Allegheny County Council

Allegheny County

Two Allegheny County races were very tight on Tuesday night, while the other two were easy victories for incumbent candidates.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The race to represent Allegheny County Council’s District 4 pits a relatively new incumbent against a political rookie. Democratic candidate Patrick Catena was appointed to council in January, while Republican Dimitrios Pantzoulas won a place on next week’s ballot as a write-in candidate.

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Republican incumbent County Councilman Tom Baker has a challenger for the seat he’s held since 2014 thanks to a successful write-in campaign from Democrat Jack Betkowski.

A week before the primary election, Betkowski, who is a Ross Township commissioner, decided to run for a seat to represent Ross, Moon, North Fayette, Findlay and other northeastern townships. He said he wants to increase public transparency and takes issue with the fact that meetings are held Downtown at 5 p.m.

Allegheny County / Campaign of Mike Dell

Voters in the Eastern municipalities of Allegheny County will chose between a longtime incumbent and an accountant for County Council’s District 8 seat Nov. 7.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented his 2018 budget proposal to County Council on Tuesday, totaling $905.7 million, a 2.8 percent growth from the year before.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Council approved on Wednesday a proposed mandate to perform blood lead level testing on all children between 9 and 12 months of age and again at age two.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Council is expected to vote Wednesday evening on a proposed mandate for blood lead testing for all children between nine and twelve months of age, and again at age 2.

Carlos Osorio / AP, File

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald reintroduced legislation Tuesday that would make lead tests mandatory for children under 2 years old in Allegheny County.

The legislation was unanimously approved by the Allegheny County Board of Health in May. However, Allegheny County Council members failed to act on it. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

On May 16th, Allegheny County primary voters will choose their party’s nominees to run for Allegheny County Council. Democrats, who have a two-to-one registration majority in the county, are expected to retain their majority during the general election this November. That leaves Republicans and some critics frustrated.

Frank Franklin II / AP

This story was updated at 2:51pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Allegheny County Council voted to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in all public places where smoking is also prohibited after a lengthy debate Tuesday evening.

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about whether people should be allowed to vape in restaurants, theaters, retail stores, athletic arenas and other public spaces.

Ben Margot / AP

Nearly two-thirds of those who spoke at an Allegheny County Council public hearing Monday night came out against expanding the ban on smoking in public places to include e-cigarettes.  

The expansion was approved by the Allegheny County Board of Health, but still must be approved by the county council and signed by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has said he is in favor of the expansion.

Before the 23 speakers were allowed to give their testimony, council members heard from a panel of eight experts on the subject of vaping.

Mark Nootbar / 90.5 WESA

When the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter Commission was formed in 1997, the members decided it was time to move away from having three full-time commissioners running the county, and instead it was time to have a single full-time executive and a 15-member county council. 

“I think right now, we have a citizens council and I don’t want to make it a career thing, like a state legislature or Pittsburgh City Council,” said Allegheny County Council Member Charles Martoni who was also a member of the first council in 2000. “I think it works pretty well the way it is.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

With 23 recommendations and more than 60 pages of explanations and supporting documents, the residents of Allegheny County have a lot to deal with now that the Government Review Commission has released its report.

“The whole idea of self government is to improve as much as we possibly can on a daily, weekly, yearly basis. So, I think our commission can be very helpful and be a guide to (Allegheny County) council and the (County) executive,” Mark Forester, the Allegheny County Government Review Commission chair said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Many of the region's officials kicked off a new administration with their new year Monday.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald took his second oath of office alongside several Allegheny County Council members, Pittsburgh City Council members and Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb.

Larry Smith

Pittsburgh-area residents have a story or two about close encounters with deer on the road or in their backyards.

That’s why the Allegheny County Council has posted tips on its website for residents to avoid unwanted run-ins with the local white tail deer population.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania voters have one week left to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election, and for the first time, they’ll be able to register online

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh has not been shy about her dissatisfaction with the way the county’s legislative body operates.

In July, she suggested to the state Government Review Commission that the council be disbanded, decrying it as “superfluous” and a rubber stamp for County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s initiatives.

Last September, she unsuccessfully attempted to pull multiple pieces of legislation she had introduced out of committee for a full vote before council, citing a rule in the county’s administrative code that said bills must be voted upon within 90 days of their introduction.

When Allegheny County’s Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1999, it established a council comprised of 13 members elected by districts and two at-large members: one Democrat and one Republican.

Now, Republican County Councilman Edward Kress of Shaler wants to increase the number of at-large members to three, to account for citizens who might not affiliate with either of the main parties.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh on Tuesday suggested to the Government Review Commission that the legislative body on which she serves be disbanded.

At a news conference ahead of the commission’s meeting Tuesday afternoon, Heidelbaugh called the council “superfluous,” citing a 91.8 percent passage rate for ordinances proposed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The chair of late Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko’s re-election committee took over her seat in Council on Tuesday.

Terri Klein is active in local politics and currently serves as vice chair of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee. The Squirrel Hill resident works as a physical therapist and sits on the board of American Civil Liberties Union’s Pittsburgh chapter.

Allegheny County Council

Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko passed away Wednesday night due to complications from breast cancer, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. 

The 61-year-old Democrat first joined the council in April of 2011 when she was appointed to the seat vacated by Rich Fitzgerald, who left office to mount what would be a successful run for county executive. Danko was then elected to a full four-year term in November of that year.

Danko was running for a second term against challenger Caroline Mitchell.

The Allegheny County Board of Health met for a pre-scheduled meeting on Wednesday, a day after Allegheny County Council voted down a proposed food facility grading system.

The system would have posted letter grades outside of restaurants. Council voted against it 12-1. County Councilman John Palmiere, who represents District 6, was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting. He was the only person on Council who voted in favor of the grading system.

Allegheny County Council on Tuesday joined the chorus of voices calling on the state Legislature to stop bills that would amend the state constitution and give lawmakers the right to decide what qualifies an organization for tax-exempt, public charity status.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Despite passionate pleas from local activists, Allegheny County Council on Tuesday voted down a measure that would have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in county parks for the next two years.

The bill was written and introduced into Council by the residents themselves, using a provision of the county’s charter that has never actually been put into practice. Activists with the group Protect our Parks gathered nearly 2,000 signatures, well beyond the 500 signatures required to put the bill before Council.

"Protect Our Parks" Fights Fracking in Allegheny County Parks

Feb 2, 2015
Marcellus Protest / Flickr

This Tuesday, the Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to put a 2-year moratorium on further fracking in county parks.

The ordinance was introduced by the volunteer organization Protect Our Parks. Joining us in Studio A are Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler, volunteers with the organization.

The office of Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said that he would veto any legislation related to a moratorium on fracking in county parks.

His office issued the following statement:

"The effort being led by Protect Our Parks is similar to legislation that was voted on previously and was defeated by Council. If such legislation were to pass, the Executive would veto it. He believes that blanket legislation sends a bad message to the industry and is a bad precedent. Each opportunity should be considered on a case by case basis. In the case of the Deer Lakes Park proposal, we were able to enter a lease that extends environmental protections to those communities that would not have been possible otherwise. That being said, the Executive has indicated that he has no intent of considering other drilling opportunities in the county at this time. He wants to see how the two current drilling operations will play out before moving forward with anything else." 

John Detwiler talks about why Protect Our Parks wants to do away with fracking in the county parks: 

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented an $832.9 million 2015 operating budget to County Council at their meeting Tuesday evening, along with a $79.9 million capital budget.

Among the highlights, according to Fitzgerald, is the lack of a real estate millage increase for the 13th time in 14 years.

Fitzgerald linked that millage stasis to county bonds that were refinanced over the last two years.

Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Despite an impassioned speech from Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Sue Means, an initiative to place the words “In God We Trust” above the Bill of Rights in Council Chambers failed Tuesday night.

Six members of Council voted for the bill, while eight voted against it. A bill needs eight affirmative votes to pass.

Tucked away in Allegheny County’s administrative code is a rule saying that all bills introduced in County Council must be voted upon within 90 days.

In contrast, the rules of Allegheny County Council state that bills can only be pulled from committee and put on the council’s agenda for a final vote if they get a two-thirds affirmative majority in committee within 60 days of being introduced.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In a heated meeting that lasted more than seven hours and included more than four hours of public comment, members of Allegheny County Council early Wednesday morning approved a lease agreement to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Allegheny County Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

The controversial resolution would allow Range Resources, in cooperation with Huntley & Huntley, to perform hydraulic fracturing under the park, provided that no drilling activities actually occur within the park.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said if the resolution passes, the county will receive around $7.7 million up front and an ongoing 18 percent royalty on the value of gas extracted.

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