’Burgh Least Livable, Blacks Tell City Leaders

Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 3, 2007

Advocates for equality hammered home the argument that the Pittsburgh area is the least livable place for African Americans in the nation, asking Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato yesterday to do more about it.

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Organizers also asked both elected leaders to agree to produce quarterly, public reports on progress toward reducing racial disparity. The reports would address appointments to boards and commissions, hiring of minorities to jobs at all levels of government and distribution of contracts to minority-owned firms.

Dr. John Wallace of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems and researcher Ralph Bangs, also of the Center on Race and Social Problems, outlined many ways the city and county African-American populations lag behind not just local whites, but blacks from nearly every other city.

In terms of employment, salaries, poverty, single-parent families, home ownership, enrollment in schools and many other measures, local African-Americans are “among the most disadvantaged people in America,” Dr. Bangs said. “We have one of the biggest problems to deal with in urban America.”

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Mr. Onorato argued that things may be better than the data suggests, since it was based on the 2000 Census. His administration has boosted the number of minority appointees to boards, he said.

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A black-owned firm is the county’s prime engineering contractor on brownfield redevelopment, he said, and 20 percent of the county workforce is African-American. The county population is around 12 percent African-American, the city’s 27 percent.

Mr. Ravenstahl said more than half of his board and commission appointees have been women, and one-third have been African-Americans. He has hired an equal employment opportunity officer to improve the diversity of the city work force, including public safety bureaus, which have become steadily whiter in recent years.

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