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City Council says Not Yet, WCDC submits signatures anyway

When Pittsburgh City Council and Wilkinsburg Borough Council met on December 9, the outcome of the meeting was abundantly clear: there are too many open questions for this annexation effort to proceed. Yet, Wilkinsburg CDC (WCDC) submitted its referendum petitions on December 10 anyway.

City Council heard from Wilkinsburg council members and Wilkinsburg residents unassociated with the WCDC.

Favoring annexation at the moment are two of Wilkinsburg’s nine council members, Ian Petrulli and Ariel Haughton, and three of Pittsburgh’s nine council members, Anthony Coghill, Ricky Burgess, and Corey O’Connor. Haughton however supports a mutual popular referendum and not a council vote for either municipality. Burgess has voiced tepid support but thinks “the process we’re using is unfair.”

Opposing annexation vocally are Wilkinsburg’s council members Pamela Macklin, Page Trice, Linda Atkins, Denise Edwards, Yvonne Edmunds, and Andre Scott. Pittsburgh’s City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith and council member Bruce Krauss oppose it. Pittsburgh’s council member Deb Gross seemed to lean toward opposition.

The remaining council members in each municipality are undecided or personally against but supportive of a referendum. Nearly all seemed to want more clarity and a delay, or an entirely different process.

WF could not find a statement from Wilkinsburg’s council member Michael LeFebvre, who serves on the board of WCDC.

Wilkinsburg’s Scott doesn’t support moving forward while both municipalities are amid mayoral transitions. Comans does not support the annexation, feeling it rushed and unsupported by facts or sentiment. Gainey expressed that he will “take his cues” from Comans. Pittsburgh’s Ed Gainey and Wilkinsburg’s Donte Comans will take office in the next few weeks. Gainey is currently Wilkinsburg’s representative in the PA House.

Meanwhile, court records show that WCDC, represented by Pittsburgh-based law firm Cohen and Grigsby, submitted their referendum petitions on December 10, a day after the combined councils indicated a preference for WCDC to hold off on submission and six days after the Post-Gazette reported WCDC had more than 800 signatures collected for its previous effort earlier in 2021 and the WCDC asserted its second attempt would have similar support.

If the court approves the petitions based on the Allegheny County Election Division (ACED) review of signatures, city council would have 90 days to vote on approving the petition, thereby sending the referendum question to the ballot at an election specified by the court. ACED has until January 5 to review. WF is aware of community efforts to independently review the signatures in parallel under alarm by social media reports of paid signature collectors who are not Wilkinsburg residents and signatories who are not Wilkinsburg residents, either.