People-Powered Campaign Shows a Movement is Rising to Protect Allegheny County from Fracking
SEWICKLEY, PA – On Tuesday, three community leaders running on a platform of protecting their community of Franklin Park Borough from fracking won seats on the borough council.
Democrats Susan Striz, Brian Malkin, and Dr. Jiang Li each won their races, while a fourth candidate, Matt Ferriolo, came up just a few dozen votes short.
“This victory shows Franklin Park residents are opposed to fracking,” said Sam Bernhardt, Deputy Political Director for Food & Water Action. “Voters have delivered a mandate to their local government that they want to be protected from this dangerous process. Elected officials at all levels of government—municipal, state, or federal—should take note: prioritize the polluting fracking industry over your constituents puts you at risk of losing your next election.”
The saga in Franklin Park started in mid-2018. A borough survey of residents showed strong opposition to a plan to lease Linbrook Park for fracking. But the Borough Council proceeded to take up the item at their December 2018 meeting. Food & Water Watch mobilized hundreds of residents to this meeting, forcing the council to put off deliberation on the proposal.
In the weeks that followed, hundreds of community members continued to show up to council meetings to voice their opposition to the proposed lease, which was eventually voted down, with Laura Coombs (Ward 1) casting the sole vote in support of it.
The fracking issue didn’t go away for the councilmembers, who proceeded to pass an oil and gas zoning ordinance that would allow fracking in residential parts of Franklin Park, ignoring community leaders’ calls to restrict fracking into the M3 zone.
These candidates—Ferriolo, Li, Striz, and Malkin— decided to run against incumbent borough council members because they recognized the council was coming up short on this issue.
Food & Water Action and Food & Water Action PAC played a significant role in recruiting and training these candidates, and deployed significant resources to mobilize voters in support of them. The two organizations, which operated under an internal firewall to ensure no coordination between their operations, deployed a combination of tactics including canvassing, mail, phonebanking, peer-to-peer texting and digital advertising to educate voters about the candidates.
Food & Water Action mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.