The vote is precious. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it. – John Robert Lewis
Echoing a national conversation, the Allegheny West Civic Council Executive Committee has been discussing how we can best accomplish a safe and fair election this fall. The AWCC By-Laws calls for an annual meeting of the Council to be held in November. Typically the election of officers and committee chairs takes place at the annual meeting. Because there is a provision in the By-Laws to allow nominations from the floor, which, if occurs, alters the ballot immediately prior to voting, the Executive Committee recommends an in-person vote take place. We are working on securing a location that will allow members to gather and social distance. We will also require everyone who attends to wear a mask.
There are a lot of details to be worked out and we want to be very transparent about the thinking and direction we’re headed. This is uncharted territory for AWCC; your input is welcome and appreciated. If you have suggestions, concerns or questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any of the current Board members (email addresses can be found on the AWCC website, alleghenywest.org). We’ll communicate the current status of the November elections at the next AWCC informational Zoom meeting on August 11th and provide updates up until the election.
There is another full agenda for the August 11th Informational Meeting. In addition to an update on the AWCC November Election we’ll have our usual guests—Leah Friedman, Mayor’s Office, Councilman Bobby Wilson, Thomas Graham, Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr,’s Office, Erin Tobin, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy—plus updates on Western Avenue Neighborhood Improvement District (WANID) and Norfolk Southern Merchant Street Bridge Project.
Hope to see you on the 11th. In the meantime, stay safe, wear a mask!
It would be hard to miss all the fuss over the retirement of local celebrity and neighbor, Brian O’Neill, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For the past 32 years Brian told stories of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny West made an appearance in quite a few of his columns. His observations were clear-eyed and honest, sometimes causing unwelcome introspection, more often a feeling of pride in the city and neighborhood we call home. Whenever Allegheny West or a resident of Allegheny West was referenced in one of Brian’s columns, it made me feel like an insider, “Hey, I know that guy” or “I know that walk to PNC Park”.
Way back at the turn of the century, I was living in Not-Allegheny West, feeling unconnected to my neighborhood. I started looking for a new place to live that would feel more like a community and, ideally, be within walking distance of the Pirates’ new ball yard. I read a Brian O’Neill column that included a description of his little neighborhood and I was hooked. I will be forever thankful to Brian for pointing the way to Allegheny West. As Robert Frost would say, that has made all the difference. I think I speak for all of us in saying to Brian: thanks for casting such a nice light on our neighborhood and all the best in your well-earned retirement. Sláinte.
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
– Rosa Parks
AWCC’s inaugural General Membership Informational meeting in June was a big success over 25 neighbors joined and heard presentations from the City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office, the City of Pittsburgh Department of Infrastructure and Mobility, our own Cathy Serventi, AWCC Treasurer and our own John DeSantis, Northside Leadership Conference Bridge Committee.
The July 14th General Membership Informational meeting will also take place via Zoom and has another packed agenda: COVID-19 impact on AWCC Budget, Norfolk Southern Update/Bridge demolition, Allegheny Commons Park Update.
There is so much happening all over the area/country/world, maybe an hour or so of neighborhood-focused news will offer a nice distraction. You can find the Zoom meeting details on the next page. I hope to see you there!
One of the most significant discussions occurring right now at our dinner tables, Zoom meetings, social media platforms and almost every other place where people gather is the Black Lives Matter movement. I’d like to take an opportunity to highlight two recent, local items.
One is a statement from the Northside Leadership Conference that begins: “Racial discrimination is immoral. Four simple words. The frustration of black residents is real and sadly justified because some people cannot recognize and honor the truth of those four words.”
AWCC is a NLSC member, has representation on the Executive Committee and stands in support of the statement, which you can read in its entirety here.
Second is the historic legislation passed unanimously on July 7th by Pittsburgh City Council that commits that “Black Pittsburgh Matters.” Pittsburgh is the first city in the nation to officially state that their Black Citizens and the Black communities they live in matter.
These are difficult times in general let alone to answer Rosa Parks’ call to live our lives as a model for others. It seems it’s most essential now.
Black Lives Matter.
“You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the following upcoming AWCC events have been cancelled:
- May 12th General Membership Meeting
- 2020 Memorial Day Picnic
- 2020 Wine and Garden Tour
- 2020 Alleys, Axles and Ales
- 2020 Wine Spectacular Dinner
Like most everything else, AWCC business has ground to a halt. The Executive Committee is meeting on the last Tuesday of each month via Zoom. We are prepared to address any neighborhood issues or questions that might normally be discussed at a General Membership meeting. If there is an AWCC topic that you think needs to be addressed while membership meetings are suspended, please reach out to me or anyone on the Executive Committee.
As of this writing there has been no AWCC business requiring a vote of the Executive Committee, aside from approval of Committee recommendations to cancel upcoming events. We discussed and agreed that we will wait to see where things stand for the Fourth of July Block Party, and perhaps come up with a creative way to have a safe neighborhood celebration.
As you might imagine, the AWCC By-Laws do not provide guidance on how to conduct meetings during a pandemic. If the PA Department of Health continues to mandate a stay at home order or limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people in June, we will look into alternate ways to meet and, at a minimum, provide updates on some of the on-going membership meeting topics such as WANID and Norfolk Southern Railroad project.
Lastly, a reminder to everyone about the AWCC “Zoom Room”: It’s available for anyone to use, for gatherings large and small. Please take advantage of this to keep in virtual touch with one another. If you have an idea for a Zoom event send an email to email@example.com.
Stay safe everyone!
“We’ll meet again
Don’t know where, don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
From the song, “We’ll Meet Again”, written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles
At the March 10th General Membership meeting the membership voted to give the AWCC President authority to suspend future meetings in the event of medical emergencies related to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that tonight’s scheduled General Membership meeting is cancelled. The May 12th meeting is tentative and will proceed based on Local, State and CDC guidance.
Also at the March 10th meeting, the Executive Committee was given the authority to conduct the business of the organization during a suspension of meetings. As of April 13th there has been no AWCC business requiring a vote of the Executive Committee.
The cancellation of regular AWCC meetings is a small example of the historically significant time we’re experiencing. I haven’t heard of anyone in Allegheny West who has been hospitalized due to the coronavirus, and for that I’m thankful and hopeful. Some of our neighbors and neighborhood businesses are facing significant financial hardships. Other neighbors are working the frontlines in healthcare. All of us are experiencing disruptions to our normal lives, along with the anxiety and stress that brings.
Amidst the darkness brought about by the pandemic are some uplifting things happening in Allegheny West. Hopefully these will brighten your day and perhaps provide inspiration to add to this list:
- The AWCC Website team – notably Nick Smerker – quickly implemented changes to our website to add helpful COVID-19 information and links to resources – see the great work at alleghenywest.org/about/coronavirus-resources
- Neighbors answered the call to place teddy bears in windows for neighborhood children (well, really for all of us) to find on bear-hunting outings.
- Neighbors are participating in Tuesday evening “Illumination Ovation” with people across the city by stepping outside to honor front-line workers for their amazing efforts by lighting porch lights and applauding.
- Neighbors are checking in on other neighbors, offering to pick up grocery and pharmacy supplies or just to say hello.
- Neighbors are getting take-out food and beverages from local businesses, supporting them while normal operations are suspended.
- Neighbors are sewing and donating face masks.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that AWCC has a “Zoom Room” – with big thanks to Cathy Serventi for setting it up and providing technical support. The AWCC Zoom Room is available for anyone to use, for gatherings large and small. Please take advantage of this to keep in virtual touch with one another. If you have an idea for a Zoom event, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe everyone!
“Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of liberty.” ― Henry M. Robert, Robert’s Rules Of Order
In February 1876, Henry M. Robert, a Major in the US Army, published the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, with the objective of bringing procedural consistency to meetings. The pocket manual evolved to become Robert’s Rules of Order, which many organizations today use to guide how their meetings are run.
Alice Sturgis was an author and parliamentarian who is the name behind the Sturgis Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, published in 1950. The cover quote of the 2001 edition states, “Anyone who has trouble with Robert’s Rules of Order will welcome the simplicity of this streamlined guide to parliamentary procedure.”
Whoever came up with that cover quote was playing fast and loose with the word “simplicity.” But perhaps that alleged simplicity influenced the initial members of the Allegheny West Civic Council to choose the Sturgis Rules of Order (now known formally as The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure) as the procedural guide for conducting Civic Council meetings.
I bring this up not as a sleep aid but because I recently heard from someone new to AWCC meetings that it was hard to follow the action with all the talk of motions and abstaining and tabling and new business and old business. It made me remember what it was like to be a new AWCC member and not know when it was okay to ask questions or speak up on a topic. So, I thought it was important to give a simple overview of how these meetings work and when there are opportunities to bring new topics to the table.
The Rules of Order provide a guide for making decisions as a group. All AWCC decisions are made through a motion, which is a formal recommendation put by a member for debate and consideration. Anyone is able to make a motion. When a motion is made, it needs to be seconded to move to debate. Once a motion has been seconded, everyone is invited to comment or ask questions prior to putting the motion to vote.
For many motions, this process moves pretty quickly and it can be challenging to jump in with a question or comment. However, that is exactly the right thing to do when the Chair asks if there is further discussion — if you have a question or comment don’t hesitate to raise your hand and speak up.
The meeting agenda is basically the same from meeting to meeting — guests are introduced and given a few minutes to make announcements and take questions. Previous meeting minutes are reviewed and accepted, and the Treasurer’s report is made and filed. Committee Chairs (Membership, Ways & Means, Property, Friends of AW, Housing & Planning, Bylaws) give their updates and then old and new business is discussed. New business can be added to the agenda prior to the meeting or introduced when the Chair calls for new business items. If you ever have a topic to add to a General Membership meeting agenda reach out to me at email@example.com and I’ll add it. It’s always nice to get topics on the agenda before the meeting to make sure sufficient time is allocated for discussion.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Henry Robert and Alice Sturgis might not have been great fun at neighborhood social events but both would have run a tight ship when it came to membership meetings. And they both probably would answer like me when asked to name their favorite motion — why, of course, the motion to adjourn.
Everyone is no doubt watching the news and following the stories of the coronavirus outbreak. As a reminder, the CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Stay home when you are sick;
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
At our March 10th AWCC General Membership meeting, we’ll encourage fist bumps versus handshakes and enthusiastic waving versus hugs. Hopefully we’ll be back to normal by April.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
If you talk to someone who lived in Allegheny West forty years ago, you’re likely to hear that the neighborhood we have today is much like what was hoped for in 1980. A few years earlier Allegheny West Civic Council established a committee, Friends of Allegheny West, for the stated purpose of “developing and furthering human services and physical resources of the community with the goal of combatting community deterioration and revitalizing the area”.
What signs did the neighborhood see at the time that gave such hope? And what signs can we point to today to give us confidence that we’re being the best possible stewards of our neighborhood?
I’d like to offer three signs for your consideration.
First is the Allegheny City Stables Lofts project at 836 W North Avenue. AWCC worked for years to preserve and then to influence the development of the former municipal building. In the next few months we’ll have upwards of 50 new neighbors living in a building that was designed with input from Allegheny West Civic Council as well as the Local Historic Review Committee.
Second, as I’ve mentioned in this column before, the number of neighbors attending General Membership meetings (2nd Tuesday of each month, 7:30 pm, Emmanuel Episcopal Church) is awesome. Allegheny West Civic Council decides when and how to take a stand on an issue, when to spend money, who will be the officers and how the council operates only through voting at General Membership meetings. The way to have a voice is to be a member, attend meetings and vote.
Third, on a cold and rainy January evening a couple weeks ago, over 40 neighbors put on their coats, grabbed a beverage and attended an AWCC Mixer at Giorgio’s Pizza. The food was great, the beverages were shared and the noise level was quite high. It was a wonderful gathering of neighbors, a warm and happy winter evening in Allegheny West. (Thanks to Tim Zinn, Membership Committee Chair for planning this Mixer and those to come!)
In 1980, John Canning, then Chairman of the Friends of Allegheny West Committee, wrote, “I am convinced that the three greatest assets of Allegheny West are: the sense of community of the residents, the integrity of the AWCC and the historical significance of our neighborhood.”
Forty years later John’s assessment still rings true. We might not always share the same vision for the future of Allegheny West, but by participating and working with our neighbors we can continue to read the signs and move in the right direction.
Happy New Year 2020!
20/20: denoting vision of normal sharpness
20/20 Hindsight: the full knowledge and complete understanding that one has about an event only after it has happened
Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contributed to a successful Christmas House Tour and, like always, it seems like everyone contributed. A special thank you to Annette Trunzo and Carol Gomrick they both worked very hard to manage all the pieces of the tour puzzle. They assembled a great team. If you volunteered or went on the tour, you saw the results of everyone’s hard work. We’ll get a breakdown of the financial results of the tour at the membership meeting this month.
Another item on the agenda at this month’s membership meeting is a presentation from Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy on the Allegheny Commons North Promenade Project. PPC will be asking for a Letter of Support for the Historic Review Commission, which will require membership approval.
Andrew Reichert will also be attending the membership meeting to provide an update on the Stables Building development project.
It is heartening to see that the number of people attending the General Membership meetings increased month-to-month last year, particularly in December. In 2019 we had a surge of new members, also mostly occurring towards the end of the year. An interesting and positive twist – many new members are neighborhood businesses.
It will be challenging to keep the enthusiasm level as high as it was at the end of last year but I’m hopeful we can. I look forward to seeing new members and members who started attending meetings again continue to stay involved this year. There is a lot going on in our officially smallest neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
AWCC currently has 4 standing and 2 ad hoc committees, listed with their chairs below:
- Property: Michael Shealey
- Housing & Planning: Robin Zoufalik
- Ways & Means: John DeSantis
- Friends of Allegheny West: Diane Caruso
- By-Laws (ad hoc): Bob Malakoff
- WANID (ad hoc): Ann Gilligan
The Committee Chairs will be writing brief columns to appear in this and subsequent Gazettes to describe what they are doing, who they’d like to have on their committees and how to join. I encourage all members, long-time and newly joined, to volunteer on one of these committees.
Do you see a need for neighborhood volunteer work that doesn’t fit one of the current committees? Let me know how you want to contribute and I promise I’ll do whatever I can to help make it happen!
Wishing everyone health, peace and prosperity in the New Year.
November and December traditionally are busy months in Allegheny West, and this year is no exception. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved and also to enjoy the holiday season with your friends and neighbors without leaving the neighborhood!
Some noteworthy upcoming events:
Tuesday, November 12:
General Membership Meeting & Election of Officers
The AWCC November meeting is the Annual Meeting of the Council. Included on the agenda are elections for Officers and Committee Chairs, election of Nominating Committee members and a vote to determine dues for the following year.
It’s also a regular Civic Council meeting and in addition to elections there is a full agenda. The Friends Committee will update us on the neighborhood signage they chose (using Block Grant Funds). There will also be updates from the By-Laws Committee, the Christmas Tour organizers and Housing & Planning Committee.
Tuesday, November 19:
Housing and Planning Meeting
There are a few hot topics on the agenda for H&P, including WANID update, GrayBar noise issues, CCAC Workforce building, Aviary events space and Hipwell update. The committee meets at 7:30 pm at the Go Realty Office at 848 W North Avenue. All are welcome.
Thursday, November 28:
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates. For those who struggle with this day, may it land gently. To everyone, be safe.
Saturday, November 30:
Small Business Saturday
We are very lucky to have a business district that is thriving and expanding. Small Business Saturday is another chance to support the businesses that make our neighborhood more livable. From food and drinks to books to haircuts to bikes to clean teeth to stretched muscles to soothed muscles and more, there is at least one business here to serve you. Let’s all make an effort to stop in and spend some money in one or more Allegheny West small business on the 30th and throughout the holiday season.
Friday, December 13 & Saturday, December 14:
Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour
The Christmas House Tour is the highlight of the Allegheny West tours. It’s a beautiful event and our largest fundraiser of the year.
Everyone who has volunteered in the past knows how much effort is required to put on the house tour and is asked to volunteer again this year if at all possible. For newcomers or volunteer novices – there are volunteer opportunities large and small, and the tour committee with work with you to match your skills to the perfect role. Many neighbors, myself included, will say that volunteering for the Christmas Tour (and, more specifically, attending the volunteer party) really cemented our feeling of belonging to this community. A small commitment of time can pay dividends.
A quid pro quo of the good kind.
Fall has arrived and there are some important civic events to add to your already busy calendars:
On Wednesday, October 16th, a Pennsylvania Historical Marker will be dedicated to honor Dorothy Mae Richardson who was a lifelong resident of the Northside. In the mid-1960s, Richardson and her neighbors enlisted city bankers and government officials to help improve their neighborhood. Together, they convinced 16 financial institutions to give out conventional loans to the community, which were used to finance the rehabilitation of dilapidated homes. This effort laid the groundwork for the new field of community-based development and led to the founding of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Pittsburgh in 1968.
One of the projects made possible by NHS was the rehabilitation of a row of dilapidated houses on Western Avenue in Allegheny West known now as McIntosh Row. Allegheny West Civic Council still owns and has its office at 806 Western, in McIntosh Row.
The dedication will take place at 4:00 pm on the 16th at 1419 Arch Street and a reception will be held afterwards at The Mattress Factory. Everyone is invited to attend. It would be great to see an Allegheny West contingent joining the celebration of such an impressive woman whose work many years ago helped make our neighborhood what it is today.
Tuesday, November 5th is Election Day. Among the items we’ll see on our ballots is an amendment to the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter to establish a dedicated Parks Trust Fund:
Shall the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter be amended to establish a dedicated Parks Trust Fund beginning in 2020 to: improve, maintain, create and operate public parks; improve park safety; equitably fund parks in underserved neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh; be funded with an additional 0.5 mill levy ($50 on each $100,000 of assessed real estate value); secure matching funds and services from a charitable city parks conservancy; and assure citizen participation and full public disclosure of spending?”
AWCC allocates time on every membership meeting agenda to discuss what’s happening in our park, Allegheny Commons. Please take some time to research the pros and cons of this ballot measure and make sure to vote on the 5th.
AWCC Membership will vote to approve the slate of officer nominations at the General Membership meeting on Tuesday, November 12th. The slate of nominations will be presented at the October 8th meeting.
As summer comes to an end the days might be getting shorter but the Allegheny West Civic Council agenda is getting longer. Below is a summary of some of the items on the agenda for the September 10th Membership meeting:
- The National Aviary is planning to convert their current tent to a permanent structure to hold events. The architects and project team representatives will be joining us to share plans and hear feedback.
- City of Play is planning the inaugural Pittsburgh FireWalk – a series of two Saturday evening, public celebrations in Allegheny Commons. An array of fires will be carefully tended with talented performers, local storytellers, and street vendors of food, drink, and art.
- A $13,000 Block Grant was recently awarded to Allegheny West. Diane Caruso, Friends of Allegheny West Committee Chair, is coordinating the effort to identify projects to fund through this grant.
- Victorian Christmas Tour Planning is underway. The tour will be held December 13th and 14th. Volunteer opportunities are numerous and varied.
- The Western Avenue Neighborhood Improvement District project has been on-going for over 10 years and we have not seen significant progress in some time. A revised plan to run electrical lines behind the properties in the 800 block of Western Avenue has been drafted and property owners are being contacted to approve the new plan. An update on the status and next steps will be provided.
- Historic District Expansion discussions have been occurring at the Housing and Planning Committee meetings and an informational meeting is being organized for neighbors affected by the proposed expansion.
- An Allegheny West Civic Council By-Laws Committee is being formed to review and offer revisions to the current by laws.
As you can see from this list there is a lot of activity for our small neighborhood. All are welcome and encouraged to attend the General Membership meetings as well as the committee meetings taking place throughout each month.