Pittsburgh’s newest City Council representative, Deb Gross, won out against four other candidates in a special election, after District 7 representative Patrick Dowd vacated his seat in July.
Gross took her seat at the beginning of December, one of the busiest times of the year for the council.
“It’s more hectic than I thought it would be,” Gross said. “For December, there are so many budget items to discuss, and plus there just seems to be a lot of business that people are trying to get in before the end of the year. It’s been a lot of meetings back to back.”
Gross said she’s happy to be representing a district with many community groups, from block watches to garden clubs to community development corporations
“What these residents need is to be heard, and to have a strong partner in city government that responds to their concrete needs right on their own corner, right on their own street,” Gross said. “I think we can do a better job at that, so that’s what I’m really excited about.”
The councilwoman said the main challenge facing her district is managing the growth of neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and the Strip District.
Gross said it will be important “to stay a step ahead of the dollars that are flowing into the district and think about what we want our neighborhoods and business districts to look like.”
She said she understands that many neighborhoods in her district are becoming destinations for large numbers of Pittsburghers and tourists, which can be a double-edged sword.
“They’re neighborhoods that we have to share between the people who live there and the people who visit and shop there,” Gross said. “We want (visitors) there, we welcome them, but we also want to make sure that we’re good neighbors to each other, visitors and residents alike.”
Gross said one surprising thing she has heard from many of her constituents is frustration over the lack of neighborhood grocery stores and markets.
“You don’t think of that as a big political issue, or a big city issue,” Gross said. “Gradually, slowly … we didn’t even notice that we were losing convenient good food. Now you have to get in a car and schlep across however many miles or however many city blocks, just to get your basic supplies.”
Gross said she looks forward to finding ways to address such a deficit during her time in City Council.