A group seeking for the City of Pittsburgh to annex Wilkinsburg filed again on September 29, 2022, with more than 1,200 signatures under a 1903 PA municipal annexation law that was lawfully repealed in July 2022.
PA Act 41, signed into law on July 7, 2022, by Governor Wolf repealed the April 28, 1903 P.L. 332 No. 260 entitled “An act for the annexation of any city, borough, township, or part of a township, to a contiguous city, and providing for the indebtedness of the same.” This was the outdated and nearly unused law under which the ties-severed nonprofit Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and its real estate speculator funders sought to dissolve Wilkinsburg’s government and raise total taxes for more than two-thirds of Wilkinsburgers during a time of unprecedented and sustained price inflation.
Lawyers for the petition filers claim that the repeal of the law is invalid because of a technicality, citing a 2005 PA Supreme Court case which held that the text of a repealed bill must be published at length, not simply cited in the repealing law (statement 19 in the filing, linked below). However, the decision seems to pertain to repealing subsections, not entire sections as Act 41 does to Section 260 which comprised the 1903 annexation law.
WF believes that the Court of Common Pleas may buy this argument despite the challenge period for Act 41 having passed with no contests since passage and assurance that Act 41 was passed fully lawfully via a call to the PA Legislative Reference Bureau, which is responsible for preparing bills. If the Court dismisses the filing and rejects the argument that the annexation law was unlawfully repealed, WF expects the filers to appeal. One objection to the filing was already filed by a Pittsburgh resident on October 5, asserting that the repeal is lawful and legally binding.
If the Court does not dismiss the petition filing, WF and its allies may challenge it from this angle but will need to raise funds to do so quickly as the judge in the case has requested memoranda of law that only lawyers may submit. While the WCDC has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on this, WF is a grassroots effort of working and retired Wilkinsburgers without immediate individual access to the tens of thousands of dollars it will take to fight for WIlkinsburg’s continued independence and right to exist in the future.
In a parallel effort, WF is undertaking the painstaking process of independently verifying the petition’s signatures. We are aware of underhanded tactics used to convince people to sign at their door and petitions unlawfully unattended at businesses in the borough. For the 2021 filing, WF could invalidate nearly 20% of the more than 1,200 signatures collected although the final count even after our analysis met the minimum threshold. Our preliminary analysis leads us toward a similar result, but there is still much work to be done since the filing posting on the Dept. of Court Records site contains many poor-quality scans and will necessitate in-person work to rectify.
- Allegheny County Dept. Of Court Records Case ID: GD-22-012361, but you might have to put in the case number separately in the “non-standard case ID” field.
- PA Act 41 of 2022
- 2005 PA Supreme Court Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion Fund, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Section 6
- PL 332 No. 260 re: annexation, original publishing. The link on the state website is dead now that the law was repealed
- Wilkinsburg group restarts Pittsburgh annexation process – TribLive, 2022-09-30
- Wilkinsburg community group files another petition seeking borough’s merger with city, Post-Gazette, 2022-10-03