• Home

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mayoral Interviews: Kevin Acklin

Over the past few weeks, I took the opportunity to meet with the mayoral candidates for Pittsburgh (or in the current mayor's case, his sustainability coordinator). It was an enlightening experience and hopefully my questions will help you decide who to vote for on November 3.

Kevin Acklin has his office space off Carson Street on the South Side of Pittsburgh. My interview with Acklin was the week of the G20, so things were even more hectic than usual in the campaign office. However, we sat down in a "press" room, and he devoted a lunch break to answering my questions.

Kevin Acklin, the Lawyer
In his day job, Acklin works with venture capital, private equity, and tech companies. He says he has worked with many of Pittsburgh's green start-ups, and is counsel to the Pittsburgh Tech Council. But he feels a lot of our problems boil down to coal. The new LEED-certified hockey arena will be named the Consol Energy Center. Coal is crucial to our area's history and is not going away anytime soon. It's a legacy we need to deal with.

Kevin gave props to former Pittsburgh Mayor David Lawrence (for whom the green convention center is named) for spearheading the crossover from heating homes with coal to the much cleaner natural gas. He wants to see a Mayor do a similar major change now.

Acklin Criticizes Port Authority
In terms of Port Authority, Acklin is acutely aware of the double-edged sword. The authority has a history of money mismanagement and at the same time not getting enough funding. One of the most common complaints he has heard from residents involves service cuts by Port Authority. He said that "the only way to grow the city is to work on public transportation." It's a mistake to think it's too late for Pittsburgh to do so. However, the North Shore Connector is not about connecting neighborhoods, and Maglev would be another boondoggle. Given the choice between rail to the airport and rail between downtown and Oakland, he chooses Oakland hands down.

Pittsburgh's Strengths of Hard Work and Innovation
Acklin lights up when he's talking about the future of Pittsburgh. He feels that we have great potential to be one of the greenest cities in the country. We have an exciting combination of manufacturing history and innovation. Between our legendary workforce and schools, we are in a unique place to spearhead change in the country. We just need to learn to adapt. He thinks our focus in the future should be green technology companies from fuel cells to wind power to biofuel. These are tough challenges but, as he says, "no harder than the war effort."

During the interview, Acklin orderly went through my list of questions, and he had solid answers for each of them, whether I agree with him or not. It's not surprising that this Harvard graduate answered questions smartly, but he also showed off his knowledge of the city and its residents. I was impressed that he had an anecdote from a resident for almost every question. (Editor's Note: Kevin Acklin's campaign has dropped off literature at my house, but I was not at home to talk to them.)

For more information on Kevin Acklin, see his campaign website.

For more information on the other candidates, stay tuned to this blog. Don't forget to vote for mayor on November 3.

No comments: