's Office, provided updates on city programs.

She said the city has a temporary eviction moratorium designed to protect renters from being evicted due to hardships caused by the pandemic. However, landlords can evict for health or safety issues.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

A legal assistance program for renters and homeowners provides free legal help to income-qualifying households.

The goal of the One PGH plan is to raise money and bring together partners, such as UPMC, Highmark, Carnegie Mellon University and others, to work together on the city's challenges.

A Health and Safety community survey is available.  For information on that and other projects, and to provide survey input, visit: . 

Ms. Betances also reported Citiparks is engaged in great programming, such as the Kids of Steel Running Club, and Explorer Days.  A free Coding class is held Tuesdays at 4 p.m. for ages 10 to 18.

To contact Ms. Betances, email:

In committee updates, Phase 1 of the South Side Park master plan is briefly on hold.

More than 100 trees have been planted in Jurassic Valley. 

Goatfest will be held on Sept. 18 at the Arlington ball field.  There will be bands, petting zoo, and more.  The purpose of the goats to eat invasive species and vines.

In the StepTrek update, this will be the 21st year for the annual non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.  It will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Last year, 368 tickets were sold, making it a "very successful" event, committee chair Brian Oswald said.

Email if you are interested in joining the StepTrek committee.

In the beautification report, the Adopt-A-Step program, in which residents adopt a set of stairs and keep it clean, is being conducted again this year.

To adopt a set of steps, visit:

In other beautification news, there will be a planting at the Josephine and Greeley garden at 9 a.m. on June 3.  

Volunteers should also gather at the Bandi Schaum Community Garden at 6 p.m. on May 26.


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