Carmen Robinson first announced her campaign a few months back, but she only had her first formal press conference today. And she began by hitting that classic theme of the mayoral challenger: a grievance about how the city spent too much money on "big businesses and large real estate developers" -- and not enough on small businesses out in the neighborhoods.
Robinson pounded these populist themes (hear a minute-long excerpt by clicking here), while standing in front of Liberty Avenue's "Welcome to Bloomfield" sign. She contended that even when development dollars are spent in neighborhoods, the projects are often priced out of the reach of those who lived nearby. She noted developments happening around East Liberty's Penn Circle as an example: "I believe they're trying to change [East Liberty] into East Shadyside," she said. "I'd like to grow our neighborhoods, but for all of us, not just for rich people."
She was short on specifics during her prepared remarks: She said her goal was "to stimulate small-business growth, create a healthy environment, as we have here in Bloomfield, and help reduce the violence that characterizes too many of our neighborhoods." But when asked by reporters what policies she would adopt to support this goal, she said "First, I need to look at the numbers" in city budgets.
After the conference ended, though, she told me she felt that too often "mayors try to solve problems [attracting and retaining business] by throwing money at it." A better approach, she said, would involve the city helping businesses develop business plans and do market research -- so they would have a better grip on what residents actually needed.
Robinson isn't totally opposed to using tax incentives: She noted a KFC that closed down was a "neighborhood staple" for Homewood. But she said chains who sought government aid "would have to produce not just an economic plan but a social plan [explaining] what they planned to give back." Other than fast food, obviously.
The gathering was attended by about a dozen enthusiastic supporters -- including long-time anti-real-estate-speculation activist David Tessitor. When Robinson had been in the area the day before, she had a brush with a shoplifter in the Shur-Save parking lot across the street. I'm happy to report here were no similar incidents today: Your CP correspondent was the most disreputable person in attendance.