Friday, February 6, 2009

Interview: Natalia Rudiak

Rudiak's reputation precedes her -- Young! Brilliant! Progressive! -- so I figured she'd be the person to ask what "progressive" means.

"I think that on a national level, the idea is there's this Pink-Green-Blue alliance," she said, referring to the peace, environmental, and labor movements. "And also civil rights."

On a local level, she sounded skeptical that such a political brand even translates.

"We have to literally work it out amongst ourselves."

When asked about campaign finance and ethics reform locally, the answers she offered were not steeped in what I'd exactly call progressivism.

"I come at this being a pragmatic, practical person," she said.

"Ethics -- I think those decisions can't be made in a vacuum. We should have various outings for various reasons."

She suggested setting up desks for public officials at some sporting events for interaction with the community. She described the Superbowl as an "opportunity" for our public officials to market the city. However, she agreed there ordinarily would no benefit for a public official ducking in to a private box before a game and slipping out afterword.

On campaign finance reform, Rudiak said, "I do support it. I do like the idea of a county-wide bill. Obviously it's a huge issue, though." She did not want to be pinned down on specific dollar amounts for specific kinds of contributors.

"I grew up in a union family," she said by way of beginning her explanation.


Rudiak is running, like so many others, to bring resources and development to her district. "I believe our neighborhoods have so much potential that isn't being realized."

Isn't that what they all say?

"Our neighborhoods are on the edge of the City of Pittsburgh -- which effects our tax base. Brookline borders on Mt. Lebanon. Brownsville Road is right next to Brentwood." Residents can and often do pick up and move their homes and businesses just a few blocks away when District 4 isn't being all it can be.

Her number one priority she says is the business districts: Brookline, Beechview and Carrick.

"The URA like every other entity in the world has a history," Rudiak began. "I would like to work closer with the URA, to make sure it is planning for strategic development," distinguishing that from what might be called opportunistic development or haphazard development.

For Beechview -- "a wonderful neighborhood", she said, that is under appreciated -- Rudiak specifically argued the merits of focusing on it as a Transit Revitalization Investment District, or TRID.

Her second priority is "protecting" District 4's neighborhoods -- particularly from blight. The Bureau of Building Inspection, she said, needs "a coordinated system".

"When we pass legislation, we have to be sure that it's enforceable, and we have to make sure it's implemented." She made reference to a landlord registry that was never created, and absentee landlord measures that please voters but are tough to enforce.

"I think we pass a lot of legislation in this city that isn't enforced," she reemphasized.

On the topic of "restoring public safety" to District 4, Rudiak mentioned resignedly that "the South Side does absorb a lot of police energy." After stressing the need to get the best technology in all police cars, she said that it's critical that the state come through with more funding for public safety in urban areas.

That brought us naturally to city finances. "I think we need greater cooperation and more communication between Act 47, the ICA, Council and the Mayor's office," Rudiak said two weeks ago. A lot of decisions are being made "without public knowledge."

She said first thing she'd ask is, "What are the goals and the expectations?"


Rudiak serves as Treasurer for one of the southern Democratic Committee wards -- a position that does not get to vote. It wields a little less power, but comes with a few less headaches.

"The Committee serves a purpose," Rudiak began, heading off one of our questions in advance. "Emphasizing Democratic values and why we are Democrats -- whether that's about Wal-Mart and the Employee Free Choice Act or anything else."

As a committee member and as an office-holder, she continually described her role as a kind of community catalyst. "I sincerely enjoy connecting people," she said -- explaining why she'd like to spend her time at Steelers games promoting Sprout Fund grants.

Rudiak attended the George Washington University school of International Affairs. She's been pretty much all over the world, but the whole time she suffered what she describes as "pangs" for Pittsburgh.

"People are real here," she said, referring both to her City and her own hardscrabble neighborhood. "When I think about where I want to raise my family, it's here."


  1. See her speak:

  2. I agree that the city and its citizens need greater public knowledge about decisions being made. Hence, the flaw of cooperation and more communication between Act 47, the ICA, Council and the Mayor's office deals with the elimination of all OVERLORDS.

    The citizens and people as well as accountability is all in the trunk, yet alone back seat, when there are OVERLORDS in the role of driver.

    So, the way to fix that isn't with more memos. Rather, toss the OVERLORDS out of town. And do that AFTER cleaning up our own (Grant Street) house first.

    So, the goals and expectations need to be self-governance. That requires self control.

    We need to elect people to council and the controller's & mayor's office who are sick and tired of OVERLORDS calling the shots because of a history of folly making by those in the past (and sadly, the present as well).

    Furthermore, the URA has a history. And, it isn't good either. I don't want to work closer with the URA. Rather, I want to do away with what doesn't work.

    The URA is an AUTHORITY that does deals and makes decisions without public knowledge.

    Does Natalia Rudiak want to expel the cronies and OVERLORDS, or be the one at the table with them herself?

    Is a TRID (that she wants) really just a new name for more bureaucratic red tape without accountability? Is the TRID a thing to create and have a life of its own? Or, can we just have a shared vision and make Beechview into a more wonderful neighborhood with splendid transit assets?

  3. Great stuff. Love how she threw the TRID in there. Now, my only question is.....Shields or Dowd?

  4. By the way, I am disheartened to see your inappropriate use of the word "hardscrabble" when you describe Carrick. We need to start policing ourselves here in the burghosphere. Maybe we should start handing out penalties or points for these offenses?

  5. Anyone see Kath & Kim last night? Maybe it's a "hardscramble" district.

  6. Schultz,

    Is it who I want to see run or who I think has a better chance of beating Lukey?

  7. Bram,

    Not sure if that is snark, so I will answer it as if it isn't.

    There's always the 'who has the best positions vs. who is more electable' game.

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  9. She's got my vote. She's MUCH hotter than Luke.