City council votes to declare racism a health crisis

Categories: News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

December 11, 2019
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously approved, tentatively, a trio of bills meant to spur progress toward racial equity.

The bills declare racism to be a public health crisis in the city; create an All-In Cities Leadership Forum to forge policy solutions; and authorize the All-In Cities Investment Fund, which would work with the Downtown-based Poise Foundation on “development projects and entrepreneurial activities” to improve equity.

Councilmen Ricky Burgess and R. Daniel Lavelle are the prime sponsors. Mr. Lavelle said he would likely introduce a few amendments on Tuesday, when the legislation should come up for final votes.

Mr. Burgess said that he expects part of the emerging solution would be broad application of the so-called “Rooney Rule,” under which National Football League teams always include minority candidates in interview processes when they seek new head coaches and senior football operations staff.

“It was a fundamental change and it echoed from assistant coaches to front offices to other sports. So in every decision, we have to have that conversation,” said Mr. Burgess. “I have confidence that we will normally make the best decision” when the conversation is inclusive.

The votes follow the release this year of a report entitled Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race, by University of Pittsburgh sociologists working with the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

Among many other disparities, the researchers found that in Pittsburgh, for every dollar white men earn, white women earn 78 cents, while black women earn 54 cents. It noted that black women are five times more likely to live in poverty than are white men. White life expectancy is around eight years longer than black, and death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer are substantially higher among African Americans.


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