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One Hill lines up CBA priorities

Group wants certain benefits from arena construction for neighborhood

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As the One Hill coalition gears up to take the community’s demands to the negotiation table, coalition leadership made one last attempt, on Sat., July 28, to garner input from the people it is fighting for.

One Hill is a grassroots conglomerate of nearly 100 community groups banding together to negotiate a community benefits agreement for Hill District residents over the development of a new arena for the Penguins. [See “Slippery Slope,” City Paper, July 25.] Because the new $300 million complex is to be built mostly with public subsidies, the coalition argues that benefits for the public should be stipulated in a legally binding agreement. The CBA fight is part of a new economic-justice movement unfolding in many cities across the country.

For months, coalition members have met weekly to brainstorm the myriad benefits the neighborhood could use — from job training and priority hiring to recreation facilities and historic-preservation assistance. Some of these benefits will form the planks that the coalition will take into negotiations. Coalition members hope to sit down with the Penguins, as well as city and county development officials, by early August.

But first, says One Hill chairman Carl Redwood, “We need your help in prioritizing the planks.”

More than 100 Hill District residents answered his call Saturday, flocking to the Hill House Association. Planks were listed on a wall display, and residents were asked to vote by affixing colored-dot stickers to adjoining boxes.

The residents’ wishes were plain to see. The grocery store scored the densest cluster of colored dots. Other planks, such as priority hiring for Hill residents in arena jobs, more resources for preservation of the neighborhood’s cultural assets and drug-treatment programs, were also popular.

Fred Glass was among the first to put his dot behind a job-training program that offers access to trade apprenticeships. Glass says he believes apprenticeships still best “addresses the needs after high school for most black males” and will benefit especially the idle youth in the neighborhood. The middle-aged electrician says he learned his trade when he “got off my butt and went after it.” But he says young people today are less motivated because of the lack of opportunities.

There is little doubt that Hill residents are pinning their hopes on the Penguins’ new arena to generate more opportunities. “I can guarantee you the Penguins will be at the table,” said Councilor Tonya Payne as she surveyed the planks. “Some [planks] look like real possibilities.”

The councilwoman urged her constituents to join the coalition. “How can you empower the people when you have only a select group of people making the decisions?” she says.

Even so, One Hill is a long way from reaching the negotiation table, or from clinching an agreement. Coalition leaders asked that, until that day comes, those who voted on their wishes Saturday keep showing their numbers.

“I want you to walk with us,” says One Hill vice chairman Bomani Howze. “Each one of you here is going to decide if we’re going to be successful or not.”

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