• Former two-term Pittsburgh Public Schools board member.
  • Darlene Harris 54, of Spring Hill, won the special election in November, 2006, to join Pittsburgh City Council.
  • Democratic chairwoman of the 26th Ward.


Pgh City Council district 1 candidate chatter for November 7, 2006 included:Edit

On the ballot:Edit

Results on November 2006 general election (special election) Edit

    • DARLENE M HARRIS (DEM) . . . . . . 4,333 46.63
    • JOE LUCAS (REP) . . . . . . . . 1,320 14.20
    • STEVEN P OBERST (FOO) . . . . . . 993 10.69
    • DAVID SCHUILENBURG (IND) . . . . . 403 4.34
    • KEVIN DONAHUE II (PFD) . . . . . . 1,281 13.78
    • MYLES P ROONEY (RFC). . . . . . . 797 8.58
    • WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 166 1.79
      • Total . . . . . . . . . 9,293

Not on the ballot:Edit

Links WithinEdit

2011 spring raceEdit

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris says she only has opposition in the May 17, 2011 primary because she voted against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's parking lease, but three challengers said they're running against her because her North Side neighborhoods are stuck in neutral.

Vying for the Democratic nomination are Mrs. Harris, a longtime community activist and former city school board president who's serving her first term on council; Steven Oberst, a tax accountant who ran for the seat in 2006; Bobby Wilson, who's campaigning full time; and Vince Pallus, a research analyst backed by Mr. Ravenstahl.

There are no Republicans on the ballot.

Mrs. Harris, 58, of Spring Hill, said she's a victim of Mr. Ravenstahl's petulance.

After opposing Mr. Ravenstahl's plan to lease parking garages and meters to private investors, she helped push through an alternative pension bailout package using $735 million in parking tax revenues over three decades. Now, she said, the mayor is out to replace her.

Mrs. Harris said she voted against the parking lease because her constituents opposed the mayor's plan. She said she does "what the people want, and at all costs ... I think that's the difference between a politician and a public servant."

Mr. Oberst, 47, of Brighton Heights, said he once thought Mr. Ravenstahl would back him in the race.

Mr. Wilson, 28, of Spring Hill, said he also sought Mr. Ravenstahl's support. He said the mayor declined to endorse his candidacy and instead suggested that Mrs. Harris could most easily be defeated in a two-person race.

"They must have been planning this for a long time, ever since the parking [lease] went bad," Mr. Wilson said, referring to Mr. Ravenstahl and his supporters.

The North Side is Mr. Ravenstahl's back yard, too -- Mrs Harris won a special election after Mr. Ravenstahl vacated the seat to become mayor in 2006 -- and some political observers believe that a victory by Mrs. Harris would send the mayor a pointed message about his job performance.

The mayor's office last week didn't respond to questions about the race. Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven only referred to a recent statement in which Mr. Ravenstahl questioned Mrs. Harris' ethics.

"The councilwoman might say one thing to your face, but the truth is behind closed doors, her sole focus is on getting jobs for her relatives and flushing millions into irresponsible pet projects that benefit few and bankrupt our city. I will not waste any more of my time dealing with council members who are motivated solely by how much they can personally benefit from residents' taxpayer dollars," he said.

Mrs. Harris denied the mayor's assertions.

Mr. Pallus, 33, of Brighton Heights, said council and Mr. Ravenstahl share blame for not working together to come up with a pension bailout acceptable to both branches of government. While Mr. Pallus didn't express outright support for the parking lease, he said it offered certain benefits while council's alternative pension bailout brought the city new financial uncertainty.

Mr. Pallus said he wouldn't be a mayoral puppet. However, he said Mr. Ravenstahl is doing a good job and expressed frustration with mayoral opponents who don't seem to have the city's best interests at heart.

"I see some people wanting the mayor to fail. If he fails, that means we all fail," Mr. Pallus said.

He said some people portray him as the mayor's candidate to "get people against me." He said he's in the race for the right reason.

"I just couldn't sit back another four years and watch my North Side deteriorate," he said.

What the mayor calls pet projects Mrs. Harris hails as community investments demanded by her constituents.

She said she's proud of the money she's distributed to dozens of community groups and earmarked for dozens of projects, from a free spay-and-neuter program to surveillance cameras in each of the neighborhoods she represents. She noted that cameras mounted on the Brightwood Civic Association building last year helped police identify suspects in the murder of a retired city firefighter.

However, Mr. Oberst, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Pallus said they jumped into the race because they're dissatisfied with the pace of progress on the North Side and with the state of council-mayoral relations. The large number of abandoned houses and related problems, such as crime, tops their agenda.

"It's not like when I grew up over here," Mr. Oberst said.

Mr. Oberst said city officials often seem more motivated by "personal stuff" than constituent interests. He said he'd be open-minded and "in the middle" on matters involving the mayor.

"I would not be a yes man. I think that's what Vince Pallus would be for him."

Mr. Wilson said many district residents don't know Mrs. Harris or understand council's role in city government. He said the council member should find a way to hold absentee landlords accountable for blighted properties and more evenly distribute resources among the district's neighborhoods.

"We need a council person who's going to be on the street and not afraid to get their hands dirty," he said.

Mr. Pallus blamed Mrs. Harris for frittering money on unneeded projects, saying he'd consider concentrating resources for high-impact projects that improve streets or fullfill other strategic goals. Mr. Pallus has the support of the county Democratic Committee and the police and firefighters unions, a sign, he said, that many people support a change in the council seat.

While some candidates tout endorsements, Mr. Oberst touts his lack of them. "I think that's good in a way. I don't owe anybody anything."

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.

First published on May 2, 2011 at 12:00 am


  • Darlene Harris takes council seat - Tribune-Review -- A former city school board member easily captured the seat on Pittsburgh City Council once occupied by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Democratic nominee Darlene Harris, 53, of Spring Hill, won the race to replace Ravenstahl with 47 percent of the vote in a six-way race, according to preliminary returns, with more than 92 percent of the precincts reporting.


"I plan on working with the mayor and City Council to make a better North Side," Harris said. "Public safety is my biggest issue." Harris said she wants to increase the number of city police officers and bolster the Bureau of Building Inspection staff to board up and demolish more abandoned buildings on the North Side.

Though it appeared she received less than half of the total vote, Harris said, "I believe the North Side believes in me."