At swearing in, Fitzgerald touts natural-gas biz, averts Occupy Pittsburgh "mic check" | Slag Heap

At swearing in, Fitzgerald touts natural-gas biz, averts Occupy Pittsburgh "mic check"

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Democrat Rich Fitzgerald was sworn into office today, the third county executive in the post's history.

But before the ceremony even began, it was interrupted by a demonstration from Occupy Pittsburgh members. About 10 protesters walked down an aisle in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and began a "mic check" -- where one protester yells parts of a sentence and it's repeated by the rest of the group.

It was hard to hear from my vantage point on the balcony and a performing CAPA vocal ensemble, but the beginning of "We will not take" could be heard before members of Fitzgerald's entourage and county police quickly pushed the protestors out of the hall. One protester could be seen falling on the ground, but quickly got up.

Fitzgerald is "the right person at the right time for our county," said Congressman Mike Doyle, who led the formal festivities.

In his inauguration speech, Fitzgerald, who got involved in county government 12 years ago when the county-council-and-executive system was first formed, praised the support his campaign received from labor and business and the county's ability as a whole to work together. He lauded the county's unemployment and poverty rate, both which are below the national average. And even though the county faces the challenge of declining state and federal revenues, he remained upbeat.

"I'm so optimistic about our future, so optimistic about the fact we have turned the corner in this region," he said.

Although he touched on campaign talking points like property reassessments, regionalizing the county's transit system and generating more direct flights at Pittsburgh International Airport, Fitzgerald spent the most time on Marcellus Shale, saying that its opportunities can not only create jobs, but help the county "help solve the nation's energy policy issues. We don't need to continue buying foreign oil. We can people to work ... I'm excited about our opportunity."

He couched that enthusiasm, however, by saying the county needed to stay "very vigilant and tough on companies that want to come here."

"We also know the challenges ... there are environmental issues we've got deal with," he said. "We cannot allow the industry to not be regulated."

Those in attendance ranged from Congressmen Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, to former county executives Jim Roddey -- a Republican -- and Dan Onorato. Also in attendance: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Ravenstahl, who did not attend Fitzgerald's election night ceremony and who had a verbal spat with Fitzgerald in November.

Ravenstahl told City Paper after the ceremony that the two men "had put any and all that stuff behind us." Ravenstahl said he had met with Fitzgerald "multiple times" since election night and that he planned to work with him on "the reassessment mess."

"We clearly have to work together because this region faces numerous challenges. The best way to overcome them is to work cooperatively," Ravenstahl said. "I'm excited about Rich."

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