Kaplan University Pittsburgh

District 5 residents and university students attended city council candidate Kimberly Kaplan's campaign kick-off in Squirrel Hill. Sarah Pesi at middle. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAYPittsburgh City Council District 5 candidate Kimberly Kaplan talked politics over pizza at her official campaign launch this past weekend.

The event drew a small crowd to Pastoli's restaurant in Squirrel Hill, formerly Mandy's Pizza. Though she's drawn recent criticism, her campaign will continue.

"I've always liked the challenger, " said Matthew Hughes, 44, Greenfield. "Everybody loves a good story, and she's the underdog."

Friday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed District 5 incumbent Corey O'Connor, calling Kaplan's platform vague and citing O'Connor's experience. In an early-April article on Kaplan's campaign, the P-G cited O'Connor's work on land-bank legislation, the HIV/AIDS commission and the redevelopment at the Almono site in Hazelwood.

"I think we've proven we can get things done, " O'Connor said in the article.

However, Kaplan called the endorsement "weak."

"It was frustrating to me, " Kaplan says. "They said he inherited good politics and that it is basically lucky that good things are happening in his district. I wish they'd been more specific about my policies and where we differed [in the endorsement]."

Kaplan says she has been specific about her ideas, particularly about how to "streamline" the city's budget and get out from under Act 47.

Despite the criticism, Kaplan and her new campaign manager, Michael Thompson, are planning more events and canvassing. Thompson met Kaplan when she knocked on his door while campaigning.

"It's a very young, very enthusiastic campaign. I'm the oldest person here at 32, " Thompson, who is also a Lyft driver, says. "There's a lot of idealism, but it's pragmatic idealism."

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  • Photo by Ashley Murray
  • District 5 residents and university students attended city council candidate Kimberly Kaplan's campaign kick-off in Squirrel Hill. Sarah Pesi at middle.

Over free pizza, Kaplan explained to those who attended that she's learned the diverse priorities of District 5 residents while door-knocking — that residents in Squirrel Hill express concerns for safe traffic patterns while residents in other District 5 neighborhoods want more public safety and jobs.

"I'm a social-services minor, and I'm really concerned about social issues, " said Sarah Pesi, who's studying public policy at Chatham University. She said she attended to learn more about Kaplan's policy ideas."There are big differences between the neighborhoods in [the] district."

Kaplan, a Chatham graduate, told City Paper last month that if elected, she would focus on food and housing security as well as employment issues in the "underserved neighborhoods" in District 5, including Hazelwood, Glen Hazel and Hays. She also spoke about plans for better police-resident relationships, education and transportation.

On transportation, "My big issue is they [the city] are going to blow up the bridge between Greenfield and Oakland, " said Hughes, the Greenfield resident. "I'm curious what they're doing to do for the bus routes. I'm hoping she can force them to look at it."

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