David Tessitor gave the following speech at a rally. It met with lukewarm applause. After the rally in another building, a Post Gazette reporter, Jeffery Cohan, was waiting to get on an elevator. He congratulated David on his remarks. He said he liked what I said. I responded, "then I hope it sees print." He said, "tomorrow or the next day."
Speech before the Save Our Transit rally
City County Building portico, November 24, 2004
My name is David Tessitor and I am project director of the American Town & Country Alliance.
The agency which is responsible for determining how much of the federal transportation money coming to our region goes for public transit is the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission or "SPC." SPC allocates more money than any government in southwestern Pennsylvania and yet it is an unelected body upon which Allegheny County, with nearly half the region's population, has only 18% of the vote . That amounts to a 2/5 per person representation.
Under slavery, African Americans were counted in the US Constitution as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of both the federal apportionment of representatives and direct taxes. We are being taxed at a 1:1 ratio, but, as the representation is currently apportioned, each of us in Allegheny County counts as only 2/5 of a person. We have no more vote upon who represents us than the slaves, and we each count as a smaller fraction of a person than the slaves. We are sending men and women to die "for democracy" in Iraq, what about having some real democracy at home?
We will not get funding equity until we get equity in representation on the body which allocates the funds, and the only way to do that is to have an elected Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission with representation apportioned on a one person - one vote basis. We have a model to point to: Portland, Oregon has an elected Metro Government which has basically all the same functions our unelected SPC.
David Miller, one of Allegheny County's SPC representatives, has tried to push for electing SPC on a one person - one vote basis, but he is vastly outnumbered under the current arrangements and he cannot get it passed. We must build an outcry for making SPC into an elected body with a one person - one vote basis of representation.
With efforts building steam to liquidate the City government and take down its labor and civil rights provisions, it is of paramount importance that we begin a counter effort or we will lose everything. We must demand that both City Council and County Council insist we receive elected representation on Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission on a one person - one vote basis, or, withdraw Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh from SPC.