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Letters to the Editor: Feb 20 - 27

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Frazier not for poor

I read with interest the article detailing the six candidates who might run for state Rep. Lisa Bennington's seat in the state Legislature ["Crowded House," Feb. 6]. It is important for your readers to remember the past, especially as the article detailed the historical voting of the previous representative, Frank Pistella.

Together with dozens of labor organizations, community groups and religious organizations, I worked on the living-wage campaign in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and was at the county council meeting when the living-wage legislation was defeated. Brenda Frazier was one of the key county councilors who helped kill the bill.

Just before her vote, she said that she was new to council, and didn't want to vote for the legislation since she didn't understand it. But on the same night, she voted for a more complicated multimillion-dollar county budget. She voted to kill legislation that would have helped more minorities than any other county legislation. She voted with the Republicans on council and against the Democrats. Rev. James Simms shocked the audience when he also voted against the legislation, saying it had too many revisions -- most of which he actually wrote himself. Dozens of businesses said that killing the legislation was their No. 1 priority. They said they could not pay their workers a living wage and survive.

Because of Frazier's vote against the county legislation, together with votes by Rev. Simms and the Republicans, the city of Pittsburgh rescinded a similar city bill. At the vote that night, the audience shouted "shame, shame, shame." Because of this vote, living-wage legislation -- which has been passed in so many other cities across the country -- was dead in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. Business and organizations continue to survive on the backs of the working poor -- and they won because of Frazier's vote. Those working poor that are below the poverty line lost. These same people are still below the poverty line.

With the help of council Republicans, Rev. Simms got to be president of county council shortly after this vote, becoming the first African American to hold this post. What Brenda Frazier got out of it is still in question.

Now Frazier is saying she will help the poor and those who need help. But where was she when the living-wage legislation was the best method for helping thousands out of poverty in Allegheny County? The public needs to be reminded of the past to understand the future.

 

-- John J. Rudiak, Carrick

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