Monday, March 31, 2008

Todd Elliott Koger "I want to help the most needy. . ."

Justin Vellucci wrote the following on 3/17/08 for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Rep. Joseph Preston Jr. faces three challengers in the April 22 Democratic primary -- each a self-styled reformer attempting to use the promise of change to knock the longtime incumbent out of office.
Preston, who won re-election two years ago in the 24th District by just 93 votes, is campaigning on his experience as well as citing how officials have triggered a recent surge of development in and around East Liberty.

"It's not about giving away money. It's really about working with an area that's been neglected for years and stabilizing it," said Preston, 60, of East Liberty, a former personnel consultant who has served in the state House since 1983. "East Liberty is alive and well."

Preston's opponents say the district is not thriving and Preston is out of touch with his constituents.

"The priorities and values of our district are not reflected in the current leadership," said Lucille Prater-Holliday, 51, of Wilkinsburg, a human resources contractor and chairwoman of the Wilkinsburg Civil Service Commission. "I feel I am the candidate that can bring the change that is needed."
Prater-Holliday says she wants to focus more on domestic issues such as crime and education.

Todd Elliott Koger and William Anderson also call themselves candidates who can bring about change in how Homewood and other communities are represented in Harrisburg.

"I want to give back," said Koger, 46, a lifelong Wilkinsburg resident, science teacher and former law clerk. "I want to help those that are the most needy. That's me, all my life. I consider myself a lifelong public servant."

Koger, who ran against Preston as an independent in 2006, said he wants to tackle gun violence and repeal a state law that allows utility companies to shut off gas and electric service during winter months.

Anderson, a lifelong Homewood resident, echoed similar goals as well as opposition to the Mon-Fayette Expressway, a desire to fight the predatory lenders that triggered the recent mortgage crisis and concerns over development that resembles gentrification instead of revitalization.

"The only way I feel I can turn my community around ... is to be the representation I'm looking for," said Anderson, 35, who runs his own auto body shop in Homewood.

Anderson's background could add a wrinkle to the race.

In 1998, he pleaded guilty to dealing drugs and was sentenced to two years' probation -- something Preston says could keep him from serving if elected.

Election winners may not take office if they have been convicted of what the state constitution deems an infamous crime, said Rebecca Halton, deputy press secretary for the Department of State. The state House would determine if a winning candidate is qualified and whether to seat him.

Rep. Jake Wheatley, who serves in Harrisburg despite pleading guilty in 1992 to charges of larceny and assault and battery, declined to comment.

Anderson said he is not hiding from the mistakes of his past.

"Only people that don't know me are stigmatized by that," he said. "The gloves are off, but I'm not going to lower myself to that type of politics, that type of campaign."

The district includes East Liberty, Homewood and neighboring areas including Aspinwall and Wilkinsburg.

Todd Elliott Koger Answers Questions (Post-Gazette "My Homewood") 3/27/08

The following is taken from "My Homewood" a Post-Gazette Online Journal (3/27/08).

Three of the four 24th District candidates visited the PG Tuesday: Lucille Prater-Holliday, Todd Elliott Koger and Joe Preston. William Anderson was absent.

I had two questions from you folks, my readers.

1) What can be done from the legislator's position to develop support for HBCCO's Arts & Culture Goals and Objectives as this relates to its Strategic Plan?

Mr. Preston, the incumbent, noted that he has already been working with HBCCO and that his office has funded arts and culture events and initiatives such as the Trolley Museum and the Homewood Avenue mural below the East Busway station.

Mr. Koger said that he was not familiar with HBCCO's strategic plan, but that "any organization with a viable scope of services and positive outcomes" deserves support.

Ms. Prater-Holliday said "We need to do everything in our power to make sure that we provide funding for arts and culture programs for our children."

2) This question was on behalf of those who have expressed an interest in rehabbing a house in Homewood and using it as an investment property: Are there programs that do not require you to reside in the home you want assistance in repairing? If not, what initiative might you propose to create one?

Mr. Koger said, "There should be leadership to guide them through the process to help them identify the funding."

Ms. Prater-Holliday referred to Mayor Ravenstahl's iniitiative to demolish vacant and abandoned homes. If I heard her correctly, she mentioned the figure of $700,000 being spent to have homes torn down, and said that money would be better utilized for rehabbing properties. I say "if I heard her correctly," because I have not been able to find any other mention of that dollar amount in regards to the demo project, and perhaps she said "several hundred thousand dollars."

Mr. Preston gave the longest and most complex answer, pointing out that many of the vacant homes are estate properties that are hung up in probate court, where the estate settlement process can take six years. He also said that he had spoken with Councilman Burgess Monday about vacant homes (the councilman confirms this), and "we can't depend on people on the outside to do things for us."

I listened hard, honest, but I could not tell that any of the candidates answered the question. But so far, the short answer to the question, "Are there programs that do not require you to reside in the home you want assistance in repairing?" is "No."