Michael Rose: Wilkinsburg residents should be able to vote our own future

by Michael Rose

What does the future hold for Wilkinsburg? We are at a critical tipping point —right now Pittsburgh City Council is deciding the fate of our community. Will we be given the right to vote? Will they allow us to have a say in the future of our community and decide what’s best for our Black residents?

The truth is the people of Wilkinsburg have been silently voting on the borough’s fate for years by leaving, or by sending their children to charter schools. Wilkinsburg’s population has declined by 25 percent in the last two decades, with my fellow Black neighbors leaving at TWICE the rate of other residents. But we don’t need census data to tell us people are leaving Wilkinsburg, we can just walk down any street and count the vacant properties. Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner—vacancy, blight and population loss affects all of us. We can’t just sit back and allow our neighborhood to decline until the borough runs out of cash (and is forced to raise taxes again) – we need to rebuild a Black community like Wilkinsburg on the strongest foundation possible for all of its residents. 

Forget business development. Forget tax rates. Let’s focus on real, tangible things—the people of Wilkinsburg. The oldest and sometimes only avenue to wealth accumulation for Black people is property ownership, yet the majority of residents are renters—coming in and out of Wilkinsburg and sharing no sense of community pride or ownership. Let’s help to give them roots.

The City of Pittsburgh offers a variety of critical resources, including down payment and closing cost assistance programs that can make the dream of owning a home a reality for more residents. The City also offers programs like the small landlord fund, which provides low-interest loans for much-needed improvement projects.

As a former Wilkinsburg councilman, I was on the financial committee for four years. I crunched the numbers and strongly believe that merging with Pittsburgh is our best and only solution. There are too many small townships trying to go it alone, and failing. Now is the time to come together and forge a path toward growth and prosperity for our region, and for the people of Wilkinsburg. 

Pittsburgh City Council—please let our voices be heard. The members of Council don’t know what’s best for the Black residents of Wilkinsburg. Support the annexation referendum and let us vote on the future of our own community. 

(Michael Rose is a former Wilkinsburg Councilman and Wilkinsburg Resident for 35 Years.)

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