LIV BENNETT (PHOTO BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)
“Thank God people don’t have the final say.”
Olivia “Liv” Bennett spoke the above sentence, as, standing before the media, family, friends and supporters, she officially declared her run for the office of Allegheny County Executive.
But to some, to those doubters whom Bennett did not name, they thought Bennett wouldn’t amount to much. Especially after having her first child at age 15, growing up in Manchester.
“I was told as a teenage mom that my life was over and I wouldn’t amount to anything,” Bennett said. Following that line was the aforementioned, “Thank God people don’t have the final say.”
LIV BENNETT, WITH HUSBAND, TERRANCE
Now Bennett, the outspoken Black woman who sits on Allegheny County Council, wants to be the person to lead Allegheny County into 2024 and beyond. She wants to lead with the passion and fire that she said she has when fighting for the underserved, the Black and brown people, the LGBTQ community…
“I have fought for workers, the incarcerated, and those who don’t have a voice to fight for themselves,” Bennett said at a Dec. 12 news conference at Emerald City, a Black co-working space on Smithfield Street, Downtown. “I worked to lower the population in the (Allegheny County) jail to protect our most vulnerable during the pandemic. I also helped to create the Black Equity Coalition, whose purpose is to provide equity, especially for a Black population who saw the biggest inequities during COVID.”
LIV BENNETT, FAWN WALKER-MONTGOMERY
Bennett said it’s her “lived experiences” that separate her from the ever-growing field of candidates throwing their hat in the Allegheny County Chief Executive ring. Current County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who began service in 2012, has term limits that prevent him from running after 2023.
“I was raised by a single mom in Manchester during the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Bennett said. “Though I have many fond memories of my childhood, it was also during the crack epidemic and gang violence era. Seeing the detrimental effects of this gave me a vision for a better society.”
When the City of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission Report was released in 2019, stating that Pittsburgh is one of the worst places for African Americans to live, and especially Black women, who better than a Black woman to change the conditions in the county, Bennett said.
When 17-year-old Antwon Rose II was shot in the back by a East Pittsburgh police officer in 2018, and then was found not guilty of any charges the following year, who better than a Black woman to run for office, to create change while inspiring others, Bennett said.
Bennett got involved in activism and advocacy. In her neighborhood of Northview Heights, she helped bring a Public Safety Center to the community in 2018.
Bennett ran for Allegheny County Council in 2019 and won a seat to represent the 13th District. She began her tenure in early 2020, just before a pandemic would effectively shut down the country—and parts of the world. But no mind, Bennett said. She said her faith has shown her that God wanted her to be in elected office in such trying times.
LIV BENNETT, NICKOLE NESBY
During the pandemic, Bennett touted her ability, with County Council, to pass legislation for more paid sick leave, “to protect our workers,” and banned fracking in county parks, “to save our environment.”
“And yes, we did get the legislation passed to create the countywide Independent Police Review Board,” Bennett proclaimed.
“This woman (Bennett) has worked tirelessly for Allegheny County for years,” voiced Fawn Walker-Montgomery, co-founder and CEO of Take Action Advocacy Group, formerly Take Action Mon Valley. “I am an activist, and every time we were in the streets, Liv was next to us. She was fighting with us. And then she turned around and ran for office and won.”
Chardae Jones, the former Braddock mayor, told the New Pittsburgh Courier she supports Bennett because, “everything I’ve seen her put her hands onto, she did it with compassion and empathy; that is phenomenal.”
“But our work is not finished,” Bennett said. “We have so much left to do. We see violence in our streets daily, and many of the resources to foster peace in our communities sit at our county agencies such as the health department and the Department of Human Services. We have seen way too many deaths in our county jail and the leadership of the jail has to be held accountable for these deaths and inhumane conditions.”
“She is the best person for this position,” Walker-Montgomery said. “We cannot ignore all the work that this woman has put in and I think we do that a lot in this county. You have a Black woman who puts in all of this work. Black women built this progressive movement that is happening now in Allegheny County. Let’s be clear about that. Liv is a part of that.”