Natalia Takes Office!

January 4, 2010

Pittsburgh City Councilmember Natalia Rudiak was officially sworn in today at a ceremony in Council Chambers. In an uplifting inaugural address, she called for a civic re-awakening in Pittsburgh to aide revitalization in the neighborhoods.

Citing the tough economic times that have gripped the nation and her campaign commitment to bring more investments to Pittsburgh’s Southern neighborhoods, Rudiak asked her fellow Councilmembers to, “tackle these issues with a zeal that is unmatched and a vigor that is unparalleled.”

Councilmember Rudiak, drawing on her own experience as a community leader in district 4, also called on Pittsburghers to get more involved by “[interfacing] with City government, so we all can take ownership of it and start organizing for our communities.”

She continued:

All across this country, big cities are hurting too, just like Pittsburgh. Cuts in state revenue, crumbling infrastructure, neighborhood de-stabilization—these are national problems. But the City who solves them first will become America’s next great urban center—our nation’s next great story of renewal, of change, and of hope. And so, we must tackle these issues with a zeal that is unmatched and a vigor that is unparalleled.

Councilmember Rudiak was elected after capturing more than 98% of the vote in the November general election. In May, the Carrick Democrat won a three way primary to secure her party’s nomination. A graduate of George Washington University, Councilmember Rudiak holds a masters degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to her election, she was an active community leader and business owner in the Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods.

Full Text of Inaugural Remarks:

A Call to Action: Councilmember Natalia Rudiak Inaugural Remarks

Today, the City of Pittsburgh, as it does every two years, begins a new journey with new leadership on deck and a new course for our future. For me, this journey began more than a year and a half ago, with an empty campaign account, a few volunteers, and a lot of determination.

But it really began with my family. My parents, Helena and John, my Aunt Barbara Rudiak and my Uncle Mike Rudiak. You have always supported me, but your commitment to me, to the campaign, and to the City of Pittsburgh blew everyone away and I cannot imagine having done this without you. Thank you so much.

I also want to thank the members of my family who couldn’t be here today. For those of you who don’t know, my mother is from Poland, she was born there. My grandmother, who is 79 years old today, barely finished second grade before our family’s village was occupied by the Nazis and she was forced to drop out of school. She could never imagine, and still cannot fathom, that her granddaughter is standing here, as the first woman elected to represent Pittsburgh City Council District 4. And although my family is an ocean away, I know that they are with us in spirit.

In many ways, my family embodies the essential Pittsburgh story—we came from far away, looking for a new life and new opportunities. We struggled to work and save and make ends meet, toiled in the steel mills and the coal mines of Pennsylvania, and built this city from the ground up, always thinking of our children, and our children’s children.

My loved ones, and the experiences and values they have instilled in me are my compass, they are my guide through tough times, and they have given me the incredible foundation and support that have brought me here today.

I love you all, and I thank you so very much. I am blessed.

I also want to thank my staff for their hard work over the last year, and all of those who supported me including the SEIU, UFCW, Laborers, PFT, the Sierra Club, Stonewall Democrats, Young Democrats and many more…you know who you are and I thank you!

I want to thank all of the members of Council for your gracious advice and support during my transition. I have spoken with each one of you, and your guidance has been invaluable to me and my staff during this time. It has been support that I will not soon forget, and I thank you.

To Mayor Ravenstahl, the local delegation to the Pennsylvania Legislature, our County wide elected officials, and the invaluable City workers—from department directors all the way to road crews—I have enjoyed working with you through my time as a community leader and councilmember in transition and I look forward to working closely with you in the future.

On the campaign, we started small, but dreamt big. From our tiny office in Brookline, we knocked on doors for hours every day, through the bitter Pittsburgh winter and into the rainy spring. I met thousands of my neighbors, and I learned so much about the communities where I grew up, and where I call home.

The gift that my neighbors gave me was the peace of mind and clarity of purpose to help lead Pittsburgh into a new future, filled with opportunities for every Pittsburgher to grow and succeed.

I will carry this gift with me every day as your District 4 Council Member. And in return, I promise to continue the conversations that begin on the front porch to the Fifth Floor here on Grant Street. I will try to inspire YOU. I will ask you to be involved—to pick up a broom and work in your neighborhood, to organize your neighbors, and come down to this very chamber and hold our feet to the fire.

I ask you to BE INSPIRED and to build a better Pittsburgh with me!

There are countless stories from the campaign of people who stepped up and decided to make a difference for our communities. But one in particular stands out. One day, a man walked in to the campaign office and just wanted some information on my candidacy. His name was Jack. I talked to him for a little while, and he told me that while he no longer lives in Pittsburgh, he ran a community-oriented non-profit. So I asked if he wanted to volunteer with us—and after talking to me, he did. And he came back, again and again, especially in the closing weeks of the campaign.

What I said to Jack is what I have said to so many of my friends and neighbors over the last two years: I asked him to be a partner with our City, to be a Pittsburgher once again, and to be inspired to ask more of our political leadership and of our community.

I had coffee with Jack a few weeks ago, and I was surprised to learn that he was so inspired by that message, and by our campaign, that he mounted a grassroots campaign of his own. And I am pleased to say that on November 5th, the Borough of Carnegie elected a great new Mayor in Jack Kobistek, and the City of Pittsburgh gained a great new partner in the effort for regional cooperation.

I am asking people like Mayor Kobistek to be inspired to ask more of our leadership and our communities. And now is the time to step up and be heard—we are coming off of elections where only a small fraction of Pittsburghers showed up to vote. It’s unfortunate, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. By keeping their votes in their pockets, the people of Pittsburgh have sent us a powerful message—that we must do better.

We must do a better job of attracting new businesses and new opportunities. We must do a better job of tearing down abandoned housing and protecting our neighborhoods from crime and neglect. We must do a better job of showing people how to interface with City government, so we all can take ownership of it and start organizing for our communities.

This is our challenge: To build a better Pittsburgh house by house, street by street, and block by block. It will not be easy…this hard work will not be done in one week, or one year, or one term in office, but it must be done for our City and for our future.

We have received lavish praise from the national media for the progress we have made, there is no doubt about it. But people are still voting with their feet and moving out of our City, and we must fight this epidemic with every ounce of our spirit. We must be a city that is not just praised by Forbes Magazine, but is cherished by the sons and daughters of the great men and women who built this city with their bare hands and wrought determination.

All across this nation, Americans are struggling. The job losses have been staggering, and foreclosures unbearable. It’s important to remember that this economic climate has beat down so many American workers. How many families have been displaced? How many parents have lost their jobs? What were the holidays like this year for our neighbors … or even ourselves?

All across this country, big cities are hurting too, just like Pittsburgh. Cuts in state revenue, crumbling infrastructure, neighborhood de-stabilization—these are national problems. But the City who solves them first will become America’s next great urban center—our nation’s next great story of renewal, of change, and of hope. And so, we must tackle these issues with a zeal that is unmatched and a vigor that is unparalleled.

Pittsburgh needs a re-awakening—and all of us here today must lead it!

So when we talk about bringing investment to our neighborhoods, let us not forget the Pittsburgh families who will benefit. Because it’s Pittsburghers who will build the buildings and pave the roads — it’s Pittsburghers who will clean the offices and provide service to our guests – it’s Pittsburghers who will come home from a hard days’ work with food to put on the table and a heated house in which to tuck their children in at night.

When we talk about public safety, we aren’t just talking about abstract statistics and pie charts. We are talking about building healthy and attractive neighborhoods where families can settle and grow. Places that will offer stability and safety so children can navigate the challenging adolescent worlds of school and social life without also having to navigate the cultures of gang violence and drugs.

When we talk about our parks, we aren’t just talking about patches of grass, but real investments that make our neighborhoods fun destinations for young families. These are investments that will increase our tax revenue and give children a safe place to play.

When we talk about transparency, it’s not some pawn in a gotcha game of politics. It’s a way to give Pittsburghers information about how our government works, so we can take ownership of our communities and work to bring investments and change on our own.

Let us move forward with this new council, with this charge to build a better Pittsburgh house by house, street by street, and block by block. Let us work to inspire our friends and our neighbors to build this City up and make it America’s next great story of renewal and hope. But above all, let us work together, as a united council, to bring the investments to our neighborhoods that we deserve.

Thank you.