Judge halts push for Wilkinsburg to become Pittsburgh neighborhood

Common Pleas Judge Joseph James halted a nearly two-year push for Wilkinsburg to become the City of Pittsburgh’s 91st neighborhood. The judge ruled that the only path forward for annexation will be through a ballot vote in both the city and the borough.

“It does not give Pittsburghers a chance to weigh in,” said Jacquet Khem, a candidate for the Government Study Commission.

A ruling made this week by James declared that an annexation law from 1903 had been inactive for several decades and then repealed in 2022 with the passing of Act 41.

That 1903 law didn’t require city residents’ participation.

“Because of that sort of one-sidedness, that’s the reason the state no longer wants that law to exist,” Khem said.

It’s a huge blow to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and other supporters of the annexation. We reached out to the WCDC to see what they plan to do next.

“We continue to believe that the best and most equitable path forward is giving Wilkinsburg voters the chance to vote on the issue,” said Tracey Evans, executive director for the WCDC.

Those opposed to annexation disagree.

“This hasn’t been a majority community-backed issue,” said Kehm.

Kehm said the WCDC is not only wasting time, but it’s also spending thousands of dollars that could be invested into the borough.

“I think the Wilkinsburg community if they knew how much money was going into this effort rather than going into things that could benefit the community, right now (they) would be outraged,” said Kehm.

He believes the best path forward is for residents to vote next week to approve an 18-month-long government study that will allow residents to change the structure of the borough’s government and establish a so-called “home rule charter.”

“This is a nonbinding vote; any recommendation would go to vote at a later referendum. This is just a chance to see what the other options are,” said Kehm.

The WCDC could appeal the ruling; but if unsuccessful, it would take both city and Wilkinsburg residents to vote and agree on an annexation.

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