NEWS - Pittsburgh mayor's race debate tackles immigration, bike lanes, drinking water safety

Pittsburgh mayor's race debate tackles immigration, bike lanes, drinking water safety

Updated: 7:47 PM EDT Apr 26, 2017

Bob Mayo



PITTSBURGH —In this latest Pittsburgh mayor's race debate, the questions about bike lanes, drinking water safety, immigrants and sanctuary cities spotlighted differences among the candidates. The event, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh and The Pittsburgh Social Exchange, hosted Mayor Bill Peduto, Councilwoman Darlene Harris, and the Rev. John Welch -- all candidates in the Democratic primary next month.

When the candidates were asked about any potential public safety impact of welcoming immigrants to Pittsburgh, Welch questioned the premise of the question.

"The assumption built in that question is that there is a direct corollary with crime and immigration, which I don't necessarily support that assumption," Welch said. He questioned any crackdown on undocumented immigrants triggered by minor alleged offenses. "I would do everything I can to protect families. I don't think families should be broken up just because somebody missed a stop sign," Welch said.

"We all have to remember that at one time it was our family; that at one time it was our parents or grandparents or our great grandparents who came here," Peduto said. He noted that in the 1920s, his family was affected by a crackdown on the number of immigrants welcomed to the U.S., after his grandfather entered the country from Italy.

"My grandmother didn't come over for 6 more years. My family was broken because of hate. I will protect the families of this city, and not make the same mistakes twice," Peduto said.

"I do not believe in having a sanctuary city and losing federal or state funds," said Harris. "We have a hard time right now, let alone losing money that is coming in to us," Harris said. The councilwoman said she supports legal immigration, but opposed welcoming undocumented immigrants. "I think that is very serious and risks lives of people who live here. I do not believe in anyone coming here illegally," Harris said.

"Oh, by the way, (on) losing federal money, yesterday a judge called the president's executive order unconstitutional," Peduto said.

The candidates also fielded a question on Pittsburgh's dedicated bike lanes, which are championed by Peduto, but questioned by Harris and Welch.

"There has not been safety studies nor traffic studies for any of this," Harris said. "There's accidents waiting to happen. We've already had accidents and it does concern me. (I) would want to have that (study) done on every bike lane. The communities have not been talked to, especially downtown Pittsburgh, when they decided to put in the lanes down here.".

Welch said, "The bike lanes as they're constructed in Pittsburgh and many other cities are not safe for cyclists because they are in the door zones (of parked cars). We have to find out how we can either widen our streets and get rid of sidewalks, or find different place to put bike lanes."

Peduto said "A 21st century city is a multi-modal city. It is a city that is designed for cars and bikes and pedestrians, and public transit, and not simply the automobile. That's 1950s. A safe system is not having bikes in the street with the cars. where cars are not traveling 15 miles an hour or trying to pass bikes. (it's) separating them, creating protected lanes where bikes can be."

On Pittsburgh's Water and Sewer Authority and concerns about the presence of lead in some city drinking water, Welch called for the installation of filtering at the "point-of-entry" of lead water lines outside affected homes.

"Install point of entry units on every home. I would only cost $54 million on the low end, $100 million on the high end for all 83,000 customers (affected)," Welch said.

Harris criticized the Water Authority's turnover of staff and use of consultants.

"We (used to) have awards for what our water was like. What happens (now) is, people come in, they don't know what they're doing. They're bringing in consultants, over consultants, over consultants," Harris said.

Peduto said the water authority has to be changed so it can afford to invest in needed changes in the city's water system.

"We can't borrow the money to fix it unless we change the authority because no bank would issue a bond to an organization that's already a billion dollars in debt," Peduto said. "The bigger problem is maintenance of this system that we're going to have to invest $1.5 billion in."



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Pittsburgh, PA 15233


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