Burgess tops crowded field to retain District 9 Council seat


by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess said he has made a concerted effort in the last few years to be more accessible and responsive to his constituents. Whether or not that was the deciding factor in his May 21 primary election victory is debatable, but it and his record, he said, are what he believes put him over the top.

“I like to think it was my track record,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier in a May 24 interview. “Reducing gun violence, increasing public safety, starting new businesses, building new housing and ultimately having better outcomes for the residents. And we made some structural changes in the office to better address everyday needs. We have someone who answers every call and tries to help. I’ve put a greater emphasis on individual concerns.”

Perhaps he has, but the “anybody-but-Burgess” voting block has increased every year he’s run for the seat—it’s just been scattered among multiple challengers.

In 2007 when he ran against incumbent Twanda Carlisle, he got 50.08 percent of the vote. Carlisle and six other candidates split the other 49.92 percent. It was his last majority win. He has won by plurality ever since.

In 2011, Rev. Burgess got 49 percent of the vote, with the majority split between two candidates. In 2015, he got 44 percent of the vote, with three candidates splitting the majority. And last week, Reverend Burgess received 38 percent of the votes cast, with the majority this time split among four challengers—Kierran Young (28 percent), Cherylie Fuller (15 percent), Judith K. Ginyard (13 percent) and Stephen Braxton (3 percent).

“I don’t spend a lot of time on numbers,” he said. “We’re in an anti-incumbent time right now, nationally and locally—look at some of the races this year and last year. I just try to focus on the work.”

Whether he spends time on the numbers or not, Rev. Burgess was certainly aware of the “anybody else sentiment,” if for no other reason than his most vocal opponent, Young, was calling him corrupt at candidate forums and on YouTube, and during the grand opening of a splash park in Lincoln-Lemington just days before the election. Young contended the grand opening so close to the election was a stunt by Rev. Burgess and Mayor Bill Peduto.

To that, Rev. Burgess had a brief response.

“I believe there is still pain in my community, and we hope those people receive the services they need to be healed,” he said.

Moving forward, Rev. Burgess said things are being put in place that will continue to improve outcomes for district residents: the HELP program, which, he said, along with the Homewood Comprehensive Community Plan, will ensure longtime residents are not gentrified out of their homes and community.

“It will require that developers build for the indigenous people first because all plans are subject to the approval of the community and the registered community groups working there,” he said. “If you put approval of development in the hands of the community, if they can make the decisions, gentrification can’t happen.”

He said redevelopment along Homewood Avenue with new businesses and housing is also coming soon, and he thanks the community for letting him be part of it by keeping him in office.

“It is and always has been a privilege to serve my community,” he said. “I’m humbled and grateful for their confidence, and for the chance to continue to work for them.”


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