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What you can expect from Sam

Sam Schmidt's platform is informed by socialist values and protections for the poor and working class. Here are some of the issues they'd be most focused on in office:

Workers' and Tenants' Rights

Landlords, businesses, and corporate property owners are favored in Allegheny County courts. Let's change that. We must make a much bigger effort to protect renters in this county. As an Allegheny County councilperson I will work to create legislation that requires the court to appoint representation to any tenant that cannot afford one and is sued in court by a landlord or brought to court for any tenant dispute. We must also revisit existing legislation or legislation drafts regarding eviction processes in this county and determine whether those policies are equitable and justifiable to both tenants and landlords, or whether there is substantial need to strengthen and improve said legislation. We must re-examine and require rent to not only be mutually tied with rising inflation but also require it to be only ⅓ of a person’s income or equivalent to affordable prices of the median income in Pittsburgh. We must also create legislation that requires developers to include ⅓ space for affordable housing units in any new residential developments in our county. A part of tenants’ rights is the right to organize and protect oneself and others as tenants. It is imperative that we develop legislation that better protects our county residents who work to organize tenant associations and tenants rights community groups against penalization and retaliation from landlords and developers in our county. Included in this legislation should be penalties for landlords and developers who abstract tenant organizing, just as there are laws against union busting. - Require AC to provide tenant representation anytime the tenant in a landlord/tenant dispute can not afford one. - Revisit legislation regarding eviction processes and determine whether the policy is equitable for both tenants and landlords, or whether there’s room to improve tenant outcomes. - Tie rent to inflation and the median income in Pittsburgh Discourage new developments that don’t include affordable units (priced below ⅓ the median income for AC residents) and require that new builds include at least ⅓ affordable housing units. - Legislate better protections for workers and tenants trying to organize, with stricter penalties for landlords and employers who try to retaliate.

Housing as a Human Right

We can't afford to continue losing lives to the unforgiving experience that is homelessness. Housing is a human right! We need to address the housing crisis in the county using a housing-first approach. As a council and administration there needs to be an established basis that housing is a human right and that the county is responsible for working with the community to house every individual. In Allegheny County the majority of those unhoused are victims of domestic violence, veterans and children—some of our most vulnerable community members. It is our job to provide housing to these individuals. One way that we can house the unhoused and provide more stable, affordable housing is to repurpose real estate that already exists in the county. The local URA and federal government HUD have given millions to the county to update existing infrastructure, including commercial properties, to create more local businesses, but also mixed income housing. The city’s Housing Opportunity Fund needs to be given dollars from these government entities to create more low income, affordable housing for our residents. As county council person I will push for these changes that are imperative to improve the lives of our unhoused populations. In using a housing-first approach legislation needs to be developed to fight against arbitrary housing biases based on credit, criminal background, mental health status, substance use history and ability, or inability to work. If the county cannot provide housing for all, then at the very least they need to accommodate the homeless population and stop encampment sweeps being done in the county, immediately. Further, as a part of renter protection I will work to limit the number of single family properties large developers and landlords can own, and require that landlords report the status of their properties annually. It is time to find landlords who own vacant properties that they will not rent without rental increases that hurt the ability for the average renter to find housing in our district, and in our county. We need to work with landlords and developers to reduce the barriers to finding accessible housing for residents, not make it more difficult to find safe, sustainable housing. We need to stop letting profit under capitalism result in people remaining unhoused because they do not bring as much profit to landlords and developers by only being able to afford a modest living, especially those disenfranchised by the prejudice of the local workforce’s habit to control its workers by making them invest in uniforms, oppressing their hairstyles, refusing to hire based on criminal background or mental health status, as well as gender expression and orientation, primary language spoken, or past drug use. These issues are not separate. They are a product of a capitalist society that systemically puts value of certain populations above others. We need to end discrimination in the workplace for hopes of more residents making enough money to live in affordable housing. We must also create programs that will provide vouchers for costs associated with moving into new homes and programs that will increase the probability for future home ownership in non-wealthy, working class and poor communities. Everyone deserves a safe place to live and sleep. Everyone also deserves the opportunity to experience the security of home ownership in our county, no matter your socioeconomic status. - We need a housing-first approach to the housing crisis in Pittsburgh, meaning housing needs to be established as a basic human right that cannot be denied to an individual because of an inability to work, a mental illness or condition, a substance use disorder, or a criminal record (etc etc). If the county cannot provide housing for all, then at the very least they need to accommodate the homeless population and stop encampment sweeps immediately. - I’d like to look at the possibilities for converting commercial space to liveable centers with more beds (we do not have anywhere close to the number we need city-wide, let alone county-wide). - I would also like to put limits on the number of single family properties developers can own, and require that landlords report the status of their properties annually. Properties that remain vacant because landlords don’t want to lower the rent can pay higher taxes, and potentially fines, which contribute to the housing of some of our unhoused neighbors - Reduce barriers to access and supplement housing assignments for the homeless with resources they need to thrive, like drug treatment/harm reduction, mental health services, advocates/experts in applying for, keeping, and using social service programs without a permanent address/fluency in English


Environmental Justice

As an environmental activist and county council candidate, Sam continues to fight for clean air and water for all Allegheny County residents. The water in our county is undrinkable due to a long history of leadlines and a slow moving system of bureaucracy of funds to replace leadlines. As a county councilperson I will work with the city and municipal water companies to maintain better oversight and monitoring of drinking water cleanliness and quality. Our schools do not have clean water. Our children deserve to be able to drink water in school instead of being required to purchase a water bottle to bring clean water to school. We must use our school tax dollars to invest in leadline replacements and double filtration systems and do the same in our communities, at no cost to residents. We need to expand leadline projects and cover costs for mandatory leadline replacements as a county government. Our residents should not have to, even in part, pay to remove poisonous leadlines from their properties and be penalized as residents as landlords who have to foot the bill for replacements also continue to increase rent with these additional costs. Residents, whether they rent or own, should not be paying for the past mistakes and decisions of our elected officials. - Better oversight and monitoring of air and drinking water quality. - Better accountability for repeat polluters. Fines are okay if they go directly to the community (ie: paid time off when air quality is dangerous, health care for residents who suffer from respiratory complications as a result). - Basically I don’t want to wait for another Ferguson or Jackson incident where the water is suddenly (and indefinitely) undrinkable/non potable. I think we need to get proactive about making sure our air and water quality standards are high, and that corporate violators pay dearly every time they think the air quality across PGH is something they can disregard.


Food Security for All

There are many ways county council can guarantee food equity for all county residents. Here's how food justice works. As a county we should be creating and incentivizing community shared and owned gardening as a direct resource for fresh food options and a solution to food deserts, otherwise known as low income, low access communities or LILA. Creating an educational and ownership access from the planting process to the farm to table process creates a better understanding of nutrition, earth science and most importantly a more sustainable path to continued food security. As a county councilperson I will work with local food processors and farmers to more responsibly account for food excess and redistribute business food waste back into the community. This may include options such as distributing to local food pantries, using excess product to feed animals on smaller farms and creating community composting systems and programs. There are enough people in our community that believe in mutual aid that will do the work. There is enough food in our world to feed everyone. There is too much waste and therefore more hunger. If we take ownership of waste in our community, together we can solve the hunger crisis in Allegheny County. We must also recalibrate SNAP and WIC benefits using a method that takes into account economic inflation, as well as average household and childcare costs of families with dependents in their household. If we think of child nutrition in the same way that we think of child healthcare, in that it is required by law in our state, then we will be compelled to responsibly adjust necessary resources to support child nutrition and reduce malnutrition in our county. We must also use a lens of equity when building social welfare programs. Such equity would include lower financial thresholds for SNAP benefits for those that are permanently disabled and those who are full-time caregivers to family members with extensive and special needs. As a county we must also work with local school boards to pass legislation to make school breakfast and lunch free for all students as seen in some school districts working with state funding and programs to make this possible. - Incentivize the organization of community gardens and facilitate building out that network/creating better food access/security for the neighborhoods they serve (I know Grow Pittsburgh is doing this) - Lower qualifying thresholds for single-parent households - Require local food processors and farmers reasonably account for food waste and/or dispose of or distribute excess supply in a number of qualifying ways (distribute to food pantries, use produce for animal feed for smaller farms, create a composting program) similar to the new CA laws - Tie SNAP and WIC qualifications to the rate of inflation and the amount of housing and childcare costs - Allow full-time caregivers for special needs family members and those with permanent disabilities to qualify for SNAP with lower qualifying thresholds - School breakfast and lunch should be free for all students


End the Crisis at the Jail


Reproductive Healthcare

There is a humanitarian crisis in our county jail. The food is inedible, causing people to spend more money on commissary. Incarcerated people are not given warm enough clothes and blankets so they go to bed cold, and hungry. Incarcerated persons do not have regular access to hygiene products nor do they have proper access to healthcare staff. Hygiene products are reported to have been purchased from commissary by 80% of those housed in the jail. These are facts, brought forth by an inmate welfare survey conducted by the Pitt School of Social Work in 2021, with results being released the following year. Source: https://www.socialwork.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/allegheny_county_jail_needs_assessment_july_2022.pdf With the closing of Shuman Center in 2021, juveniles are now being housed in the Allegheny County Jail and strip searched upon entry. The jail administration and staff has not denied this. This violation of youth should not be tolerated. There are incarcerated persons performing work in the jail who are unpaid and not convicted of a crime. This is in violation of the 13th amendment. Demands of the jail and Shuman Center: There should be an immediate end to strip searching children at the Allegheny County Jail, instead use the available scanners to search incoming residents of the jail We should pay all incarcerated persons the new higher wage of other county staff CO’s should be searched for contraband A new team of medical staff needs to be hired immediately to stop deaths at the jail Stop housing children in an adult facility Hold contractors responsible for services to their duties or halt payment of contracts Stop hiring private contractors to run Shuman Center Work with the book committee on the Jail Oversight Board to provide a more transparent process for requesting books, as well get as more physical books in the jail Make the jail administration follow the law and notify the Jail Oversight Board immediately when there is a death in the jail or someone is moved to a hospital Create a code violation book with the new jail liaison and investigate all reports of sanitary and human rights violations, reporting back to the Jail Oversight Board Bring back full overdose prevention program by working with formerly incarcerated individuals offering these services Work with community advocacy groups to make sure that basic needs are being met for individuals housed in the jail Work with the jail staff’s union to make sure the staff has what they need to do their jobs properly and safely Require surprise visits to the jail by the Jail Oversight Board at least twice a month Make the $125 of commissary funds for each incarcerated person available monthly as a standard as the funds come from the inmate welfare fund As a county councilperson I will fight to make all of these changes by attending jail oversight board meetings, working with my colleagues on county council and the jail to troubleshoot emergency solutions to deadly situations in the jail and continue to work with the unhoused and other vulnerable communities to prevent them from having a stay at the Allegheny County Jail. I will also continue to work with community groups to find solutions that we may turn into legislation to make the jail a safe place to stay. People should not be dying while waiting for court dates, sitting in jail on probation violations, while unconvicted of a crime. A jail is a short term stay facility. No one should be in need. No one should be dying.

As a county councilperson I will work with my colleagues to expand reproductive healthcare access in our county. This will include: - passing legislation that protects the right to have an abortion in our county Passing budgets that allocate funds to reproductive healthcare clinics in our county - Working with community and non-profit entities and agencies to cosponsor grants for residents in need of emergency reproductive healthcare services - Create a committee that will assess how accessible healthcare is in each neighborhood of the county and come up with shortterm and longterm solutions for those neighborhoods with low access to services - Work with experts in the trans and queer community to make sure that reproductive access to healthcare is equitable and inclusive of all birthing persons - Hold UPMC accountable to providing adequate resources and reproductive healthcare services to our community


Transit: Just, Green, Abundant

When I think about transportation, I don’t just think about a bus running late or a bridge to nowhere or a treacherous crosswalk near a public school — I think about our right to the city itself. After all, the freedom of mobility is integral to our ability to participate as equals in our society, economy, and culture. The County Council has the most influence over transit through its power to approve or disapprove appointees to Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s board of directors. Councilors can also tip the scale toward transit through its authority over the county’s annual operating and capital budgets. Council members can even build positive working relationships with PRT leadership, as well as elected officials at the state and federal levels, in order to advocate for transit from Downtown to Harrisburg to Washington, D.C. I believe in a transportation system that is just, green, and abundant. Here’s how I think we get there: JUST: The county must invest in walkable, bikeable, transit-first infrastructure — projects that do not favor private vehicles, but rather prioritize options most accessible to poor and working class people. The PRT should absolutely extend the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway into the Mon Valley to better connect those communities to our growing job centers within Pittsburgh. The county and its local municipalities should build bus shelters wherever feasible. Sidewalk maintenance in our region is a pressing matter of ADA compliance. The public sector has to do a better job of patching the gaping holes in these critical rights-of-way. I support municipalities taking a closer look at making such maintenance the responsibility of municipalities rather than individual homeowners and landlords. I look forward to aiding PRT in its eventual efforts to implement a permanent version of its on-going Discounted Fares Pilot Program. I would also like to see the county provide county employees and residents of county-supported homeless shelters with free bus passes. I applaud Manchester residents and the Manchester Citizens Corporation for securing funding to study alternatives to the so-called “Great Wall of Manchester,” as RT 65 is known there. I hope these planning efforts, funded by the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program, will result in actionable recommendations — and, eventually, justice for a neighborhood that has been divided and blighted by this highway for too long. I plan to also advocate for similar work in East Allegheny; a capping project or some similar remediation for the deep scar that is I-279 is long overdue. Highway remediation projects like these are the right thing to do. They are also… GREEN: As an environmentalist and socialist, the climate crisis is a top focus and concern, and transportation remains one of the top sources of greenhouse gasses. PRT must accelerate the on-going electrification of its fleet, and the county should follow suit with its own fleet. Along those lines, the county should also impose size requirements on its fleet, demanding clearer criteria for determining when larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs are necessary. If we can reduce the size of the vehicles in our fleet, we will reduce our emissions and increase the safety of local pedestrians. But the number one thing we can do as a region to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is to make our public transit more… ABUNDANT: I would implore PRT to embrace an ambitious approach to our bus and light-rail network. I will encourage our partners in borough and city government to introduce zoning reforms that will increase public transit ridership. Cities like Pittsburgh and boroughs like Bellevue should follow Dormont’s lead by passing new zoning codes that permit greater transit-oriented development. Municipalities should also introduce inclusionary zoning overlays, so that the new developments along our busways and light-rail lines aren’t completely populated by residents who can afford personal vehicles, and thus never use the transit options that city planners planned for them to use. Our county and city public housing authorities should take the lead on these new transit-oriented developments, building new, beautiful, dense mixed-income public housing in areas that are more friendly to non-car modes of transportation. And I will join so many others in pushing PRT to improve its hiring and retention. We could give them all the money in the world, but if they don’t have the workforce they need, they won’t be able to spend the money. We can incentivize hiring by ensuring living wages and appropriate work-life balance for drivers, mechanics, project managers, and everyone else who makes our buses run.

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