Green Fights Uphill Battle in Pittsburgh

The following article was written by Kim Kweder, a journalism student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. She has generously agreed to allow Third Party Watch to be the first to publish it.

Titus North, Green Candidate for Mayor of Pittsburgh

Campaign Website: Titus North for Mayor

As a young boy growing up in Arlington, Virginia, Titus North learned politics by protest. At one of his most memorable anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., he and his mother linked hands with strangers and formed a human circle around the Pentagon.

“I remember feeling very strongly that war is wrong and not the answer,” North said.

North, 44, of Squirrel Hill is the Green Party candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh who was chosen upon request by several party members last May.

Although there are a total of 1,677 registered Greens in Allegheny County, Mr. North said the media has failed to present parties outside of the realm of Democrats and Republicans during its election coverage.

“There are five people on the ballot, and the electoral process should be sacred,” Mr. North said.

More signatures are needed for a candidate to run for mayor representing an independent party. Whereas Republicans and Democrats are only required 250 signatures, Allegheny County Elections Division said state law enforces a greater number to define a minor political party on the ballot - 1,043 signatures - for this year’s race alone.

Edward Bortz, secretary of the Green Party of Allegheny County said Mr. North acquired well over 1,800 signatures.

“The Democrats and Republicans are out of step - they write the rules for whom gets on the ballot,” said North.

Joe Weinroth, Republican candidate for mayor, disagrees.

“I don’t think it’s unfair because he’s got the same battle, which is fighting the same political machine [Democrats] that has been in control of the city for 70 years,” Weinroth said.

North said his platform is to focus on the needs of the public, not corporations.

For one, he doesn’t want to take the gamble on bringing in slot machines for revenue.

“We can’t be bought and sold,” Mr. North said. “We need to stop corporate welfare.”

He doesn’t want to see money drained out from residents for funding of unnecessary projects. If elected, he would set up a team of researchers to study if the new stadiums were effective for job growth or not. Although city voters rejected the tax-payer financed stadium in 1997, public officials ignored the voters and approved construction.

The Fifth-Forbes retail corridor isn’t on his agenda, either.

“There’s a thousand little projects to do - this is not going to fix the city’s problems. How’s a shopping mall going to help those in Homewood? Our problems are the distressed state of our neighborhoods,” North said.

Mr. North said he is more focused on looking at present resources to resolve the budget deficit:

- Make non-profits pay property taxes. He said the city estimates if taxed, there would be $65 million in revenue for one year. - Focus on homelessness by repairing vacant houses. Mr. North said it’s been too long vacant houses have filled the city streets, often used as “a magnet for crack houses.” He said mending abandoned houses will “relieve the depression and distress of the neighborhood and lift spirits.” - “War on Drugs”: Law enforcement often locks up drug users inside prison cells for drug dealing. Instead, send the offenders to a medical institution for treatment, said North.

“I’d like to change the culture of the police department,” said North.

The political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh also said his educational background, especially his 9-year studies at Sophia University in Japan, has helped him feel focused and ready for an elected office.

While in Japan, he said police patrol is much more efficient in the communities because they use police “boxes.” These small two-room buildings are placed in each community so emergencies can be attended to swiftly.

“I’ve spoken with a few police officers about it and they’ve expressed interest, but it’s not something I’d force upon communities if they don’t wish to have them.”

Other than his influences from the Far East, North was a volunteer for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1984 and 1988 in Washington, D.C. As a volunteer coordinator, he taught volunteers how to caucus in Delaware and eventually win the Delaware caucus for Jackson in ‘88.

In his free time, North enjoys hanging out at the Elks Lodge in the North Side strumming some tunes on his banjo every Wednesday night with the Banjo Club. His most requested song last week was to play the “Tennessee Waltz” while singing in Japanese. As a father of two kids, North also spends time as a karate instructor.

“He is a very patient person. He’s very calm, he speaks his mind and he speaks truth to power. He has excellent, natural, genuine qualities. He is very sincere, very informed and very easy to talk to and he listens very closely,” Mr. Bortz said.

Colby King, president of the Green Party at Westminster Collge, said the Green Party is attractive for all generations.

“Instead of being forced to paint one party as bad and this one as good, the Green Party looks at issues honestly,” King said.

North hasn’t raised nearly as much as Democratic frontrunner Bob O’Connor’s $1.3 million campaign. Most of the professor’s contributions were from Greens and Progressives. He said the biggest check was $75 from a Green Party member and his latest campaign finance report totaled $950.

“This is 0.1 percent of Bob O’Connor’s spending but I’ll get more than this percentage when people vote,” Mr. North said. “We can’t change everything in one election cycle but we’re making gains.”

In the last days before voting, volunteers are scurrying throughout neighborhoods and distributing flyers to get people more informed about the Green Party. North isn’t giving up hope and has said he would be satisfied if the Green Party had more exposure in the public eye.

“We’re getting the word out, we’re getting the issues out. We’ll continue to distribute flyers. We’re projecting issues nobody is really talking about,” said Bortz.

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