By Julian Routh | News Editor
On the fifth floor of the City-County Building on Grant Street, within feet of Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, the most diverse Pittsburgh City Council in the city’s history operates.
There are four councilwomen – Natalia Rudiak, Deborah Gross, Darlene Harris and Theresa Kail-Smith – for the first time ever there are also two black councilmen – the Rev. Ricky Burgess and R. Daniel Lavelle.
And at the top sits newly elected council president Bruce Kraus, the first openly gay elected official in Pittsburgh history.
“It’s a pretty amazing body right now,” Kraus said. “You have probably as diversified a council as this city has ever seen.”
With a 7-2 vote in favor, Kraus, who has served as District 3 councilman since 2008, was elected to lead the body on Jan. 6. Harris and Burgess voted against.
Now Kraus looks ahead to the responsibilities of the position with eagerness. He looks at his appointment as “public acknowledgment that your peers believe in you.”
Rudiak, who cast a vote in favor of Kraus, is one of those peers.
“I’ve just always known Bruce to be very open to new ideas, and very open to relationship building,” Rudiak said. “Bruce is really a social animal. He will definitely do a great job of speaking to all members on the floor and making sure information flows.”
The city council president is responsible for scheduling public hearings, posting agenda meetings and being a connector between the council and the mayor’s office, Kraus said.
Kraus, an ally of Peduto, said he plans to maintain an “open, ongoing line of healthy communication” between the two offices on the fifth floor. He first met Peduto in 2004 when he first decided to run for city council, and since 2008, the two have served on council together.
“We’re sort of wired alike. We tend to see the world much in the same way, in terms of open, transparent, good government,” Kraus said of the mayor. “I think that sets the groundwork for this relationship of cooperation and mutual respect. I see us working together very well.”
Rudiak said the close relationship between Kraus and Peduto will “help information flow more easily around the floor.” However, she also said she believes Kraus will be an “independent voice” for the council.
As District 3 councilman, Kraus represents “some of the most diverse neighborhoods south of the river,” including Arlington, Mt. Oliver, South Side Flats, South Side Slopes, St. Clair and parts of Oakland.
Kraus, who has lived in the South Side since he was born, bought his parents’ home in the area in 1983. In the 1980s and 1990s, South Side was “booming,” Kraus said, and it was not until the early 2000s when things took a different direction.
He started getting involved in local South Side politics in the early 2000s, volunteering and joining groups like the South Side Chamber of Commerce. He was named the chamber president in 2005.
“I was really surprised how that position would open doors,” Kraus said. “One day, I’m just Bruce Kraus, South Side resident, and then the next day, I’m the president of the chamber. People return your calls.”
After running for city council once without success, he won the seat in 2008. He was reelected for a second four-year term in 2012.