Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition: Pittsburgh Peace and Justice Initiative

Katie Phillips Active + Engaged Residents, Advocacy, Diverse + Connected Region, General, Opportunities for Success

In early 2018, the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition (PBEOC) released the Pittsburgh Peace and Justice Initiative Phase II Report.

The PBEOC is made up of five black elected officials in the greater Pittsburgh region – City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, PA State Representative Ed Gainey, City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, County Councilman DeWitt Walton, and PA State Representative Jake Wheatley. The PBEOC “envisions a healthy, thriving, sustainable African American community where residents live, work, play and worship safely and successfully.”

Their mission is to “utilize their collective power and authority to create a future where Pittsburgh African American communities are transformed into empowered, revitalized, healthy and sustainable neighborhoods as determined by objective evaluation measurements” in areas of public safety, affordable housing, family outcomes, business & organizations, education, and employment.

The Pittsburgh Peace and Justice Initiative (PP&JI), a project of the PBEOC, “gathers residents from across the city with the goal to create a community-informed policy agenda.” The PP&JI was created through an in-depth, intentional community process to “increase public safety, improve quality of life, and ensure the delivery of fair and impartial public safety services” throughout Pittsburgh. PUMP is pleased to see such  a focus on genuine community input.

Process:

Phase 1

Phase 1 began in 2016 as a series of six community meetings that engaged more than 400 residents. The result was a “collection of 300 recommendations for six (6) key civic areas which include public safety, affordable housing, family outcomes, business and organizations, education, and employment” (page 6). After pulling together these recommendations, Phase 1 “culminated with an all-city gathering, which allowed residents to hear the summary of the PP&JI report as well as demonstrate their commitment to the process by volunteering….to support Phase 2.” After this all-city gathering, the PBEOC brought the information collected from the community to “other policy makers, public safety and business leaders, and agencies poised to meet residents’ concerns about housing, employment, safety, business opportunities, and the livelihoods of African Americans and other minority groups in our region” (page 6.)

Phase 2: A Call to Action

Phase 2 was “the process of narrowing the list of 300 recommendations into a smaller group of high priority and actionable items” (page 6). This was accomplished by convening volunteers to prioritize the Phase 1 recommendations through a carefully designed method to ensure the process was intentional and collaborative (described in pages 8-14).

Summary of Findings & Recommendations:

This section of the Phase 2 report presents the high priority recommendations that resulted from the Phase 1 and Phase 2 processes for each of the six priority areas. We have highlighted some of these key recommendations below. For each section, we have pulled the highest rated recommendations—referred to as Rating 1 Recommendations. Rating 1 Recommendations are those recommendations which both have the potential for a great impact and are the easiest to accomplish. Read the full report to see all of the recommendations.

Public Safety

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Refer all petty/non-violent/first-time offenders to community mediation as a pre-trial diversion and dismiss criminal charges
  • Expand opportunities for quality employment for youth
Affordable Housing

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Prioritize the creation of affordable housing
  • Develop a Homeowner Rehabilitation Program to assist existing homeowners with health and safety-related concerns
  • Establish continuous measurements of housing policy that lead to accountability & transparency
Family Outcomes

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Engage Black families around what is needed to strengthen family units
  • Increase access and funding to high quality early childhood programming
  • Create job opportunities and job skills training so that residents can attain gainful employment and stable incomes
  • Increased access to quality health care
Business & Organizational Development

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Encourage established business organizations to aggressively pursue working relationships with current, new, and emerging businesses in the African American community
  • Strengthen the monitoring, reporting, and enforcement of M/BWE participation
  • Create access to creative lending and funding practices like financial intermediaries or foundation program-related investment funds
Education

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Hire more teachers who reflect diverse cultures and races of the community, particularly more African American male teachers
  • Establish continuous measurement of education policy to increase accountability and transparency
  • Provide internet to early childhood programs to use technology and media wisely
  • Provide an individualized curriculum that takes into account student learning styles
  • Increase availability and accessibility of high-quality affordable preschool programs
Employment Opportunities

Rating 1 Recommendations

  • Inform the community about potential opportunities in industries with a shortage
  • Remove arbitrary barriers to employment (e.g. driver’s license requirement)
Read the full report here.