Twenty-one speakers against the Pittsburgh annexation of Wilkinsburg voiced their concerns with and opposition to said annexation, more than double the 10 annexation supporters who spoke.
Nearly all supporters who spoke are associated with the Wilkinsburg CDC or are Wilkinsburg residents who filed the petitions to start the annexation vote process. 15 people were called to speak who did not because of absence or technical difficulties. Two of those were Wilkinsburg council members Macklin and Trice, who have both publicly opposed annexation.
Pittsburgh City Council members were not permitted to respond to questions in any form under hearing rules. Three city council members (Wilson, Kraus, Kail-Smith) plus the recently-hired city solicitor Daniel Friedson spoke to clarify procedures. They explicitly reminded participants that City of Pittsburgh did not initiate the annexation process — Wilkinsburg residents did — and is bound by state law and court order to vote no later than April 5, 2022. This public hearing and any other are a part of the city council’s due diligence ahead of that vote.
Solicitor Friedson also said that the annexation law is not the only law that could be employed to combine the two municipalities, which directly contradicts statements that the WCDC made in its town halls, most recently on January 5, 2022. Tracey Evans, one of the annexation petition filers and the executive director of the WCDC, has said that there was no other process, that because Pittsburgh is considered a second-class city under state law, the only option was to use the annexation process. This contradiction only fuels the confusion endemic in this effort.
Arguments made favor of annexation included that homeowners deserve property tax relief; that Pittsburgh is more capable of preserving historical buildings, that the combined population qualifying the city for more federal funding since both have been losing population in the past decades, that the Black majority of Wilkinsburg would help diversify the city, and that municipal consolidation is efficient as it reduces service duplication.
Arguments made against annexation included that Wilkinsburg residents have made an explicit choice to live there to “align money with values” and that includes its taxation; that the public in both municipalities misunderstands the process so much that some think it’s already happened; that PPS already has tremendous problems around busing, debt service, and its physical plant; that supporters have failed to make a case for Pittsburgh to take on Wilkinsburg’s problems ahead of its existing problems; that business districts in Pittsburgh’s lower-income neighborhoods are representative of how Pittsburgh would treat Wilkinsburg; that Pittsburgh road maintenance is significantly inferior to Wilkinsburg’s; that Pittsburgh’s unaddressed problems with racism, segregation, and gentrification would only be exacerbated by Wilkinsburg annexation; that there’s no negotiation between municipal elected leaders in this process; that the supporter movement has sewn divisiveness and confusion with its messaging; that the WCDC cannot be trusted because it “bilked Wilkinsburg” for millions of dollars and failed to deliver on its promises; that annexation would push Black people out of Wilkinsburg; that real estate developers are pushing annexation as a part of a Penn Ave property grab; that the existing school district arrangement took nearly a year to negotiate and annexation would happen essentially overnight with no real plan in place; and that the supports have failed to make their case: “No one has need of this.”
This diagram shows advocated position and any explicitly stated affiliations provided by the speakers.
Catch the replay here:
- Few show support for Wilkinsburg annexation at public hearing, Post-Gazette, Jan. 11, 2022
- Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg residents voice concerns about possible annexation, WESA, Jan. 12, 2022
- Pittsburgh council hears public testimony mostly opposed to Wilkinsburg annexation, PublicSource, Jan. 11, 2022