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City Council rejects Wilkinsburg annexation, for now

Pittsburgh City Council voted 7-2 along the same lines as the standing committee vote last week to reject the Wilkinsburg annexation petition filed in court case GD-21-014817.

This ends the process for the petitions submitted to the court in December 2021. To restart the process, petitioners would have to circulate their petitions again, collecting significantly in excess of the minimum requirement— esp. considering some 18% of signatures were trivially proven invalid in an amicus filing, and securing a court order for the city council to vote again before it could go to the ballot for the referendum. City Council made it abundantly clear in statements this week and last that they did not like this process, which is set by state law.

What’s troubling is that the Wilkinsburg CDC published an email list missive stating that they will employ the same process, even explicitly stating a goal for the question to be on the referendum of the 2023 municipal primary election despite the fact that balloting an annexation referendum on a primarily could disenfranchise 10% of Wilkinsburg voters. Further showing disregard for Wilkinsburg residents’ votes, this goal ignores the fact that a municipal primary election always has a lower turnout than a mid-term or presidential primary election in 2022 and 2024, respectively.

Pittsburgh City Council is funding an investigation into municipal consolidation this year, though. Some council members who voted against the annexation are predicting that they’d change their vote should the matter come before them again. They want clear plans and dialogue between the elected representatives of the people of Wilkinsburg instead of only from an unelected, non-profit corporation representing real estate developer interests and the aforementioned residents who clearly are experiencing some buyer’s remorse and other regrets. WF appreciates their attention to detail desire to discuss with Wilkinsburg elected officials, even though we believe that Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh are better off as friendly neighbors.

Wilkinsburg Future rejoices in the council’s clear communication and willingness to hear from base Wilkinsburg residents and not just business interests and the small but vocal group of homeowners who would benefit from the city’s taxation differences. It’s clear that Wilkinsburg Future, an unfunded community group, made a difference in this, mobilizing Wilkinsburg residents who took meaningful action: dozens of speakers and attendees at hearings and informational meetings, one successful protest at a staged press conference event, more than 100 callers completed more than 550 calls to 9 council members using our phone system, and countless emails sent to elected officials in both municipalities.

It’s clear that Wilkinsburg is here to stay, and now we need to work to keep it. WF isn’t done. We’re just getting started.

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