the invisible gaps between …, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from timfotography.com’s photostream

Pittsburgh has a rich and diverse faith community and throughout my time on City Council I have been privileged to be included in many enriching activities and initiatives across many different faiths. I have worked with my Jewish friends to provide food to the hungry and critical social services to new immigrants. I have worked with my Christian friends to push for an end to gun violence and to secure shelter for the homeless. I have worked with my Muslim friends to confront racism and advocate for peace. I have worked with my Hindu friends to advance public health and educational opportunities. While I strongly believe in a fundamental separation between church and state, I also know that our faith communities have much to give to the people of Pittsburgh. I would like to find ways to strengthen partnerships between the city and our faith communities for the betterment of all of our citizens.

1. Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives

I envision my mayor’s office working closely with the broad and diverse Pittsburgh faith community to advance causes of social justice and equity and to provide critical social services to those most in need in our city. With limited budgets at the local, state, and federal level, government can’t do this work alone and we should accept the help and support of our faith community with open arms and forge strong working relationships around common goals. While federal laws rightly prevent the application of public funds for activities that seek to promote or spread particular religious beliefs, the vast majority of the work that our faith communities and faith-based nonprofit organizations do is purely for the public good. Their works may be informed by their faith but they are not designed to push it on others.

I would like the Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives to serve as a liaison between government and the faith community and to find ways that we can pool our resources to create innovative programs that help all Pittsburghers. Philadelphia and Baltimore have successfully rallied their faith communities to become strong partners in projects including strengthening police-community relations, supporting new immigrant populations, and providing positive pathways for formerly incarcerated people. I would like to focus on these same core issues in Pittsburgh and work together to create partnerships to address them.

For example, I want our faith community to play an important role in working with the public to help define criteria for our next police chief and a stronger, more community-oriented police bureau. I want to build on the work that organizations like Jewish Family and Children’s Services do to welcome new immigrants to our city and connect them with the social services they need. And I want to ensure that we are providing affordable housing and job opportunities to formerly incarcerated people to reduce the recidivism rate and break that cycle of poverty and violence.

I look forward to working with Pittsburgh’s faith community to advance this agenda and help build the Pittsburgh we all know we can be.